Hidden Figures (2 of 2)

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Still on Hidden Figures and the moments that had me squirming in my seat, sighing deeply, or straight bawling my eyes out…

Yesterday’s Wooden Door is Today’s Glass Ceiling

A few days ago, a girlfriend of mine called me, completely distraught.  She has been working on a difficult work project for months and just as she was finally approaching a note-worthy breakthrough, a senior leader took the project and assigned it to someone else.  She felt disregarded, invisible, unimportant.  How many of us have felt this way in the workplace at least once? You work hard on something only to have it snatched from you in the moment of glory.  Kat must have felt the same heartbreak each time she was asked to work behind the scenes only to have a White, male counterpart take credit.  In the final scenes of the movie, she solves a complicated and life-altering problem, and as soon as she communicates the solution, the door is shut in her face. Literally. She is shut out from seeing the fruits of her labor.  She is shut out from the glory and recognition.

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Hidden Figures (1 of 2)

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I saw Hidden Figures on MLK day.  I haven’t written in a while but I couldn’t stay away after watching this film.  I don’t recall any movie ever touching me quite this way.  My only regret was having to watch it in a theater full of old, White folks who annoyed me with every exclamation.  Like, honestly, why are you collectively gasping at the sight of the “Colored Only” coffee pot or bathroom?  This wasn’t that long ago…you were an adult then.

I felt so much during and after this movie and I couldn’t wait to come home and share. Given how rich this film is, I will share my thoughts over the next couple of parts to do it justice.  Btw, Spoiler Alert!

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Corporate Eye Candy

List the top 3 things you need to make it in the entertainment industry as say, an actor or model.  Come on…It’s not a trick question. Pretty sure appearance made the list, right? Every minute of everyday, we are being bombarded with images of society’s definition of beauty and attractiveness. Seems to me this definition, while constantly changing, becomes narrower and narrower. With the surge in social media, these images are now all over Facebook and Instagram. If I have to see one more person on IG with their ass pointing towards the camera, or a picture of someone’s abs…

Anyways,  this is not a post about defining beauty. That is an age old debate, albeit incredibly worthwhile.  Today, I am especially troubled by the realization that Corporate America can be just as harsh in judging people based on appearance.

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Obama May Be President, But You May Never Be CEO

A couple of years ago I decided to start volunteering as a mentor to high school women in my neighborhood.  Many of them were minorities, from poor, often dysfunctional families.  These young women although very smart, had been done a great disservice by the horrendous school system they were subjected to. The goal was to get them not only interested in college, but through the application and acceptance  process and help them launch a successful college career.  This mission is near and dear to my heart.  Many of these young women had no other positive influences in their lives. Many had no role models, no one they knew who had gone to college and “made it”.

The purpose of the program,  or at least my personal goal,  was to convince these women that they could make it. That if they worked hard, paid their dues, they, too, could be successful. That no one could stand in their way if they put their mind to something.

Usually, I have no issue delivering this message. I do my best to encourage each young woman that comes my way. I am normally filled with upbeat optimism and passion.

Today, on this particular day,  I feel differently. Here is my message to the intelligent,  talented lovely lady who told me she wanted to be CEO of a multi billion dollar corporation so she could “call the shots” (lol).

You can work hard and still not get it. Your success is not guaranteed. We often hear the message of many artists, singers, athletes, models, etc who never make it. For every successful one, there are thousands who no one ever hears of. Well, Corporate America is no different. It is just as cutthroat, imbalanced and corrupt.

Here, you will also see racism, sexism, nepotism, ageism and other isms in full display. You will come across people who do not achieve any results and watch their careers overtake yours.  You will wonder why.

Am I not smart enough? Visible enough?
Did I make any mistakes in that presentation?
Did I not network enough, go to enough company parties?
Do I just not have what it takes to succeed?

And the reality is that it is none of these things. You are awesome just as you are! You made it thus far so you clearly have what it takes. You made it here even against the odds.

But it will get even harder as you progress and the odds will be even less in your favor.  You will be passed over for a promotion you deserve because, the ‘Black woman quota’ has been reached and the diversity numbers met. You will be given more and more to do, because “we know you are capable and can handle it”, but you will watch your pay fall farther and farther behind from your White male colleagues. With all of this happening, you will still be expected to keep giving 150% with a smile on your face because anything short of this will reinforce their unfounded belief that Black women are emotional and unprofessional.

When this inevitably happens, my dear…
Keep your face up, but your soul tucked away! Like a boxer during a match, guard your essence. Do not let them destroy the inner you, the you that matters. It’s ok if you cry in that office bathroom stall when you hear news of the VP’s incompetent son getting the job you worked tirelessly for and earned. Get used to that sick-to-your-stomach, hot/cold feeling because you will experience it time and time again.  Stock up on tissues because,  you may need to stick them under your arms for a few minutes to absorb the sweat (if you sweat like I do).  But do not measure your worth based on how fairly they treat you. Do not start seeing yourself from their eyes, letting self-doubt creep in. Keep the mask on and do not bare your spirit to them or they will trample it. It is difficult I know,  but you must try. Because if you dont, then they win. And you my fellow dual citizen,  cannot afford that!

And through it all years from now, when you need any support or just the listening, empathetic ear of a forerunner, a survivor, I will still be here for you.