Last Friday the hashtag #mywholeself was trending on LinkedIn, a much-needed campaign advocating that as individuals we shouldn’t have to leave parts of our identity behind – be that our cultural or ethnic background, gender identity, sexuality, disability or health – when we work.
We often hear the phrase “be yourself” or “bring your true self to work.” But as a leader can you really afford to bring your true authentic self to your work?
In most cases, the answer is no. Even more so if you are a person of colour – especially those who are executive or CEO level. Leaders of colour are often pressured to represent their entire race or ethnicity and they’re also burdened with additional responsibilities that come with the role. So it’s not always possible for them to be themselves at work.
And for people who don’t identify as a leader, the pressure to conform to the corporate culture can be just as great. In order to be successful in their careers, they may have to ignore parts of their identity or present themselves in a way that isn’t entirely authentic – code switch to use a better word.
It’s often a survival tactic in a discriminatory world. But I think it’s important for us to be aware of the pressure to change ourselves, and to remember that we don’t have to conform to someone else’s idea of what’s acceptable. We can be ourselves, and we can be successful.
We have come a long way since 2020, however people of colour still face bias and challenges as we attempt to create a successful and sustainable career in many corporate workplaces. Bias and fears that limit our beliefs and diminish our self-worth make it harder to allow us to live up to our full potential. How do we create change and empower people to stand up to these damaging stereotypes that exist within our organisations?
Looking back in my career, I can honestly say that there were periods when I could not reveal myself fully. I felt like I had to put on a “mask” in order to succeed. And that’s not a healthy way to live or work. I am not alone – I have had so many conversations with leaders both in and out of sector who have shared with me similar stories. These biases make us feel like we cannot bring our whole selves into the workplace because if we do, this might impact on our careers or how we are perceived by our peers. Instead, we are forced to conform and embody what is believed to be professionalism.
So what can we do to change this? We need to create workplaces where people feel safe and supported to be themselves. We need to encourage authenticity and build cultures that celebrate diversity and we need to continue to have open and honest conversations on wellbeing and mental health.
Showing up as our authentic selves in the workplace can have a powerful and lasting impact on more than just our career growth regardless of how you identify. It can enhance our overall well-being and improve motivation. That motivation can help to lead us to a more prosperous and fulfilling career.
Together, we’ll discuss authenticity and bias in the workplace in Central London on Thursday, 24 March 2022. In this powerful discussion, we’ll examine the challenges of navigating the workplace that people of colour face even in today’s modern-day age. We need to create an allyship within our corporate cultures, and for us to truly succeed, we need allies in the room with us. We encourage everyone to attend, no matter their background. Connex GEM (Global Ethnic Majority) Leadership Network events are open to all.
Learn about the power of showing up as your authentic self, how to show up in the right rooms, and how to stop microaggressions that have macro-aggressions on the careers of GEM leaders. During this roundtable, led by Ninesh Muthiah, Chief Executive, Home Connections, you’ll hear from speakers:
- Stacey Kruckel, Chief Marketing Officer, Capco
- Becky Utuka, Director of Development and Sales, Gateway Housing Association
- Geoffrey Williams, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dr. Martens
Meet in person during this meaningful event and capitalise on this opportunity to meet and network with like-minded peers and grow your network. Although we exist in a world with remarkable technological advancements, networking in person is an incredible way to build strong, essential relationships that allow us to enhance the growth of our careers.