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Thursday, August 8, 2019

#BlackWomenAtWork: Why I removed my ‘race blinders’


From the archives on May 24, 2017


For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been racially colorblind. The topic of Civil Rights was never part of family discussions. If anything, we talked about how we were going to arm ourselves with knowledge and then use it to live the American Dream. As a precaution, I wore race blinders to minimize my involvement in any racially charged issues taking place around me in Corporate America.

During my young adolescent years, my Jamaican mother used to say, “Don’t blame the color of your skin for the things you do not have.” The “things” she was referring to were education, success, and a thriving career.

Earning a degree in journalism allowed me to work in local television newsrooms, write for financial publications and it even gave me a peek into the advertising world. All of this was possible because I pursued an education, which led to a successful career in media.

My race blinders kept me laser-focused. They kept me safe from any ethnic uprising in the workplace. They kept me in check. But when I started to navigate my way through the labyrinth of Middle-class America I soon realized my race blinders was keeping me from the truth.

Climbing the corporate ladder as a woman, or as Sheryl Sandberg described it in her bestselling book Lean In, “the jungle gym,” has been quite a struggle. But as a Black woman working in corporate America, my journey has been even more challenging.

Ring the Alarm


At first, I didn’t notice any red flags. Early in my career an executive news producer, who was also a Black woman, opened my eyes and rang the alarm. “In the news business, you have to work twice as hard because you’re a woman. And you have to work five times harder because you’re a Black woman.”

Till this day, those words stick to my soul. I took that piece of advice and ran with it. In every position I held over the years, I made sure to arrive at the office early, stay late, dress sharp and go above and beyond what my employers asked me.

Putting in the Work


The red flags didn’t start to show up until I decided to transition from local news to financial journalism. For the 10 years I covered finance, I had to prove myself every day. To start, I made it my duty to read everything I could get my hands on:


  • Accounting
  • Analysts Reports
  • Annuities
  • Divestitures
  • Earnings Calls
  • Fiduciary Rule
  • Financial Advisors
  • Initial Public Offerings (IPOs)
  • Investment Bankers
  • Life Insurance
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Private Equity
  • SEC Filings
  • Venture Capital
  • Wealth Management

… and the list goes on.

I’d watch my editors take White junior reporters under their wing to train them for success. I thought I would be next in line for one-on-one training, but my turn never came. While waiting in vain, I would concoct strategic plans to get in the good graces of my editors. Unfortunately, they were always too busy or didn’t have enough room in their nest.

The Only One


It’s no secret that White men dominate the financial world. It’s very rare that I saw anyone who looked like me at financial services industry events. The moment I stepped into a conference, I would count how many Blacks were in the room. Then I would count the Latinas, Asians and so on. I was usually the only minority.

As a matter of fact, it is the same landscape in the financial journalism world. Most of my colleagues are White men and women. They all hold degrees from pristine colleges, and they make sure to remind me anytime I want to give my insight on a story or a project. “Tamika, please know that I went to Columbia Journalism school for my masters. And I’m certified in social media, CMS, SEOs, and blah, blah, blah.”

They made me feel like my journalism degree from the University of South Carolina didn’t matter. Their put-downs and insults struck a nerve which caused me to work even harder.

Black Woman Left Behind  

Those same White colleagues were on the fast track for promotion. Every time one of them got promoted I would get to the office earlier, stay later and read all of the financial publications cover to cover. “You’ve got to work twice as hard” kept ringing through my mind. It seemed that I was on a hamster wheel running toward a goal that I would never reach.

Then one day, a White colleague brought it to my attention the reason why I was getting passed over for promotion over and over again. “Do you think it’s because you’re Black?”

My co-worker pointed out that reporters on the fast track were White and Jewish, just like our boss. And every other week they were moving up in rank. “Race and religion shouldn’t have anything to do with why I’m not getting promoted,” I said to my co-worker. “My mother said not to blame the color of my skin for the things I don’t have. I just have to work harder for the things I want.”

I was beyond upset. But after I settled my emotions I realized that my co-worker had a point. I confronted that boss and explained how our team was perceiving him. He told me I just wasn’t ready. I pushed back and said I would not accept that as an answer. “If I see another promotion announcement and my name is not in the subject line, please know I’m putting in my two-week notice on that day.”

One month later, I received a promotion.

Replacement Blinders

After that experience I realized I had to remove the “race blinders” my mother gave me. It was clear to me that racism exists in Corporate America and it’s hard to prove. I ended up trading my “race blinders” for passive blinders.

Afraid to get fired, I ignored undercutting remarks from editors, reporters, and clients. Afraid to be labeled “the angry Black woman” I would keep my mouth shut when I heard “alternative facts” spewed about the Black community.

The one time I removed my passive blinders, my Black female co-worker pulled me aside and warned me that our boss doesn’t like it when we disagree with him or question him. “Wow, Masta got you under his thumb,” I thought to myself. “I will not bow down. I am a grown-ass woman, and I will continue to give my insight respectfully.”

And because I refused to obey the rules, “Masta” decided that it was time to make some changes. After only 10 weeks on the “Plantation,” the company said it was in financial despair. Guess whose position got cut for the New Year? I picked up my passive blinders, placed them back on my head and went back to square one.


If only I could just figure out how to remove the passive blinders and keep them off as I did with my race blinders. Working in Corporate America as a Black Woman has its perks said no one ever!


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Are Women Prepared For Life Alone 
As They Age?



From the archives - Posted for a friend 
The trends are clear – as women age the odds are they will be living alone, largely because of either divorce or widowhood.
What may be less clear for many of them is whether they are prepared for that life alone – both emotionally and financially, says Susan Hickey, a financial professional at Your Own Retirement LLC.
“Although both men and women could live three or four decades in retirement, it’s more likely for women because they have longer life expectancies,” Hickey says. “But they also often have less in savings, and smaller or no pensions, so their longevity can work for them and against them.”
Almost half (46 percent) of women who are 75 or older live alone, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living.
But women, many of whom are heads of households, don’t always do a good job of planning for their retirements because they spend so much of their time thinking about the needs of others – their children, their spouses, their aging parents, Hickey says.
“They need to realize that their happiness and security in their later years can hinge on so many things, and not just their savings,” she says. “So many factors come into play.”
Hickey says some mistakes women make in planning for retirement, and what they can do to correct those mistakes, include:
  • Failing to participate in planning. Many women traditionally have left the retirement planning to their husbands, and that’s a mistake, Hickey says. Women should be actively involved. They need to understand their financial situation, what would happen if their spouse dies and where all the important papers are kept. When a meeting occurs with a financial professional, they should be part of that and help make the decisions.
  • Underestimating how long they will live. For some reason, many women have trouble imagining just how long retirement might last. Life expectancy for females in the United States is about 81, and that’s an average. Many women will live into their 90s, and some will pass 100. When planning and saving, women need to consider that they might still be living 30 or 40 years after they retire.
  • Failing to protect their health. Maintaining your general health and well-being is important because medical costs can eat into retirement money, Hickey says. The nest egg that someone thought would be more than sufficient can start disappearing quickly when there are significant medical issues. Women need to make sure they get exercise, eat healthy meals and keep up with those doctor visits.
“So much of this is connected,” Hickey says. “When women feel that they have a good financial plan in place, they are more likely to feel secure, and that’s good for both their physical health and their emotional health.”
TC's Views
As an independent woman, do you feel financially secure? 
I'll be honest with you ... I personally do not feel financially secure. 
Why? Because since leaving a career in financial journalism in 2015 to pursue other creative opportunities, I've been through three layoffs. With every layoff, I had to dip into my savings to stay afloat. The last layoff wiped me out clean. 
These days I'm trying to make sense of it all. I'm also trying to figure out how to get back my financial independence, how to get to that point of my career where I'm back to making a six-figure income, and how to live below my means in the meantime.
Unsolicited advice welcomed. E-mail tcsviews@gmail.com.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

TC's Views: Women, Please Stop the Madness

From the archives of Feb. 2017

The 90-minute horror flick, Get Out, sparks conversation about racism and the loyalty of White women.

Out of all the reviews I read about how writer-director Jordan Peele pulled the nail-biting film together, Kendra James’ headline in the Feb. 28, 2017 article, left me wanting to know more.

The headline, which appeared in my Facebook feed: "Get Out Perfectly Captures the Terrifying Truth About White Women" … made me think that I was missing out on a big secret.

Then the subhead made me scratch my head a bit: "There are many scary things about the movie, but scariest of all is its realistic depiction of racism."

I then had to read the following three thoughts of the Cosmopolitan article several times:

  • "White women have always played, and continue to play, a large part in upholding the supremacy. They have not held the best interests of people of color. Putting full trust in them has often been to our detriment. "
  • "The idea that a white woman you see as your potential friend or ally will eventually prove to be looking out for her own best interests over yours or the greater good. These are concepts that the people of color watching this film (Get Out) are intimately familiar with."
  • "In Get Out, writer-director Jordan Peele takes 90 minutes to meditate on a lesson Kim Kardashian once spelled out for America via snake emojis and Taylor Swift: White women are not to be trusted." - Kendra James via Cosmopolitan.

TC's Views

As a Black woman working in Corporate America, I'm intimately familiar with "women" looking out for their own best interest ... not just White women.

It's rare to find women, of any race, whose friendship is genuine. As a precaution, when I first engage with a female co-worker or a "new" female friend I tend to keep most of them at arm's length.

My own personal experience has taught me to form a bond with women who I immediately click with including, Blacks, Whites, Latinas, Asians, etc.

Scary movies aren’t my thing. I have no intentions of going to see the movie but I do want to know if the main character in the film manages to Get Out. Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that he did.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Career Learning Lessons: Listen, Respect and Get to Know Your Colleagues

Whether you are an employee or the boss, it’s imperative that you listen when your colleagues speak. 


A recent LinkedIn post reminded me how important it is to remain silent when your co-worker says something controversial. WAIT - Why Am I Talking, resonated with me and I decided to put the acronym into full practice in my professional life. 




Be Willing to Ask Why

Several months ago, I was listening in on a heated discussion in the office. Instead of flying off the handle, my colleague Andrea* calmly asked our co-worker, “Why do you think this is the case? What’s been your experience?” 

Because Andrea asked calmly, the conversation did not escalate. It was at that moment I learned to appreciate the value of listening to my colleagues. 

If you’re willing to ask why, and if you’re willing to listen, you’ll probably find out what your coworker's aspirations are as it relates to the workplace. 

Respect the Experience

The same rules apply when talking to colleagues who have been working on their craft for several years longer than you and even those who are new to the workforce. 

As a journalist who is smack dab in the middle of her career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with professionals from Millennials to Baby Boomers. The one thing I know for sure is that I learn something new almost every day from newbies and veterans. 

No matter how much or how little experience your colleagues have, don’t be so hasty to give your insight as to why you think they should step outside of their comfort zone. 

I recently went to a journalism workshop. There I met a fellow journalist, who appeared to be in the business much longer than I. We had a decent conversation of why journalism shifted from television and print to digital and the importance of sharing news on social media platforms. When I learned that Sandra* is reluctant to doing video I quickly gave my two sense as to why she needed to get on the ball and embrace it.

Sandra later explained she’s still relatively new to the journalism world. She received her masters in 2012, and since being in the field, she was working through some insecurities because of her age. 

What I respect about Sandra’s experience is that, despite her age, she decided to return to school to earn a degree in a profession she admired. Most people in their 40s or 50s would say “I’m too old to go back to school.”

Get to Know Your Colleagues

If you ever felt that your colleagues misjudged your character, it’s okay to speak up. 

I had a colleague who assumed that because I’m a journalist, I lacked creativity. And instead of stewing over Janet’s* assumption I spoke to her directly and politely. In five minutes she learned that I’m passionate about music, art & culture, and I burn the midnight oil working on personal creative projects. 

You might find yourself in a similar situation, and I’m here to tell you there’s no need to be nasty or offensive. Janet gave me a heartfelt apology and the little tiff is now water under the bridge.

It’s easy for anyone to be misunderstood by colleagues and bosses. Even though we spend hours a day with coworkers doesn’t mean they are the same people outside of the office. 

Try to get to know your colleagues beyond their resume. Get to know their hobbies, inquire about their pet peeves, and if possible try to find out about their past lives. 

You don’t have to become their best friend but at least make an effort to find out what interests them outside of the office. You might find that you have more in common than you think.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of my coworkers. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Internet Not an Option, Now What?



Would you know how to fill your day if you didn't have the Internet? Well, there was a time when most of us relied on creativity to occupy our day without the help of the World Wide Web. 

An article penned by Emma Rathbone gently reminded readers of what it was like to create dance moves in the spur of the moment, whip out a notebook to create a piece of artwork, and to flip through a booklet to identify a precious stone.  

I believe the short essay, which can be found in the pages of The New Yorker, actually sounds Better Said Than Written.

Take a listen to Before the Internet.


So here's a question for you. How would you occupy your day if the Internet wasn't an option?

Send your views to TCsViews@gmail.com or leave your comments below.


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