Here’s what this black lady needs from your company culture.

Not only is a company highly dependent upon the competencies, skill-sets and integrity of its team, it is built and maintained by the social contributions and interactions of everyone working there. A company’s culture and ability to maintain a healthy, thriving ecosystem of diverse people, ideas, products, personalities and innovation is, by far, the most important determinate of financial success and longevity.

But during my time on staff at various digital agencies and startups — most of which define their company “culture” by whatever means the majority white male population saw fit, I’ve found myself on the outside of these cultures more often than not. And even more disappointing than the culture itself, was how mutually blasé peers and leadership had been to the idea of an ethnically inclusive work environment.

If you haven’t guessed already, I am neither white nor male. My needs from a company’s culture are unique to my experience as a woman of color and usually don’t involve small talk, passive anything, mildly racist and/or sexist banter and most of all ping-pong.

What I do need from a company culture is:

  • Peers who have similar social and ethnic backgrounds (that means more women and people of color, please).
  • Allowance of the occasional self-care day, because sometimes I need to take a mental break from life’s bullshit.
  • Refuge from the ABW (angry black woman) narrative when I exercise assertion.
  • Understanding and acknowledgement that that microaggression you just hurled my way was problematic AF and it’s O.K. to discuss why.
  • The freedom to discuss diversity and inclusion without being labeled “unprofessional” — *true story, btw.
  • An open, collaborative forum where I feel safe to speak up and share my thoughts and ideas without the fear of stepping on a massive fragility landmine.

Until these needs are met, this black lady will steer very clear of your white male dominated “company cultures”.


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