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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

The Power of Authenticity

Recently on the Being Brown at Work Podcast, I had the pleasure of interviewing April Miller Boise, the chief legal officer at Eaton. As black women in the corporate space, we talked about a lot of things, but I wanted to summarize a few key points for my readers. Check out the full podcast to hear more, but in the meantime, enjoy!

In my job as a corporate coach and professional executive, I sometimes talk to other black and brown women who express how frustrating it is that they can't be their authentic selves in the workplace. The playing field isn't fair, they tell me, because they can't bring their whole identity to work. But I'm going to push back on that idea. You absolutely can bring your whole identity to your job, and you can be a black woman who is absolutely crushing it in the corporate sphere. No code-switching required.

Here's how.

People create the culture

Businesses are made of many mechanisms and processes, but at the end of the day, remember that it's fundamentally composed of people. Everyone around you fits into and creates the culture, so ask yourself how you're fitting into the culture? How are you creating it? Are there individual people who are having an outsized impact and making you feel uncomfortable? Start by analyzing the human element of your workplace, and go from there. Maybe there's a conversation to be had with management, or maybe you can relax some self-imposed rules.

There’s “authentic at home” and there’s “authentic at work”

Who we are at home isn't necessarily exactly who we're going to be at work, and that's a good thing. You wouldn't show up to the office in flip flops and shorts, because there's a specific dress code designed to help business get done. So in some ways, we as black women have to fit in to get by, but fitting in doesn't mean we have to blend in. Wear your hair how you prefer, express yourself with patterns and color, and bring your home self to work that way. You don’t need to code switch to fit in.

Lift others up behind you

If you're a black or brown woman in a leadership position, you're in a unique position to celebrate other forms of diversity. Of course, I hope you reach a hand back to help your Black and Brown colleagues up behind you, but I also hope you nurture other forms of diversity where you work. Maybe you grew up middle class, and you can be a person who hires someone who is the first person in their family to go to college. Maybe you can make strides to make your workplace more accessible for people with physical disabilities. This is how we can powerfully demonstrate the value of diversity and show up authentically for other marginalized communities.

Whether you're a manager of people, a product, or simply a project, remember that you are a leader if you’re effecting any kind of change, and as a leader you define the culture.Our work is our actions, and that's where true authenticity is.

If you want to get some guidance on your specific situation, throw some time with me on your calendar. Click here to schedule a one-on-one.

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