This week on IAW’s podcast Unlimited HERizons our host and president, Megan Bozzuto, chatted with a member, Lexi B., about encouraging others to lead with intentional equity, empathy, and authenticity. She is a professional storyteller, thought leader, speaker, and self-proclaimed freedom fighter who founded Sista Circle: Black Women in Tech, a community for women of color in the tech industry.
“Our organization is really a solidarity group. I like to call it the Underground Railroad for Black women to have real conversations, brave conversations, and safe spaces so we can support each other in this corporate tech journey,” explained Lexi. During the podcast, Lexi and Megan discussed various ways to create an environment open to a diverse set of voices.
Treat People How They Want to Be Treated
When Lexi started in the tech industry, she wished others in the room would notice her talents. Now, she feels “there is something very phenomenal in the freedom fighting life for someone to link up with you and support you in that journey,” said Lexi. “I’m always sitting here and thinking, ‘what would I want someone to do for me at this moment,’ and the first and foremost thing is I want someone to ask me, ‘how can I help you?’”
It Takes Time to Build Relationships
Leaders need to understand and build a relationship with those who work for them. Yet, trust and open communication does not happen immediately. Creating a safe, collaborative environment means investing in personal relationships. “People always say that business is not emotional, which I think is very interesting because I’m very emotional when it comes to my paycheck,” said Lexi. “So, business is intrinsically emotional. I would argue that corporate stuff and capitalism are a hundred percent based on emotion. For us to continue this narrative that you can’t bring empathy, you can’t bring active listening, and you can’t bring emotion to the workplace is actually counterproductive.”
Those who do a lot of hard work to solve problems may go unnoticed. Thus, sharing gratitude to recognize your coworkers’ efforts forms an environment of appreciation and empathy.
Lexi spreads gratitude throughout each month by taking notes on someone’s actions. Then, once a month, she sends detailed thank you emails to them, their manager, and their director. “I use terminology that is on the package for promotion,” said Lexi. “I’m not doing this to tell you you’re great, and if that’s what you think then you need to level your confidence up. You don’t need me to tell you you’re great. You need me to tell the person who supports your paycheck that you’re great.” In doing this, Lexi provides her coworkers with evidence for their performance reviews to back them up when they ask for a promotion or raise.
Want to listen to Lexi’s full story and get more advice? Listen to Unlimited HERizons updated weekly with different amazing professional women telling their stories. All IAW members can connect with Lexi B. in the IAW Community!