• Ty Givens, The Workforce Pro

I hate that BLM feels like a trend and not a change

I’m usually not very opinionated about things, but I feel compelled to share today. Over the years I’ve had a lot of success working in companies in higher level positions, as a department head at minimum. I started running my own department at only 24 years old. Oftentimes, I’d get asked (by people who looked like me) about my career path and how I was able to reach these levels, ultimately, they wanted it too. And they deserve it.

So how did I get here? Hmm, let’s see. I got my heart broken in my sophomore year of college and wanted to be too busy, so I took on a full-time job, while also going to school full time. I finished my BS in Business with 4 years of work experience under my belt and realized through that first job, I’d stumbled on a career in a niche practice called workforce management (boring, right?). That (to me) sounds like a good enough backstory leading to how I was able to make it to global director level before I turned 29 years old. But that’s not it.

What propelled me ahead are the role models and the shoulders I stood on, even when I didn’t know it. The predominately African American Christian School I attended, where dresses were to our knees and hoop earrings were not allowed… where all of my teachers looked like me, including the principal was the first step. I was always surrounded by black excellence.

Maybe it was my first full time job, where the managers and the director looked like me. There were many African American women who molded me and told me when my skirt was too tight, or if I wasn’t presenting myself in the best light. At the time, I thought they were being mean, now I’m grateful. Imagine my surprise when the director (black woman) showed me what an offer letter is supposed to look like and how to negotiate a sign on bonus when I was barely 21.

See… I never saw a glass ceiling. Never actually thought I couldn’t be or do whatever I wanted to be or do. It just never happened that way for me. I’m so grateful for that, and I hope that my presence in some of the roles I’ve filled over the years has given others the same level of security.

But let’s get real. The 29 year old black woman didn’t make it to global director on her wit and smarts alone. That would be nice, but let’s face it: she checked two boxes that screamed “WE’RE DIVERSE!”. The same woman who went to head up customer experience teams for various startups, checked those very same boxes and the photos on the website looked great. But, it was mostly for show.

It took a few rounds for me to be poached from here to there, and to be very dissatisfied with the reality of my scope of control and the lack of weight of my opinion, to realize that my presence just “looked” good. As head of CX, I was reduced to mostly a babysitter, and I could not get a seat at the table. Imagine having the only team that’s actually diverse within a company (outside of the warehouse) and being shipped off to another location, due to the aesthetics the diversity created… didn’t look good for investors, or celebrity visitors.

Now, these same companies are screaming “Black Lives Matter”, when in fact they eliminated ALL black leadership not long after I left. It’s the same companies that scream “We Stand with You”, when there are less than 5 black people working in their company. It’s the same companies rushing to post the black people they know to show they care and respect black people. It’s false, it’s whack and it’s offensive.

Let me tell you what diversity looks like. I started my own company… not because I can’t land a gig. I can… but because I wanted something different. I love getting my hands dirty and doing the work, but I want to do it at my pace (super fast) and on my terms.

My company is 4 strong, plus 1 to help with specific needs… However, there are FOUR WOMEN on my team, not because I need to fill a quota or have the company “look” a certain way… it’s because they’re bad ass. My company is mostly African American, but not just because black lives matter… they do (my life certainly matters), but because they’re the best fit for the roles they’re doing and we all value entrepreneurship.

So yes, maybe it was crazy to go out on my own and do the job no one else wants to do. But I’m doing it. I love it and I’m going to continue.

For me, BLM is not a trend, it’s life. I challenge other companies to be more authentic. If your company lacked diversity before BLM, own that… do better… but posting every black person you know isn’t convincing me that you believe BLM… is it convincing you?