In all of the HR/recruiting departments in which I have worked over the past 26 years, their idea of diversity was typically one Black person, usually me. Far from inclusive.
It’s like a couple adopting a child from another race and saying, “OK, I’ve made my contribution to society.” Then they ignore the child and leave them out of family outings. They feed and clothe the child, but do not give the child an ounce of affection and no sense of belonging. That is what it is like for many Black people in corporate America.
As a Black woman, that’s what it’s been like for me.
“Show Me Your Grades”
My introduction to human resources and recruiting started when I was in my early 30s. I was working for a company that had a group of urgent-care centers throughout central Virginia. Because I had been a medical-insurance claims adjuster, I was hired as an HR assistant to process the company’s own medical claims.
Very soon the job became more of a generalist role processing turnover reports, assisting with EEO reports, and recruiting for a variety of clinical positions. I learned about certification and licensing requirements, navigated through workforce shortages, and processed open enrollments.
It was ironic that my manager, who was a VP and a nurse, and I had the same birthday and that we both named one of our daughters after ourselves. She shared her knowledge and encouraged me to grow. That experience may have been the first and last time I felt “included.”
Eventually, a medical director position opened at one of the clinics. Generally, this role was held by people with medical degrees, but due to the administrative nature of the job, the company changed the requirements to consider college-educated professionals. A white male employee and I were the only internal applicants.
I interviewed for the position with my VP and her Senior VP superior. Toward the end of our conversation, the senior VP was visibly agitated. He asked me if I could get my college transcripts. My VP called out his request for being out of line, but it had no effect.
So I contacted my college and requested the transcripts, but none of that mattered. In the end, the senior VP told me that he went with the white guy because that candidate was expecting his fourth child and hence, would benefit from a promotion with a higher salary.
I can almost hear you say as you read this: “But that’s a violation of the Civil Rights Act!” Yes, it is. But had I lodged a complaint, it would’ve become a public record, which risked impacting the rest of my career and life.
A Toxic Staffing Agency
When the company moved its corporate office to an area that created more than an hour commute for me, I took a job in one of the clinics that reduced my commute to just 15 minutes. As a front office supervisor, I managed a team of 14 employees, but the pay was not very high. So I managed to keep this position on a part-time basis and simultaneously take a full-time job as a recruiting assistant for a small staffing agency. Soon after, I was promoted to account executive/recruiter…