The last two years have taught me alot. Things I never thought about when I moved to Sweden.
Infact I didn’t think. Most importantly I didn’t think how working in a corporate world would affect me as a woman of colour. The first year was terrible. It was bad. I felt lost, shy and insecure.
Mostly because I allowed myself to be. But I’m learning. So anyway, I thought I should share some tips on how to survive as the only black woman in an all white office.
1. Create Your Own Support System
It’s easy to feel like you’re the “only” one dealing with a situation. The fact is, if you’re the only black person in your office, you must make an effort to connect with other similarly situated Africans to build a community for yourself outside your company walls. It helps you to stay sane by sharing your insecurities and dealing with how you feel.
2. Find a Workplace That Wants You
Believe it or not, diversity and inclusion are more than clever HR recruiting buzzwords at some organizations. There are definitely companies that have a genuine interest in not only recruiting candidates of color, but also creating work environments where people of different backgrounds actually feel wanted and included at their place of work.
Do you know these employers in your industry? If not, then it’s important to communicate with current and former employees you may have connections with, review potential employer’s websites, gather as much information from recruiting and search firms, ask critical questions when you’re interviewing, and utilize employee review sites before you sign an offer letter.
3. Embrace the Similarities Not the Difference
Being the “only” one means you stand out all the time. I always feel alone.
Instead of focusing on being the “only” one, find the similarities that exist with your colleagues. Do you need to be BFFs with your co-workers? No, but you should enjoy where you work.
4. Speak Up
Have you ever felt like you were passed over for an opportunity? Or felt that your accomplishments were not valued as much as your those of your co-workers? If so, did you speak up?
Too many times, I’ve heard friends and co-workers complain about this exact issue and not take it up with the right people.
When dealing with work issues, you have to be your own advocate. You can’t look to others to make your situation better. Will speaking up always get you what you want? Sadly, no, not likely.
However, suffering in silence gets you nowhere. Once you voice your thoughts you can make that personal decision to remain where you are or take steps to go elsewhere if that is what you need to be happy.
It’s so easy to get caught up with what is happening around us that we forget about who comes after us.