Having a team, board or organization that is diverse is a step in the right direction. However, if the voices of those people with diverse experiences, communication styles, personalities, or demographic profiles are not heard or if you expect them to fit in and behave like the dominant group then you are going to have a tough time retaining this talent.
I will never forget how proud I felt when I was asked to join a very exclusive, weekly meeting with the CEO of the media company that I worked for. The company owned a portfolio of TV networks and only the senior Leadership of each network could participate. I was the only woman and Latina to asked to join. I was happy to have a voice at the table. As soon as I felt comfortable speaking up, I started to contribute. Two of the men in sales leadership roles pointed out that my communication style and messaging were not in line with what others had agreed upon. They explained that we should stick to providing only positive news and if there were challenges that I was facing or potential revenue losses these responses would need to go through them first. In other words, they were happy to have me seated at the table, but I was expected to conform to their rules of engagement.
I have had similar experiences with other groups. What tends to happen is that I stop speaking up, I say only what they want to hear, or I leave. This is the main reason why Latinas are exiting certain industries in droves.
Here are some of my tips on ways that Latinos can become more integrated into a company, a community, or a team:
- Modulate (adjust or regulate) Latino cultural traits and communication style according to the dominant environment that you are in. In other words, tone down your Latinidad so that you are heard by those of a different background or ethnicity. How you say it is as important as what you say!
- Let someone in the group or the entire group know how you feel and keep this dialogue going. Others might not consciously realize that your voice is not being heard. They may be used to hearing or listening to a few, dominant players. Or they might have certain cultural biases that make them less receptive to you or your communication style. To paraphrase Picasso “show them how to look at others with different eyes.”
- Ask them to pair you with a more seasoned member of the company, team or board, someone who can show you the ropes and help introduce you to others.
- Have a conversation with someone from the group about how you come across – is your tone critical or accusatory? do you tend to go off on tangents? how can all parties adjust their communication style?
To quote Liz and Mollie “diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice be heard.” If your organization or board does not make changes that enable you to feel like you are heard, accepted, and belong after a time frame that you have established, then it is time to go somewhere that values you for who you are and for your unique voice and perspective.