Updated: Aug 27, 2020
If I weren’t a female. If I weren’t black... I would be in a corporate board room. That is the unadulterated truth. I would still be leading a global engineering organization, traveling the globe negotiating contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to install power plants, all while making sure to empower people to be the best version of themselves.
I'd been at the same company since graduating from undergrad. Many of friendships developed during my time within the walls of the company. I walked away from my Corporate Executive position nearly a year ago, after achieving something majority of black women don't get a chance to achieve. At that time, I might have been the only black female executive in the whole division.
Here is why:
1) My manager required me to check my decisions with my male counterpart. Though my male counterpart had basically dismantled the very team I was hired to rebuild just a few years prior, he didn’t know the segment customers, he had no interest in promoting the best talent, nor was he a talent magnet by any means. All the things that I'd mastered!
2) My manager did not follow through on providing the people, process, or tools that I articulated was required to be successful when he called to ASK ME to do the role.
3) My manager did not make my division a priority. By not showing up to planning meeting or not speaking up to support the resource request in front of senior leadership.
4) My manager was not candid with his plans to reorganize the group. Even after I told him, it wasn't about me being the leader, I would help him design the organization with the best interest of the company and customers in mind. I literally said "I am a big girl and will not cry".
I came to the realization during a business trip that the odds were stacked against me. Frankly, it wasn’t worth the fight anymore. I remember asking myself if I were doing more harm to my team (who I loved) than good. I realized that there was no way for my team and I to be successful. The truth is my very existence made some of my counterparts uncomfortable. A few were allies, which I greatly appreciated. The kicker is he implemented everything that I requested after my exit.
I always believe transparency is the best path forward. I had a reputation as a straight shooter, expert in my field, and an inspirational leader amongst employees. I would admit sometimes a little feisty, but a consummate advocate for our customers and employees. My journey to executive was by understanding what my team had to do to make my "plans" come to fruition. I have answered many calls over the last two weeks on how to make things better, below is the answers:
Here's how companies and organizations makes sure the cream rises to the top:
Implement the best person up strategy. Review people's resumes, performance assessments without the names. Kind of like a blind audition.
Enforce diversity amongst the decision makers. And allow people to give their perspective, dissent is not a bad thing if managed properly. The best talent should win, no one wants "diverse" hires who are not qualified.
Put metrics in place to hold the decision makers accountable. People's actions are determined by what they are measured on.
Create a culture to infuse the best idea wins no matter the author. Hire people to help implement the plan even after the social unrest dies down.
Communicate the implementation plan to the employees base. Nothing can happen overnight. It's a journey not a destination.
We can not allow our leaders to continue to say "I don't know any qualified diverse candidates". The talent is out there. Are you really looking? The questions I'd love to discuss with the leaders who can't locate diverse talent are as follows:
-Have you made connections with the diverse talent in your organization?
-Where are you looking?
-Are you holding your staff accountable to hire and promote the best talent?
As Martin Luther King said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”