Note from WIRe in Color program chair Marion Elliott: "The purpose of this new blog series is to capture the unique experiences, expertise, and perspectives of the global WIRe in Color community as they happen. Reflecting on last year and this one, one cannot help but to remember that our lives have been changed forever. Equity, Inclusion and belonging remain at the forefront of discussions. Adjacent to those is Change, Advocacy, and Growth. As a member of the Market Research and Insights community I encourage others to speak, listen, and share their knowledge and experiences. The importance of this blog is to offer another medium for knowledge and culture share. This is an opportunity to spearhead change and promote growth within and outside our industry. We will continue to network, host our webinars, and connect globally. Feel free to share your stories on impactful studies, martech, and your experience or thoughts on change in our industry. Share our blog and encourage others to submit."
During 2020 I, like many people, had time to reflect on myself once I started working from home due to the pandemic. The reflection process felt very overwhelming so I used every support network I had access to, from counselling and colleagues to community groups, my partner, friends and family. Each network provided something specific that I needed and, while there was some overlap, there were some specific conversations that I had that made me face a lot of things I hadn’t faced before.
Race, mental wellbeing, education, work, industries, background, stereotypes and microaggressions were some of the difficult conversations that took place. Facing those topics head on and separating them out into digestible chunks in the right forums gave me the space I needed to clear my thoughts and find a little peace to better understand what I wanted for myself.
My early experiences of asking for career support felt unproductive, they were unproductive because my attitude to work wasn’t right. My attitude in the beginning was “don’t get fired,” “stay off anyone’s hit list,” “don’t give anyone any reason to say it’s your fault.” I thought for a long time that I was lucky to even have a job let alone want more for myself or from the company that I work for.
You’ll be pleased to know that this way of thinking wasn’t forever. Several important conversations along the way helped me see that there is more to working than completing projects and finishing to-do lists (as satisfying as those can be.) My attitude changed but I still didn’t feel as confident in my position as some of my counterparts.
I was first introduced to Women in Research via my course tutor who advised that it was a great resource and community that provided support for women in the research industry. I was a spectator for a long time and didn’t know how to tap into this new community until I attended a London event and met the group. Attending the event helped me realise I’m already part of this community and no tapping was necessary, I was not an outsider who needs to be accepted.
Changing my status from spectator to participant gave me the courage to apply for the mentorship programme and getting accepted added another piece to my puzzle. It introduced me to a space I had heard about but couldn’t find for myself. Women in Research acknowledged the intersections of diverse communities and asked if I would like a mentor from a multi ethnic background. In that one question I gained a space where my race and the experiences that come with that were part of the conversation, not an undertone. By having that part of me acknowledged it made talking about my working experiences much more productive. It also allowed me to speak more truths than I ever had.
Our conversations were very honest and we covered work and personal topics. The boundaries were established early on and more often than not I already had the answers. I just needed the time, space and the occasional nudge to get there. This was the beauty of the space and the relationship because my career truly benefited from those conversations. With the support of my mentor we worked on using the voice that I’d found in that space in other places too.
I became happy to introduce myself and have a chat with people in places where I didn’t know anyone. I became happy to contribute and share when I was able to. I would reach out to people on LinkedIn to show my appreciation of their content and I also had better conversations with colleagues that I’d known for years.
Most importantly I would ask for help if I didn’t know something and in all of those new interactions I’ve met pure positivity, people are willing to help where they are able to and people are routing for each other. I know I am.