February 24, 2015 — As we reflect on the strides and accomplishments made by African Americans during Black History Month, we’re also faced with the reality that women of color are still confronted with hurdles in the workplace. They’re often stereotyped, have limited opportunities, and they’re on the low end of the wage gap. Confronting these issues starts with laying them out on the table, bringing them to the forefront in a conversation, and taking action. Catalyst’s #DisruptTheDefault campaign is a call to action for individuals and companies to make bold moves that forge meaningful change for women and men in the workplace—and the world! And our Profiles in Disruption blogs showcase how others are doing this in their lives and their companies.
Each and every one of us has the power to #DisruptTheDefault: Change the way we think and act; and to challenge others to do the same.
Meet: Dnika Travis, Senior Director & Center Leader, Catalyst Research Center for Corporate Practice. Travis has dedicated her career to promoting and implementing diversity and inclusion practices in the workplace. She has extensive consulting, training, and teaching experience—in the nonprofit, public, and corporate sectors helping organizations develop engaged teams that produce quality outcomes and business results.
What do you believe are some of the most pressing issues faced by women of color in the workplace today?
Continued lags in advancement to business leadership, the wage gap, and health disparities are pressing issues. Also, norms of silence around race/ethnicity dynamics as well as the failure to recognize to cultural differences among women of color needs to be addressed.
Do you believe that the way women of color are portrayed in the media has an influence on how they are stereotyped in the workplace?
Yes – media has an influence. It’s complex. For example, media stereotypes can influence how messages about key markers of success are conveyed and realized. Addressing these and related implicit biases is an obstacle that crowd pathways to leadership and advancement. There are positive images as well – and we face challenges in how to accentuate those images through media outlets and within our workplaces.
What can be done to break the stereotypes placed upon women of color in the workplace?
Breaking walls of silence is a starting point. This involves having courageous dialogue, checking assumptions, and learning skills for critical thinking and addressing unconscious bias. Also, decision-makers and leaders have a role in the process – from setting a vision and modeling desired behaviors to putting strategic efforts in place to address inequities and to support learning as well as hidden opportunities for change.
What are some tips that women of color can use to “lean in” and make their voices heard within their company/organization?
I would like to switch the question and ask how can we all – individuals and organizations – alike “lean in” to address inequities and promote positive action within our workplaces. We have a collective responsibility to ensure all voices are heard. We also need to build on what’s working and address what’s not – this includes putting structures in place to support different pathways to success.