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By: Leah Brome (3 min read)
I graduated college at 19. I was young and my first job was at a Fortune 500 company. That’s when the advice first began:
“Your hair can’t look too ethnic if you work in corporate. Keep it straight.”
“You will work twice as hard for the same opportunity and your white peers. Be prepared.”
“Do not tell them you are gay! You’re already African-American and a woman.”
“You know, by having a wife who is white, you might seem more relatable to your white male peers.”
“Are you sure you can’t walk just a little? If they see you using a mobility device they will lose all respect for you and think you can’t do the job”.
“You need to lose weight. How many obese executives do you know? It makes you look lazy. If you want to get there drop some weight.”
All of these are comments I have heard from well-meaning, successful individuals about the advice I needed to follow in order to be successful as a black, gay, woman with a disability.
You might look at this and think just how horrible these people were for giving me this advice. But I know why they did it. They were afraid. All of them had experienced bias in some form and had created rules about how to survive in environments where they weren’t perceived as equal or included. Sadly, for many of them their fears were validated but not always.
I lived with the weight of those words on me for many years. It became overwhelming and I had to make a choice — To live, work, and love authentically as who I am without fear. To be unabashedly visible and present in all the spaces I inhabit. To not accept or tolerate anything but equality and fairness. To be accountable for my role in creating an equal and inclusive environment for others who have different experiences from me. To give my time and my energy to inclusive companies like IBM who deserve it. Because in the end I don’t want to survive in my career, I want to thrive in it.
Most importantly I commit to help create an environment where no young woman, person of color, disabled, LGBTQ person would ever have to receive that “advice” again and believe it’s the only way to achieve their dreams.
So what do I pledge?
- I pledge to be accountable for creating inclusive environments for others
- I pledge to be visible and authentic
- I pledge to empower others in both my words and actions to help them feel valued and included
- I pledge to help eradicate bias wherever it may hide
- I pledge to be fearless and authentic in my pursuit of doing my best work ever as my best self ever
About the Author
Leah Brome is a Business and HR Transformation leader with over 10 years of experience in helping organizations achieve their strategic priorities. A proud IBMer, Leah joined IBM Talent Acquisition in 2017. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts with her wife and their two adorable pugs.