Takeaways, advice, and ideas from WIT's 2019 Leadership Journeys Panel and session on Workplace Issues Faced by Women of Color.

Leadership Journey Panels

On Being a Leader

  • You lead to influence, not to assign power—“It’s how you lead a room, not where you are.”
  • Play to your own strengths by recognizing what makes you an effective leader.
  • It’s also important to understand and accept that you can’t and won’t know everything; examine what you do know and then determine who you’ll need to rely on to make decisions for things you don’t know.
  • In that vein, take care to empower your subject matter experts; make sure they have opportunities for professional development and growth.
  • Identify “what are the problems here I can solve?” and seek out ways to move forward with a solution—”be the change you wish to see.”
  • Have an open dialogue with your staff and be clear on expectations.
  • Feedback is incredibly important; provide it to others but also be receptive to hearing it and internalizing it.
  • With regard to dealing with change, it helps to adopt the following strategies:
    • Accept that it’s going to happen no matter what.
    • Anticipate it
    • Embrace it!
  • If you are apprehensive about change:
    • Work backwards and examine your worst-case scenarios to determine the source of your anxiety.
    • Keeping that in mind, you can then move forward in figuring out how you can navigate it and also contribute to it.
    • Treat every change as an opportunity, and continuously seek out opportunities even when there appear to be none.

On Building a Career

  • Find diverse sources of information and ways to stay connected. Some suggestions include the Harvard Business Review, Gartner, Educause, and the McKinsey Insights App.
  • Compare your organization to current industry standards and identify gaps in order to drive change and decision-making.
  • Be mindful of the tone you set in your role and how it will influence your employees, especially with regard to work-life balance (sending emails outside of work hours, commitment expectations, etc.).
  • Some strategies to consider for maintaining a healthy work-life balance:
    • Understand that it is an ongoing struggle, however it is also a choice--you must choose to make it a priority
    • Exercise before going to work
    • Practice defensive calendaring (block-off time for lunch, working through tasks, personal appointments and events, etc.)
  • For work meetings, determine which ones you actually have to attend or hold:
    • Can some be resolved in an email?
    • Can some be attended or hosted by someone else on your team?
  • Keep in touch with people in your network—go to lunch with them, have face to face meetings, maintain an open Zoom or Slack channel so that people can reach out to you, etc.—and make time to demonstrate how much you appreciate them.
  • Sign up for networking events, and when you attend, be open-minded about your approach; don’t be afraid to initiate the conversation, and don’t panic if it feels awkward—that’s OK.
  • Document anything that feels like an accomplishment—you can create a kudos folder in your email for whenever someone sends you a compliment or a shoutout.
  • Cultivate a “personal board of directors"—people in your network who can help propel you forward by offering support and mentorship, advocacy, and sponsorship; keep in mind that advocacy, mentoring, and sponsorship don’t always come from people above you—they can come from people below you too, as well as those in your peer group.

Workplace Issues Faced by Women of Color

On Diversity and Inclusion at NYU

  • We are still in the education phase; we still have a hard time even saying things like “women of color” and we need to be OK with directly talking about issues.
  • We need to be extremely mindful of intersectionality when attempting any changes. We all have multiple identities—many of which are marginalized—that need to be treated equally rather than on a spectrum or in a hierarchy. For example, you can be a person of color and also be a woman, a member of the LGBTQIA community, part of a religious minority, etc. They are not mutually exclusive.
  • We need to make NYU more accessible to people of color and to people with marginalized identities in general; we must break the perception that NYU is an elitist, white space and work to ensure that NYU is a truly inclusive and supportive environment for all, students and staff alike.
  • Championing diversity should not stop at the recruitment phase; our work environment needs to be a place that uplifts and supports people of color all the time.
  • Senior leadership needs to advocate for or sponsor more female employees of color, as well as work on developing diverse administrators and managers from within teams who have the talent to lead but need to be trained.

On Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Environment

  • Host mandatory in-person diversity and sensitivity trainings instead of having staff complete an iLearn course.
  • Courses and workshops about diversity and inclusion should be created and attendance should be made mandatory for all staff and faculty. We need to make these ideas part of the workplace culture at NYU rather than a lunch and learn session or special event that people voluntarily attend.
  • We need to have diverse senior leadership across the schools and administrative units—there needs to be a systemic change, and the labor of change should not fall on employees of color.
  • Encourage senior leadership and decision-makers to attend sessions like the WIT: Continuing the Conversation series to learn about the frustrations and challenges faced by their employees.
  • Invest more in our own workforce and promote from within; grow talent from union positions.
  • HR needs to allow departments greater flexibility in crafting job descriptions (for example, using diverse experiences as a criteria rather than years of experience in the workforce or in a particular field or industry), and in posting open positions so as to reach a wider, more inclusive candidate pool.
  • Include a woman of color or a person of color at the table when interviewing would be valuable as they could provide a more complete view of workplace culture, both to potential candidates and to hiring managers.
  • Create a mentoring program or programs for women of color at NYU, in which they are paired off with established mentors currently at NYU who are also women of color.