“I’m in a season of my career and life where I’m not going to treat myself like an Uber® app anymore. What does that mean? I’m not on demand and available at any time. Right now, I can order a Chipotle bread bowl and have it here in 30 minutes. It’s instant gratification and we treat ourselves like that. I love working in a hybrid world and it’s exhausting. So, you have to recharge yourself, like you recharge your devices,” said Mita Mallick, Author, Executive, Podcast Host and Diversity Thought Leader.
If you’ve been in the paid workforce for more than a minute, you’ve likely endured hard things. Even the most optimistic among us face out-of-touch leaders, venomous colleagues, punitive policies, and old-fashioned-disrespect. We often feel the Motherhood penalty when doors to advancement close without warning. Yet, it’s rare to self-advocate and win in a broken system. So, when you feel othered, where does self-preservation fit as you grow?
Don’t try to Chase Inclusion
Mita said, “I’ve been chasing the inclusion I talk about my entire life. I just wanted to be seen and valued for why I was hired. And that’s a big part of inclusion. Now I’m chasing it on behalf of others because guess what, inclusion is the biggest retention tool at the disposal of leaders. Because I don’t care who you are, everybody wants to feel valued, seen and recognized in their workplaces.” Many of us have experienced toxic work cultures. But it usually takes a while to believe and react to our instincts. So, how do you differentiate normal interpersonal friction from the ‘isms’ that can derail our careers?
Because Not Every Space is Welcoming
Mita explains the difference. “If I am being treated differently because of what I physically look like, how I speak, act, or think. Or if you repeatedly mispronounce my name, rename me a name that’s not my own or constantly mistake me for the other brown woman in the office.”
We’ve been unable to close the gendered wage, wealth, or leadership gaps, largely due to the Motherhood penalty. And the stats for Moms of color are abysmal. Because we pay an extra toll in mental and financial health in marginalized groups. Whether it’s due to race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+ status or disability. It’s also no secret, that a toxic work situation will erode your energy, confidence, and goodwill. Often, in ways that take lots of time and therapy to recover from.
So, Look for Inconsistencies
We’re socialized to be pleasing and perfectionistic. And after kids, we have so little discretionary time, it’s tricky to call out harmful patterns. Mita said, “If you’re told ‘keep killing it, you’re doing great, keep doing what you’re doing’ but it’s been three years and you’re still not promoted. And no one’s giving you any guidance. Or if you’re not treated in a fair and equitable manner, given your talents and expertise, it’s time to walk out the door. And find a place that will recognize your value.”
It’s not always easy to do that. We discussed the brilliant article by Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burrey, Stop Telling Women We Have Imposter Syndrome. Because self-doubt is a natural reaction when you’re routinely undermined. Especially in the workplace. So, you may need to revisit your relationship to work.
And Recognize You Deserve Better
Mita said, “I’m the proud daughter of Indian Americans. And my parents gave me many gifts, including an incredibly strong work ethic. But as a result, I didn’t think it was okay to quit spaces and places that no longer served me. And it’s one of the things I’ve struggled with.”
Many of us from immigrant families, are raised to sacrifice everything for the perception of stability. She added, “There’s a Taylor Swift song called Antihero that my 8-year-old is obsessed with. And there’s a line where she says, ‘It’s me, I’m the problem.’ And that’s what I thought for too much of my career, that I was the problem.” Have you ever felt this way before learning that it wasn’t you at all?
Give Yourself Permission to Upgrade
This is common yet it feels isolating and terrifying when you’re in the midst of it. Mita explained, “I would go from organization to organization, seeking things that weren’t there. I wasn’t a fit and late in my career, had this startling revelation. That I am trying to thrive and survive in a world that was not designed for people who look like me. Corporate spaces, processes, and procedures weren’t built with me in mind.”
Before she wrote her new book, this awareness led her to co-host a candid podcast, ‘Brown Table Talk’ with Dee Marshall. She was amazed at the outpouring of support and shared recognition. “We all deserve to feel like we belong, every one of us.” It can be difficult to leave a job or industry for many reasons. And you need more than courage to protect your boundaries.
Mita loves the work she’s doing but is vigilant about self-care. “It takes managing energy appropriately, to not treat ourselves like the Uber app. So sometimes, I’m going to meet in person, or do audio-only calls.” Studies show that being on video is draining for some people. Recognize what conditions are the most sustainable and restorative for you. She added, “I love to write and find it healing. I have no hobbies, I don’t bake, paddle board or ski. I have my family, friends and love to spend time with my kids and just see things through their eyes. And I also take moments to just rest and be in quiet. Because you can’t be in service to other people if you can’t serve yourself.” Amen!
Honor Your Values, Starting at Home
Mita’s new book, Reimagine Inclusion: Debunking 13 Myths to Transform the Workplace, dives deep into inclusive leadership. And she shares the parallels with parenting. “In the introduction, I explain although we are focused on inclusion at our conference room tables, we’re really doing it backwards. This work starts at our kitchen tables. I explain to my children the words we use matter. If we say ‘Mita is funny, strange, weird or odd’ then we start to ‘other’ whether we realize it or not. And little people in our life are listening. When othering starts, the next step is stereotyping and stereotyping becomes the gateway to hate. So, how we live our lives and lead outside of work is very important. Because we carry that into work and, we’re molding the future leaders.”
Many thanks to the talented Mita Mallick!
Check out Mita’s amazing new book, Reimagine Inclusion: Debunking 13 Myths to Transform the Workplace, listen to her podcast Brown Table Talk and follow her great adventure on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.
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Mita Mallick is a corporate change-maker with a track record of transforming businesses. She gives innovative ideas a voice and serves customers and communities with purpose. She is currently the head of inclusion, equity and impact at Carta, co-host of Brown Table Talk and is a top LinkedIn voice.Tags: Career development, career management for Moms, diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, Manage Stress For Moms, Mental Load And Emotional Labor, work life integration for Moms