3 min read
By Cathey Law on 8/18/20 3:51 PM
As a Black woman in Corporate America I know what it’s like to be supported, mentored and sponsored, and just how important these dynamics are in growing and advancing in your career. However, while I am so grateful for these experiences, they do not outnumber nor erase the other experiences I’ve had of discrimination, racism, stereotyping, implicit bias, both macro- and micro-aggressions, as well as the underlying stress that comes with trying to fit-in when I am the only one or “token” African-American in the room.
Living with discrimination is systemic in my life and in all the lives of people-of-color. Imagine raising a son and daughter, sitting them down and giving them “the talk.” I can’t share the depth of the personal impact that had on me—I had to tell my children about real risks they would face that make up the ingredients for a very traumatic existence. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term, “the talk,” they are real-world, difficult—no, heart-wrenching—talks that African-American parents give to their children to hopefully prepare them to stay safe in society. A society that judges them by the color of their skin first. Where they can be shot while jogging, buying candy or just sleeping in their homes. These factors alone combine to create an infinite cycle of physical and mental stress. I haven’t even touched on health disparities that have been in existence for many years, but became more rampant and discussed during the COVID pandemic that has so disproportionately impacted brown and black people.
The work of diversity and inclusion is important from many intersectionalities, not just racial or ethnic. But, there are still only four African-American Fortune 500 CEOs—all men—and there are no African-American or Latina women currently at the helm. Grooming for these roles must start early, with sponsorships, business rotations, mentoring and projects to provide exposure and build experience. And yes, representation does matter. It matters if you have never seen anyone who looks like you, or whatever community you identify with, rise to the Executive or C-suite. If you don’t see them there, a seat in the C-suite becomes a nearly impossible target that keeps moving. And, the unspoken message you receive is that you just don’t belong.
However, for the first time in my career, I am hopeful that things are changing. I feel there is a higher level of transparency and willingness to have honest, difficult, but also empowering, inclusion conversations at work. I am proud of every colleague of color who steps up and shares their story. It isn’t easy. However, I feel that all of my colleagues at Signify Health want to hear our stories; they genuinely want to understand our experiences and learn how to change; so, we can create a truly diverse and inclusive work environment. This means so much to me, both personally and professionally.
At Signify Health, I am extremely proud of our Diversity & Inclusion journey. Our CEO, Kyle Armbrester is leading the charge that all Signifiers will hold ourselves, and each other, accountable in creating an open and inclusive environment. We recently created a Diversity & Inclusion Task Force where we are committed to educating our colleagues on both the obvious and the nuanced subjects addressing diversity and inclusion. The D&I Task Force will be:
- Hosting discussions a variety of important D&I topics;
- Sharing many educational and experience-based resources;
- Sponsoring a speaker series;
- Supporting employee resource groups; and,
- Partnering with HBCUs and other community allies to bring in new and previously underrepresented talent.
This is our defining moment and the work we do now will lay the groundwork for what we will achieve in the future. I believe that all my Signify Health colleagues are ready and committed to building a workplace environment where everyone is welcomed, feels a sense of belonging, listened-to and has the opportunity to contribute and succeed.
Watch team members on our Diversity and Inclusion Task Force read the group's mission statement: