Feeling invisible in predominantly white spaces is a common phenomenon for women of color. Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris have spoken on these experiences as well, and so have guests on the BsquaredC podcast. People willfully or unconsciously disregard the presence, experience and voices of women of color in so many ways and it is due to the combined hand of racism and sexism.
This phenomenon has broad societal consequences that include black women having the 4x the maternal mortality compared to women of other ethnicities in the US and black women police violence victims never getting justice. In the workplace, this phenomenon looks like women of color being talked over, being ignored in meetings and not getting credit for their work. In a study by McKinsey and Lean In on corporate America, more than 40% of Black and Latina women reported being interrupted and spoken over in a work setting, and a third of women of color surveyed also said that others had taken credit for their ideas.
I have not always been fully aware of the importance of actively working on this aspect of my career myself. The first time I realized how important it was was during a performance review sometime back. I had rated myself pretty high, exceeding expectations and my manager in turn had rated me lower than that on the same task. We realized I have been doing a lot of work in the background, but nobody knew about it. Since then I am actively managing my visibility at work and here are some tips on my approach.
Have progress reports with your stakeholders
It is essential to have regular check-ins with your stakeholders. This is especially if you are working on long term projects that do not have immediate results. It seems counter intuitive and wasting people’s time when you have nothing to report, but progress checks serve lots of other purposes. It keeps you top of mind for your stakeholders and gives you a chance to also continue realigning with them by checking your assumptions with them.By the time you finish it, you will have an easier time passing your recommendations or results because you have brought people along on this journey. So go ahead and set up those meetings, get that time in a monthly team meeting, or write that monthly email sis.
Map out opportunities for visibility
With one of my past managers, we actually mapped out these potential exposure moments for visibility for me and they included opportunities like speaking at a town hall and reporting to top management teams. I prepared rigorously for these opportunities, especially management meetings that can be terrifying as hell because after presenting 2 slides they are already eating you up. Big stages will be scary but they will be worth it and good training for your future as a C suite executive!
Create a digital footprint of your work
Another tool I use actively to manage my visibility is social media, in particular LinkedIn. I post and write articles about my work and my development journey. I also post content relevant to my work and lately with BsquaredC I create a lot of my own content. Social media is not everyone’s cup of tea and the influencer culture that comes with it makes it challenging to judge authenticity. Even Linkedin feels a little crowded lately and i am frequently surprised especially at the amount of prejudice people display on there(check out comments of any feminist post). The unfortunate thing is in the world we live in now, a digital footprint is inevitable and you might as well use trends to your advantage.The biggest thing is to find your balance on it and your authentic voice.
I am a work in progress on visibility at work and the tips above have helped me engage better in my organization and beyond. Especially as a black woman, getting noticed and appreciated for my work does not come easy and I am considerably more “aggressive” about it than most people. Additionally your organization has the responsibility to create an environment where everyone can be seen and heard so continue to challenge them on that too.
How are you managing your visibility at work?
Listen to the BsquaredC podcast episode on this topic on the link below:
Read more on this topic on the articles below: