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In today’s rapidly changing corporate landscape, the concept of “professionalism” is undergoing a transformational change that may completely radicalize the working world for the better.
For years, traditional professionalism standards have dictated how individuals present themselves and navigate the workplace. However, these standards have been criticized for lacking inclusivity, perpetuating inequality, and limiting opportunities for historically underrepresented groups, particularly Black and brown individuals.
This article explores the historical context behind these constructed principles, the reasons for their existence, and ways to empower BIPOC/POC professionals in their respective journeys toward creating more inclusive and equitable workplaces.
Table of Contents:
Unveiling the origins of traditional professionalism standards
In America’s corporate landscape, the concept of “professionalism” has long been embedded in the framework of the working world. But to understand its current limitations and exclusionary nature in the present, we have to look to the past.
Standards of professionalism were initially established with the intention of applying objective measures to evaluate the skills, behavior, and appearance of employees.
These principles inadvertently perpetuate a system and workplace culture that disadvantages and isolates underrepresented groups. And with its acceptance also comes an uncomfortable recognition of the fact that standards of professionalism are designed to covertly perpetuate colonial ideologies/behaviors as well as white normative philosophies.
In a candid interview with Forbes, Leah Goodridge – legal scholar, litigation expert and award-winning author UCLA Law Review The essay—titled “Professionalism as a Racial Structure”—summarizes it best: Standards of professionalism, especially in traditional workplace settings, serve as a unifying vignette in a larger structure of oppressive racism. Are.
“Workplace civility,” as Goodridge explained, “has become about not discussing anything that is considered politics. But the problem is… anyone who is not a white male is considered a political identity. Is.”
According to Goodridge, workplace norms exist in many forms, and can impact POC professionals in a number of ways, such as:
- Misogyny (misogyny explicitly directed towards black women)
- micro management
- Discrediting work ability, background, knowledge and performance
- Tone and identity-presentation policing
- Emotional Manipulation/Gaslighting
- inability to get promotion
The impact of these standards on historically marginalized people cannot be ignored, as they often find themselves conforming to norms, environments, and guidelines that do not align with their cultural and personal identities.
This lack of inclusion not only hinders diverse representation in the workplace but also impacts the creativity, innovation and overall potential of companies/organizations.
To truly combat this harmful corporate ethos and generate a more inclusive culture, it’s important to re-examine how professionalism works as a structure (and not just what an employee asks), but for POC. It is also important to create space to feel comfortable speaking. , and validating their feelings and experiences when they do so.
Embracing DEI&B: A Catalyst for a Progressive Workplace
The consequences of this lack of diversity go far beyond the need for representation. Built In’s research actually reports that “executive teams with higher ethnic diversity were found to be 33 percent more likely to perform above EBIT margins by 2017.” If you don’t know, EBIT margin is a measure of a company’s operating profit as a percentage of its revenue.
While this is a wonderful development, Harvard Law School’s Forum on Corporate Governance revealed some other surprising statistics about DEI&B in C-suite spaces:
- 88% of CEO roles are held by white leaders
- 56% of women in the C-suite said men find it easier to get promoted regardless of ability and performance
- Asian leadership representation in C-suite roles is only 9%
- Hispanic/Latino C-suite executives are greatly underrepresented (40% of the S&P100 C-suite have no representation)
These shocking numbers speak loudly. They also echo why there is a greater need for deliberate, aggressive evaluation of the relationship between employee representation and success at the corporate level.
By adopting DEI&B practices and employee authenticity, companies can not only create more inclusive workplaces, but also gain a competitive edge by relying on the ideas and perspectives brought by diverse individuals.
Rethinking traditional measures of “professionalism”
As professionals increasingly recognize the need for a more inclusive culture in corporate America, attention is shifting to How Companies can do this effectively. Answer? Empowerment and awareness.
In a corporate work setting this can look like many things, such as:
- Promoting diversity in C-suite spaces, where leadership representation reflects the true diversity of your organization
- Creating employee resource groups (ERGs) that support multicultural experiences, perspectives, ideologies, and identities
- As the Harvard Law School Forum suggests, not just experience but also the potential of employees should be assessed
- Quarterly tracking developments in demographics such as gender, race and ethnicity to address organization-wide diversity gaps
- allow to All Employees should come to work as themselves, not just as a uniformed representative of your organization.
But this change will not be easy. It will take a collective effort to push back against years of conventions, and raise awareness of the barriers BIPOC and other POC face every day.
organizations can set a whole new standard for inclusive professionalism in corporate America, and the time to start it is now.
Building a Brighter Path: The Future of Empowering, Inclusive and Diverse Professionalism
As we consider the evolution of professionalism in corporate America, it becomes clear that traditional standards have often failed to capture the reality of true, unfettered diversity and inclusion.
There is a growing awareness of the limitations of these standards and a collective effort to redefine what it means to be professional.
By actively seeking out diverse talent, challenging the norms, and celebrating individuality, we are paving the way for a future where everyone can thrive professionally, no matter their background, identity or Whatever that looks like, as they strive towards career advancement and success.
Together, we can build a more empowering, inclusive and diverse understanding of professionalism that reflects the true strength of our organizations and society as a whole.