Last week, MTV’s annual Video Music Awards (VMAs) returned to celebrate one of the biggest nights in music. Sean “Diddy” Combs received the Global Icon Award, Shakira received the Video Vanguard Award, and artists like Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, and more hit the stage. Yet one star’s presence was missing from the stage, and fans took to social media to question why artist Victoria Monét was excluded from the lineup.
The Grammy-nominated R&B singer-songwriter responded and shared with her fans on X (formerly Twitter) “I see your advocation for me to have performed tonight and I’m so grateful to you!! Sincerely! My team was told it is ‘too early in my story’ for that opportunity so we will keep working!”
My heart sank reading the reason why she was excluded from one of the world’s biggest performance stages. It's an excuse that’s thrown around in the workplace far too often, and prevents Black and Brown women from securing roles that they’re more than qualified for, or stalls their career advancement.
Did everything right early in your career and have impressive internships and other opportunities to show for it? Too qualified for an entry-level role. Finally secured that entry-level role and looking for a promotion? You’re not quite ready for the next level. Did you somehow make it to a senior leadership role and want to explore other ways to raise your profile and salary? Slow down– you’re asking for too much!
The narrative that Black and Brown women are ‘too much’ or somehow unqualified prevents them from securing meaningful opportunities that can advance their careers. And after repeated years of being told said narrative, it’s easy for Black and Brown women to internalize this oppression and begin to believe that they are the problem, or are somehow not enough.
An effective DEI strategy should counter this narrative and support the advancement of Black and Brown women at all stages of the employee life cycle. Ensuring that they are valued across all phases of the hiring process can take on the following forms:
I’ve heard countless stories from professional Black and Brown women that they’ve been scoffed at for sharing their salary requirements during the interview phase, or denied meaningful professional opportunities as new hires under the guise that they need to be ‘ramped up’ to the work. Black and Brown women are often fed the racist and Olivia Pope inspired narrative that they have to be twice as good to get half as much. Yet the workplace has become the space where being twice as good does not amount to getting twice of anything.
An effective and authentic DEI strategy should reward Black and Brown women for their qualifications, instead of treating their achievements and the individual as a threat. Beginning in the interview phase, be clear with candidates about ways that their additional credentials can increase their compensation packages, or recommend them for roles that are more commensurate with their experience.
I’ll never forget a story I heard from a young Black woman I was coaching who worked in philanthropy. Her supervisor was leaving the department after just a few months, and during her transition, the young woman asked how her leadership could be supported as she took on new responsibilities. The supervisor laughed at her and mockingly said “she just wanted to be the big boss” and blocked a promotion for her while on the way out of the organization.
Impactful DEI strategies ensure that power is shared amongst the women of color on the team, and that clear metrics and plans are established to ensure they are growing at the company. Instead of feeling intimidated by a Black or Brown woman’s ability to advocate for themselves, reframe your assumptions to create a plan of action for their advancement.
Like every Black or Brown woman who has faced discrimination, Victoria Monét’s star will continue to rise. You can make their journeys lighter by scheduling a consultation with ShiftED Consulting today to ensure your workplace is inclusive and contributing to their growth.