Katherine Giscombe

Katherine Giscombe

Speech at Spelman Leadership Institute on Navigating Organizations for Women of Color


Katherine Giscombe

January 05, 2014


  1. 2.

    The Workplace as a Site of Stress for Women of

    Color © Catalyst 2011 • Exclusionary Work Environments • Challenging Relationships • Adjustments to Fit In • Overall Lack of Comfort in the Environment • Hidden Biases and Stereotyping
  2. 3.

    Stereotyping If I'm given an assignment, I'm going to go

    after it full speed ahead. I'm very aggressive but very tactful in being aggressive to get my job done. They will say I am too aggressive. But for my white counterpart, they will say, “Oh, she's ambitious.” Why is it that she's ambitious but I'm overly or too aggressive? —Black woman 3
  3. 4.

    “Guardedness” as a Reaction to Workplace Exclusion © Catalyst 2011

    • Women of color had the narrowest scope of network Now anything above senior manager is where you get into that principal partner and you have to be very careful. You go to the house, make sure you're on good behavior, make sure you don't spill anything, you know? – Black woman
  4. 6.

    Perception Gap for Managers o women of color 54% 17%

    0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% Diverse Women Direct Reports White Women Direct Reports PERCEPTION GAP Percentage of Managers who Over-Estimate their Direct Report’s Level of Disclosure Trust 6
  5. 7.

    “Guardedness” also Carries over into relationship with manager © Catalyst

    2011 • Manager – Direct Report study shows that Women of color disclose less than white women.
  6. 8.

    Recommendations for Individual Women © Catalyst 2011 • Overcome fear

    of showing weakness – that makes it worse • Initiate communication • Share
  7. 9.

    Recommendations for Individual Women © Catalyst 2011 • WOC start

    out with anticipation of negative consequences – and actually get negative consequences.
  8. 10.

    Recommendations for Individual Women © Catalyst 2011 But have I

    gone to talk to any of the senior managers on the team about it? No, because I don't think they would give me a straight answer, only because of things that have happened in the past on that particular assignment. So just because of things that have happened, I would not go to them to even begin to ask 'cause I know they wouldn't give me a straight answer.
  9. 11.

    Recommendations for Individual Women © Catalyst 2011 • Realize we

    often have a narrower scope of acceptable behavior…some evidence of double standards • Must selectively perceive positives, and yet savvily manage detractors
  10. 12.

    Recommendations for Individual Women © Catalyst 2011 • WOC need

    a more strategic and tightly focused approach to networking – Filtering out the negatives that accrue as you talk to a variety of people
  11. 13.

    Self Assessment © Catalyst 2011 Before you join an organization

    • Assess what biases, hang-ups, concerns, anxieties that you are bringing to the workplace • Reflect on your prior experiences. What could you have done differently? • Do your homework on who can and may not be able to give you support
  12. 14.

    When you are in the Organization © Catalyst 2011 Observe

    the workplace and collect intel • Watch carefully • Observe the workplace and the players: how open are they in revealing THEIR vulnerabilities to those around • Look for evidence of a double standard
  13. 15.

    In the Organization © Catalyst 2011 Observe the workplace and

    collect intel • In asking around: You may need to ask a variety of people advice on how to navigate, how to work with your boss
  14. 16.

    In the Organization © Catalyst 2011 • Assess your ‘fit’

    within the environment • Decide how comfortable you are “acculturating”
  15. 17.

    In the Organization © Catalyst 2011 • Work it from

    both directions • Strategically form relationships and gain support for yourself as you do so!
  16. 18.

    In the Organization © Catalyst 2011 • Remember emotional resilience

    – is key to not taking in negatives, while focusing on the positives
  17. 19.

    Beyond Emotional Resilience to Being Your Own Coach © Catalyst

    2011 • Extending beyond being resilient – to actively Being Your Own Coach