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May/June, 2020  

May/June Newsletter


Taking Steps for Erasing Racism for Women in the Workplace

Kay Fittes, June, 2020

This article is not the one originally planned for this newsletter.  With the events that have unfolded over the last month regarding racism in America, I knew the plan needed to be changed.  This article is going to be more personal than most, while still focusing on women in the workplace.  I am a white woman and with that goes white privilege, that is not lost on me.  I was born in 1950, when in my hometown you would see water fountains, bathrooms and pools marked “colored” or “ white”.  There were two black kids in my elementary school.  That was my foundational environment.  Fast forward twenty plus years later, I took a position as a Field and Camp Director with the Girl Scout Council in SW Georgia.  Initially I met with black and white volunteers in my cities separately, because that was the way it had always been done.  It was my goal to change that, and that was accomplished.  It was also part of my mandate to have black girls and white girls occupy the same tents and cabins, without parents jerking their daughters out of camp.  That was also accomplished.  I have spent the last month asking myself what have I done lately, given it is 40 years later.  Yes, I participated in some diversity and inclusion committees in the 80’s and 90’s and have offered programming at Dress for Success and sponsored seats at my workshops to DFS participants, many of whom are black.  It is with a great deal of regret, shame and sadness that I can say, clearly, I have done nothing dramatic. This article starts with the premise, too little, too late.

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Kay’s Consulting Corner

Kay Fittes

Each month in this section, Kay offers actionable career consulting tips.

The Role of White Co-Workers in Eradicating Racism in the Workplace

  1. Put all assumptions aside.  We are all subject to stereotypes, bias and pre-conceived beliefs.  Start all conversations regarding racism from a stance of “I know nothing!”  Instead ask questions, not as an inquisition, but from a realization that each individual’s experience in the world is viewed through a different lens.  Here’s a good starter question to pose to a co-worker who may have a different lens:  “How do you feel and react when ______ happens?”  Really listen to that answer for understanding.

  2. Be an ally.  Take every opportunity to amplify the voices of your Black co-workers.  If you see and hear Black women being disregarded or talked over in meetings, speak up!  It may sound like, “Ashley was not finished, I would like to hear the rest of her idea.”

  3. Move from conversation.  There has been so much said in the last month about the need to have conversations around racism and racial justice.  Conversations are important but action moves the needle.  At the very least, join a diversity committee or start one.  This one action shows that this matters and it matters to you.  Become part of the group helping to monitor what is changing around the suggestions in the previous article.

Perhaps this is one step you want to take in your career and there are many more.  My coaching is all about maximizing your career.  Let’s see how we can take your career to the next level, call me at (513) 561-4288 or email me at

Interview – One Black Woman’s Perspective in the Workplace

Given the lead article and Kay’s Consulting Corner in this newsletter issue, I reached out to a Black colleague for some thoughts and perspective.  Keep in mind, this is one woman’s individual experience but it is profound.  The identity of this person has not been divulged due to the sensitivity and nature of the interview.

Question:  “What is it like to show up on Monday morning in the workplace, after a weekend of events around issues of racism in America?”

Answer:  “As a ‘news junkie’, I get my news in real time from podcasts, on-line stories and social media.  A lot happens on Friday and over the weekend around protests and conversations and I have the weekend to process that information.  I go into work on Monday, feeling frustrated, exhausted, helpless and muted.  I feel very distracted and to be effective and focused, I numb my feelings at work.  I keep my conversations about race and my feelings restricted to other Black colleagues and out of our team meetings.”

Question:  “What has been your experience with Associate Resource Groups?”

Answer:  “Our Black Associates Resource Group has been very helpful, and it has been a safe place to talk.  This was important because our company was slow to roll out a stance, and this was a place we could express ourselves.  Everyone was allowed to speak, and the listening was great.  In addition, now other Resource Groups have come together to talk about their experiences.”

Question:  “Have you been asked what you need at work during this difficult time?”

Answer:  “My boss has been no source of comfort and has not provided support that they could have offered.  It does not seem that it ever occurred to my manager that people have challenges outside of work!”

Question:  “What kind of reactions have you gotten from your co-workers during this difficult time?”

Answer:  “The positive and helpful reactions have come from the Resource Group.  It was interesting during other significant events like when the OJ Simpson events took place.  It was really quiet at work when he was acquitted.  Black associates whispered and were very guarded.  There was a lot of tension.  Additionally, when Barack Obama was elected President, I didn’t feel like I could express how I was really feeling.  Some of my White co-workers were excited about his election but people assumed I was for him because I was Black.  I was excited because he seemed well qualified and ran on the promise of hope and change.  I am conservative and selective about what I say at work about these events.  I go to work with a mask on and consistently edit and numb myself.  However, I do believe that education about differences in race and life experience makes a difference and am willing to be part of that conversation.”

My immense gratitude for this interview, her candor and willingness to talk was so gracious!  Thank you!  For you, the reader, perhaps you can have similar conversation that will be an eye opener and take one tiny step towards the America we all deserve.

Dress for Success

High-Heeled Success® supports Dress for Success through donations of clothing, time and money.  We offer complimentary seats at every workshop for women participating in the Dress for Success program.


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