Working in corporate America as a woman of color demands much needed time for reflection. I used to be insecure about many things, mainly the plethora of reasons why I felt I didn’t fit in certain work situations. To this day, I partake in conversations faced with individuals who seem unnecessarily passive-aggressive, and as someone who was taught to be nice, this proves to be quite a challenge. I used to wait to be included in conversations, or to be asked for my opinion on certain issues. I used to wait for the “team spirit” that was supposedly a key part my workplace’s ethos to kick in, so that I could enjoy the professional allyship I so desperately longed for.
It didn’t take me long to realize that if I continued to wait, my turn would never come. And so, I began the arduous task of making myself heard. It wasn’t easy, and it took longer that I would have hoped, but now, when I know my level of expertise is needed, I make sure that it is heard.
We live in a culture where ignorance is bliss, and passive-aggressiveness is equated to professionalism. How do we progress as a society when these are the teachings that are being passed down and imitated by the next?
I believe it takes a different breed of open-minded people to break these stereotypes, and call them out for what they are. No individual can make monumental strides without supporters and colleagues that share the same vision, but why do we often forget the colleagues, and remember only the vision and us?
The importance of allyship when it comes to building a career, relationship, or family is monumental in determining a positive future, or lack of. So why does corporate America struggle with this?
The answer is simple. Ego. Ego is what consumes us. Most of the time, when we think of ego, we affiliate it with narcissism or ignorance. The other faces of ego, which are less talked about, are sadness, fear, anxiety anger, betrayal, and remorse. When you get to the crux of the matter, these are all emotions manufactured by one’s ego. The trick is to not let our emotions consume us to the point where they become the focal point of taking critical action.
As a Muslim, I constantly remind myself of the good I am obliged to bring to this world, including through my work. This means that ego has no place in my day-to-day life. Once you adopt faith as a part of your daily routine, you will find things making much more sense. Over time, it will come to feel as though your emotions seem to have less of an impact on you. Of course, this comes with age and experience, but if I could tell my younger self to adapt to these teachings sooner, I would have saved a lot of unnecessary heartaches.
Coming full-circle, being a minority — a Muslim woman — and working in an environment where ego trumps all is rough, but we have the opportunity to shape our work environment in a way put allyship above ego. It won’t be easy, but as long as we embrace the monumental truth that in the long run, allyship is far more beneficial than ego, and fully accept the fact that we can put our faith in Allah because He knows best, the fruits our labor will become that much sweeter.
Now go out, and be great!