Highlights of the Working Mother’s 2014 Multicultural Women’s National Conference
By Ginger Davis
The 2014 Multicultural Women’s National Conference, hosted by Working Mother Media and the National Association of Female Executives (NAFE) took place at the New York Marriott Hotel July 16 -14, and was a stellar event. The conference was attended by professional women, and a few men, from all over the country and around the world. Participants came out to hear professionals in the field of corporate diversity practices such as Farah Bernier, Northeast Market Diversity Leader for PwC, Brian Baker, General Manager, Diversity Best Practices, and Deb Elam, President, GE Foundation & Chief Diversity Officer, GE.
Tara Jaye Frank, Vice President, Multicultural Strategies Hallmark Cards, facilitated the general presentation on “Framing Same Race Conversation”, sponsored by Prudential Financial. Usually people
shy away from talking about race. At the Working Mother Multicultural Women’s Conference, the discussions on race were both meaningful and extremely constructive. In fact, we came away with a stronger sense of commonality than stark differences. The topics of Branding and Self-Promotion, Office Politics, Negotiations, and Work Life Balance raised concerned and examples of experiences that were similar or the same for the Asian, Native American, Caucasian, Indian, African American, Latina, and Caribbean women who filled the rooms of the break-out sessions.
There were a lot of heads nodding in agreement during the talks of branding and self-promotion. From the youngest woman at the table, who is just starting her career in marketing, to the eldest veteran professional, many of us told stories of how we either received mediocre or low performance reviews, because women tend not to promote themselves (“I” accomplished…”). Instead, we have a tendency to be all inclusive and extol the accomplishment of our team or group and say “we”, in order not to appear self-centered or braggadocious.
Our group’s Thought Leader Sophia Jones, Manager, Diversity & Inclusion and External Relationships for
McGraw Hill Financial laid the foundation for the discussion on branding by explaining that branding is taking the opportunity to show who you fully are to others in the workplace. Being confident, comfortable in speaking up, proudly claiming your accomplishments, knowing when to speak and when to listen, and learning how to manage the concept of the “authentic you” in the workplace. Alexis, the novice, wanted to know the practical steps of self-promotion and how to place herself in the leadership development pipeline? That got the table buzzing and switched on that female nurturing instinct in all of us. One by one, every woman at the table, including me, offered suggestions and recalled experiences on how we learned by trial and error. The session moderator then guided all of the different groups to share what was discussed before directing us to return to our individual groups to complete the final exercise for this session.
Again, many perceptions about women based on race and ethnicity were shared. The percept that Asian woman “wore the pants” and ruled their homes was shared by African American Caribbean and Latin women. I said that I though all women ruled their homes and never thought of women’s leadership at home or in the community as being a specific racial or ethnic construct. White women talked about how they are perceived as being overly confident, aggressive, and successful professionals.
One Latina said that she wanted to become that way, and the Caucasian women at her table rang out, “so do I”!
The energy at the conference vibrated with excitement. All of the women that I spoke with felt encouraged and validated. Frustrations related to working hard and feeling unrecognized or under-appreciated at work dissipated somewhat. The presenters offered examples on the difference between working hard and being productive. Working hard in and of itself, does not lead to promotion and being tapped for leadership within your company.
These tried and true tips for workplace advancement:
- Know and understand who you are.
- Presenting your full “authentic self” in the workplace is not appropriate.
- You will have to learn how to temper and adapt your authentic self to fit the political and cultural environment of your company.
- Take time to study and learn all that you can about you company and how individuals are selected for leadership development.
- Seek mentors, and choose a diverse selection of people to help you develop your career.
- Step up to take on the jobs that no one else wants to do, and become an expert producing results.
- Be aware of your physical, non-verbal presence.
- During performance evaluations or when speaking with management a career advancement, use “I” more than “we”. “I accomplished…I lead my team to accomplish”.
- Practice you pitch with your mentors to find that balance between “I and we”.
We are all comfortable with what we know of the world. Let’s get comfortable learning about what we don’t know for our continual growth and development.