The Plight of a Woman of Color in a Position of Power

May 3, 2020 By Jade Cintron

About an hour ago, I finished my introductory six-month review at my current job and I nearly sobbed. It was one of the most comprehensive and informed reviews I have ever received. Not only was my work recognized, but my supervisor was able to acknowledge and reference each detail of what I had accomplished in my time there using specific examples. The meeting ended with her asking me what I felt I needed to continue my work and how I thought we could improve our program. I held back my elated tears, but barely.

A year ago, at my previous workplace, I received a review that I had to ask for, which consisted of them asking me to tell them what I’d accomplished in my first six months there, with nothing really added from their part. They were impressed with my presentation so much so that it indicated that they had had no idea about all that I was doing. It ended with me sharing my concerns and asking for support. Instead of providing it or other suggestions, they immediately turned it on me. It was because of me that my problems were happening. I should have called it quits long before this, but this day took the cake.

They hated me. Completely and fully. They did everything they could from literally my second week on to discredit and ignore me. My day-to-day was a hostile, uncomfortable environment that surrounded me with a cloud of doubt. I couldn’t believe that their passive-aggressive comments, side eye and eventual comments about my clothes, or even abrupt silence when I walked into my own office were really about me. I mean, we had some days we’d laugh at something together. Perhaps they were just in a mood that day that I felt the cold shoulder. Yes, that’s it…they all were in a mood. Maybe they were just getting used to having a new person around. That takes time, right?

Then I started getting ignored at meetings. I’d say something and everyone would stare blankly for a solid 10 seconds and then continue what they were saying before with no acknowledgment to what I said. Or I’d see them, including those I supervised roll their eyes at me and make eye contact with others to share a moment. I received several backhanded comments about my Masters, something I rarely spoke about, and many “that’s not how we do it here”. To add insult to injury, those above me failed to promote my work contributions to the rest of the staff or truly support me. The most recognition I’d get was that I was new, spoke Spanish, and loved the community. Despite my best efforts to show them my worth, it was pointless. They didn’t want to see it.

These and other micro-aggressions bogged me down and made me unsure of myself. I’d become invisible. Even the obstacles I’d hurdled with precision were ignored. Had I been a fool all along? Were my ten years of experience a sham? Were my suggestions stupid? How did I get this stupid?

Wait a second.

Whether unconscious or conscious bias, something was happening here, and while I was obviously not perfect, I’d certainly earned my role as one of the Directors.

I stayed for a year and then left. I felt like a shell of who I used to be. How could this have happened to me? An experienced, smart, motivated woman who came in, engines roaring, a woman who had spent her entire life-fighting bullies, injustices, and the like.

Why this story?

It can happen to anyone, but particularly to Women of Color in positions of power. Even someone like me, constantly championing for equal rights, for more of a voice, for standing up for what you believe in even if you’re standing alone, can be susceptible. No one in that organization wanted someone like me to come in, despite how they advertised this supposedly community-driven work, despite how open-minded and liberal they claimed to be.

My words of advice: if any of this resonated with you or someone you know, reach out for help. No job is worth it. No amount of money is worth it. At the end of the day, you have to answer to yourself. No job is worth feeling a piece of yourself die.

Tomorrow I’m waking up at the crack of dawn for a job that’s not perfect, but I’m appreciated and constantly feel inspired. Can you say the same?

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