Dealing With Racism In Today's Corporate World

May 14, 2010
Written by Randi McCreary in
Eyes On The Enterprise
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Abdul prepares for her morning like any other executive. Her business savvy attire is complete with leather attaché case, and the day's agenda playing out in her mind as she enters her office. Despite the utmost professionalism and organization with which she begins her day, there is one key factor that lingers, unsettled in her conscious. It is the fact that she is African-American.

Despite her business credentials and integrity, qualities that place her in a supervising position, she faces a reality that she cannot escape. The entire corporate world does not perceive her as she truly is. To some, she is just a woman with a last name that screams minority. A scream so loud it shuns away clients with deafening ears and causes her superiors to walk an act of imbalance on cracking shells.

"People sometimes underestimate African-Americans in an authoritative position. I put the same amount of effort into my professional development to move up in the company and I deserve the same amount of respect as others. I do think that there is a misconception that we are uneducated or not well versed." says Abdul.

Whether this doubt is a product of heresy or experience is not certain; but the level of frustration that accompanies such misconceptions is born from a stereotype that is all too familiar for Abdul. Much of Abdul's clientele exchange occurs on the phone, a task that would seem normal enough for any professional. However, Abdul's calls have proven to be much different. Often, others have put her in an uncomfortable position, confirming that prejudice has many forms. She often receives escalating client calls, only to meet a disgruntled person on the other end who refuses to do business with her because she is African-American.

"When I was put on a client conference call, she requested to speak to a white male manager," she explains. "They told her there wasn't one that she could talk to on the same level as I was and she then requested to speak with any white male manager, regardless of the level as long as it wasn't me."

The support of fellow colleagues is often lacking when these instances arise. Her superior asked Abdul to return the call as an anonymous "Becky" to smooth out the situation. Abdul made a personal decision to decline her superior's request, because she felt it went against the very characteristics of integrity that had brought her to her position in the first place.

For fellow minorities that find themselves rising up the corporate ladder only to meet discrimination, Abdul advises, "People tend to hide behind their fears, but you can't let others' ignorant comments affect you. You are in a prestigious position for a reason."

If the stereotype exists that minorities lack the professional manner, integrity or knowledge to function at not only the corporate level, but a level efficient enough to oversee an entire executive staff, Abdul defies it by remaining true to her business ethics and herself; an African-American success.

Eyes On The Enterprise