I’ve spent approximately 12 years working in Corporate America. I’ve worked as an accountant for multiple organizations, and for the last 7 years I’ve simultaneously worked on an entrepreneurial endeavor. My personal business has never affected my ability to perform in my corporate role, and when I found myself in a position where it was possible, I had already made a decision to leave.
Corporate America has given me quite a bit. I have been afforded the opportunity to work in multiple industries, and have been equipped to serve and adapt in any environment. I have gained a ton of technical knowledge, in and outside of my industry. I have gained soft skills, made friends, and most of all my skin has been made TOUGH! Working in Corporate America has not been all bad; there are perks to working in a corporate setting. There is structure, and many times, there’s financial security. So, why was I constantly looking for 5 o’clock?
I will begin by saying two things: (1) These have been MY experiences during the time I spent in Corporate America, (2) while the subject in itself may be controversial, it needs to be discussed, …oh, one more, (3) I am not racist nor sexist. I am simply sharing my experiences. So, if I refer to any race or gender, in a manner in which you’re not comfortable with…I am simply sharing MY truths. However, I will refrain from being very specific, with naming companies, for obvious reasons.
The day after I posted my first official blog on Corporate Momming, I got this text from a friend, verbatim, “…Can you please give me some pointers on how you survived Corporate America, with all the black girl magic? I am struggling with my current employer and the fact that they told me to ‘conform, or else’. Whenever you get a moment, I’d appreciate any advice. Thanks.” THIS IS A REAL THING; IT’S A REAL ISSUE!
Honestly, I don’t know where to begin here, and if I share everything, we’d need a couple posts….and maybe I’m not opposed to doing that, I don’t know! However, for now I will speak about my experience, overall. I will start with my college experience. I am a graduate of The University of Michigan – Ross School of Business, ranked No.7 in Best Business Schools in the WORLD, not Michigan or the United States, the WORLD. I did not get in due to affirmative action, nor did I breeze past some test or anything. I graduated an elite high school with a 3.9 overall GPA, and attended Michigan on a full scholarship. I earned my spot, love!
There were about 300 students in my graduating class at Ross, and of that number there were only about 10-15 blacks. While Ross was a great school, I don’t think there was enough focus on diversity and inclusion, at the time. I struggled with finding resources while there, and it wasn’t until I went down the road to Eastern Michigan, for grad school, that I got the real help I needed. Professors and administrators who advocated for minority students.
Upon graduating college, I worked at two of the most prominent global accounting firms. At one of the firms, I had a friend who helped me get recruited. I remember having my first meeting with my assigned partner (who was a white male), and he told me basically that it’s difficult being a black woman in the firm, and that my expectation shouldn’t be to grow as fast as she (my friend) had…*rolls eyes*, oh ok. I had then been partnered with a buddy, who was a black woman, and in so many words she told me to be careful about how I speak because black women are viewed as aggressive and angry. This is all a weird way to be onboard, right? RIGHT.
Well, much of professional career has gone like that! I have found that a black woman exuding excellence and confidence of any sort, makes people uncomfortable! It’s almost as if you get hired to remain in the same position you’ve always been in, but expected to do way more than you’re compensated for. I have found that non-blacks (men and women), when dealing with black women, are extremely passive aggressive. They (non-blacks) struggle with articulating their concerns, and many times will attempt to throw you under the bus, instead of addressing their lack, in communication.
It is not something that I’ve just witness for myself. In the last 5 years, I’ve seen friends and colleagues be fired from jobs, or completely tormented, because their excellence exposes insecurities of their leadership! Showing up at jobs they hate, seeking out therapy, and causing self-inflicted health issues, all in the name of climbing the corporate ladder. I’ve seen sexual and racial discrimination go unanswered and ignored, and culprits moved around the company to avoid being terminated. Is it 5 o’clock, yet?
Let’s not forget the issue of hair. I can remember a time I came to work with my hair braided and my direct manager, lifted one of my braids and said “wow, how do they do this?… how long would something like this take?…my friend has a mixed daughter and maybe we can help control her hair with these…” …THEN she SNIFFED my braids! GIRL, (1) Don’t touch my hair! (2) Stop acting like a black woman’s hair is a science project! (3) You’re annoying!! (4) Is it 5 o’clock, yet?
Diversity and inclusion efforts don’t address the real concerns, in most cases, we are left feeling like Issa, insecure. If you watch the hit HBO series, Issa is stuck in a dead-end position that she can’t afford to leave. We watch her get tongue-lashed for trying to problem solve, and is treated like she’s an idiot, when she’s an intelligent, college-educated woman. She’s stays and deals with it, and the problems begin to spill into her personal life.
Much of what I talked about just scratches the surface of why I did not like Corporate America. I don’t miss it, the constant checking for 5 o’clock, because then I could be done with that shit! I wrote a post discussing how I found my peace, when I left my 9-5, and I will work as hard as I can, to never go back. For those working, and experiencing similar circumstances, I encourage you to talk about and address the concerns real-time. Don’t wait until you have anxiety or are being walked out, to communicate what’s happening.