Why A Fortune 500 Company Is Encouraging Employees To Talk About Race

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(photo credit: linkedin.com)

Whenever a Black person gets killed by the police (wow, it’s crazy that I can even say that like it’s something that happens all the time–well it does), it’s all people can think about. But it’s not always what people talk about with others.

Talking about race now doesn’t always have to be like the elephant in the room. As history has shown us, there has to be some uncomfortable conversations to get things to change.

That’s one reason why Fortune 100 company, Goldman-Sachs is encouraging it’s employees to talk about race at the job, get it out in the open and learn from both sides. Hopefully, we can agree on some things and the things that we don’t agree on, we can respectfully disagree.

Goldman-Sachs’ Head of Human Capital Management, Edith Cooper, a Black woman, wrote a piece on the social networking site, LinkedIn, about why she’s pushing for these types of discussions in the workplace. We applaud not only her, but Goldman-Sachs as well, for not taking a back seat to this and putting it where it should be: out in the open.

Below, Mrs. Cooper tells us in her own words:

I am a black woman, a mother, a wife and a professional. I am the daughter of a dentist and a sister to four siblings. I’m a runner, a golfer and a knitter. I graduated from an Ivy League school and earned an MBA. I’ve spent the past 30 years working on Wall Street, half of those as a partner at Goldman Sachs.

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I am frequently asked “what country are you from” (I grew up in Brooklyn). I’ve been questioned about whether I really went to Harvard (I did) or how I got in (I applied). I’ve been asked to serve the coffee at a client meeting (despite being there to “run” the meeting) and have been mistaken as the coat check receptionist at my son’s school event. And, on the flip side, it’s also been suggested to me that I’m not “black black” because of the success I have had, or even where I live.

Early in my career, I returned home from a business trip feeling worn down. “I’m losing confidence and feeling isolated,” I told my husband. People frequently assumed I was the most junior person in the room, when in fact, I was the most senior. I constantly needed to share my credentials when nobody else had to share theirs. And, more often than not, I was the only black person – the only black woman – in the meeting. “E, pick your head up,” my husband said. “The good news is they’ll never forget you.” He was right – people did remember me. From then on, I tried to turn obstacles into opportunities and focused on making an impact at work – which I could control – rather than the perceptions of others – which I could not.

Focusing on what you can control and taking mindful steps and positive action towards what matters to you are things I learned from my parents, who grew up in the segregated South. They moved to New York with a singular goal – they wanted to raise their children free from the institutionalized racism they had known during their lives. They believed that through education the doors of opportunity would be opened; and, they were right. While I have faced some setbacks along the way, I live an incredibly fortunate life and am deeply aware of the privilege that is mine. That same privilege, which affords me extraordinary opportunity, also compels me to…