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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

How I Found my Voice

Content warning: today's blog discusses themes of workplace sexual harassment. If that's something that might be hard for you to read, you may want to skip this week's blog.

When I was growing up, I was incredibly shy, had a lazy eye, wore thick glasses, and I was incredibly un-confident in myself. I was bullied often, and none of that got easier when my parents split up.

I grew into a profound lack of confidence, even though I went to a difficult and prestigious engineering program. I entered the workplace at GM and had a really difficult time. All I wanted was to hide, and I thought that if I kept my head down and did good work at my job, it didn't matter that I had low self-esteem.

Six months into my role as a quality engineer, I began to experience sexual harassment at my job. A general manager who worked out at the same gym as I did would come into the office and make jokes and lewd comments about the way that I looked.

It was awful, and with my low self-esteem at the time, I felt paralyzed by it. I didn't want to lose my job, and I didn't want to attract attention to myself by speaking out. It went on like that for almost a year and a half, before a supervisor of mine empowered me to report this man to HR.

So I reported it to HR, and guess what? I didn't get fired, he had to apologize to me, and he ended up having to move to a different division.

I had found my voice.

After all the bullying, the abandonment, the fear, I finally asserted my value. I started looking in the mirror and knowing that I brought value, I meant something, I was important.

Of course, it was a process. I'm not saying that I woke up the next day and instantly had the self-esteem I'd been lacking. It was a process, and it took work. But once I had a taste of what it felt like to assert my value— to insist on it— I knew I was going to put in the work to know my value for the rest of my life.

Especially as a woman of color in this corporate game, it is essential to know and believe in who you are, because people are going to try and speak over you. Your own voice needs to be strong and clear. If you're not there yet, that's okay! It's a growing process, and our culture doesn't teach women these skills. But I'm here to tell you that finding your voice is a foundation for developing your professional and personal trajectory for the rest of your life.

If I can do it, so can you.

If you want support in the ways that you can develop your sense of professional self-worth, let's connect. Put a one-on-one with me on your calendar and I can teach you the tools that I've used in my career to get to the seat I'm at today.

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