Blaze Founder Casey Ariel had the immense pleasure of sitting down with Yvonne Tate, CEO of Yvonne Tate Virtual Service Provider, to unpack the damage many followers have witnessed towards Black women on LinkedIn in recent years.
Yvonne is an influential thought leader and trusted partner to businesses looking to streamline and scale. She is also a deeply loved Blazie in our tribe of Black women entrepreneurs. She has shown up graciously in our focus groups, Blaze Virtual Summits, community ambassadorship, and Blaze Knowledge Academy courses.
This article shares the powerful nuggets Yvonne poured into listeners on Episode 58 of Blaze Group Radio, "The Foggy Lens of LinkedIn.
The Miseducation of Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome is a term that is often used to describe the feeling of inadequacy or self-doubt experienced by individuals, particularly in professional or academic settings. It is commonly believed that imposter syndrome affects individuals who are high achievers and fear being exposed as frauds. However, Yvonne Tate challenges the traditional understanding of imposter syndrome and cautions us to view it through the lens of systemic oppression and societal biases.
Myth Education: Challenging the Labels
Yvonne questions the validity of the term imposter syndrome and challenges who gets to determine what constitutes an imposter. She highlights that true imposters never have imposter syndrome, raising doubts about the accuracy of the label itself. Yvonne emphasizes that feeling uncomfortable in an unfamiliar situation or not having prior experience does not make one an imposter. Instead, it is a learning process.
The Side Effects of Oppression
Many times, negative feelings that we have in unsafe spaces are side effects of oppression. Yvonne suggests that the label imposter syndrome can be seen as a way to gaslight individuals and distract from the root causes of their feelings of inadequacy. They draw attention to marginalized individuals, who often face discrimination and are subjected to stereotypes, but rarely do they highlight the offenses against them.
Unpacking and Discarding the Term
The conversation shifts towards individuals, particularly Black women, who have used the term imposter syndrome but are now reevaluating its validity. Yvonne and Casey praise Elizabeth Lieba, a writer who has written about her journey with the term in her book, "I'm Not Yelling." Elizabeth's experience with racial profiling and being unfairly targeted deepens her understanding of the label imposed on her. She chooses to discard the term and challenge the societal expectations placed on her.
Recognizing Projection and Self-Awareness
Yvonne emphasizes the importance of recognizing projection in how others react and respond to us. Understanding oneself allows individuals to see through these projections and not internalize them. The source of negative perceptions often stems from the oppressors themselves.
In conclusion, the miseducation of imposter syndrome needs to be reevaluated in the context of systemic oppression and societal biases. Understanding imposter syndrome as a result of external factors, such as discrimination, allows individuals to challenge the label and reclaim their worth. It is crucial to have open conversations and question the terms used to define our experiences so we can start telling our own stories in ways that are relevant to us and empowering to our psyche.
The Burning Building of DEI
Yvonne also shared the clear challenges Black women face in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). LinkedIn puts many of the experiences of Black women who enter organizations on full display. Many times, they enter companies with the aim of driving meaningful change in diversity and inclusion, only to find themselves unsupported and burnt out. The lack of genuine commitment from organizations and the use of DEI as a branding facade is discussed in the following subsections.
The Burning Building of DEI: A Concerned Observer's Perspective
Yvonne describes the situation as the "burning building of DEI," where she witnesses smart and capable Black women entering organizations to fight for diversity and inclusion but coming out scorched. She emphasizes that it is impossible to fix a problem when the organization does not recognize it or see the need for change. Yvonne compares it to being in someone else's burning house, where they are unaffected and lack the motivation to improve. Black women's efforts to make things better for everyone are often disregarded. The concept that fixing what's wrong benefits everyone except those who resist change is lost on many.
The Facade of DEI in Organizations
Since civil unrest in the United States at the onset of the global pandemic in 2020, there has been inflated superficiality in organizations' approach to DEI. Some companies prioritize diversity and inclusion for external gain, such as maintaining a high perception or receiving government funding. Despite the potential benefits and the dire help these organizations need, leaders are unwilling to make changes for genuine parity and progress. Yvonne asserts that we should be frustrated with such foolish cultures. It will always be difficult to make progress when working alongside individuals who do not share the same end goal.
The Discrepancies in Power and Impact
Lofty promises were made by organizations following the murders
of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, yet there is a lack of evidence of those promises being fulfilled. What we do have proof of, through these shortcomings, is the disparity in power within organizations. Black women often hold positions such as chief equity officer or chief diversity officer but lack the same reporting structure, budget, workforce, product development influence, and impact as their counterparts in the C-suite. The focus on diversity and inclusion often remains on peripheral issues that do not directly affect the business or its outcomes. It is not enough to elevate Black women to leadership titles if they do not have the same authority and influence as other leaders.
Optics and Superficial Solutions
It is clear that organizations continue to benefit from the pain and experiences of martyrs while not doing the actual work required to effect change. Tax write-offs and incentives motivate organizations, but they do not compel them to go as far as to put real skin in the game.
In conclusion, the burning building of DEI represents the struggle faced by Black women in their efforts to bring about genuine diversity and inclusion within organizations. Lack of recognition, support, and commitment from organizations perpetuates a cycle of performative allyship, leaving Black women exhausted and unfulfilled.
People's Tendency to Kill Themselves to Fit In
LinkedIn, the professional social media platform, is pretty synonymous with real-life corporate environments. Professional culture is often touted as the pinnacle of success in modern society, but it usually costs individuals to sacrifice their personal values and identities to fit in. Yvonne, a partner to businesses across various sectors, discussed the impact of professional culture on Black women and the harmful effect it has on their psyche.
The Corporate "Look"
The corporate look, historically associated with straight hair, is still pervasive in professional communities today. As an example, Yvonne mentions the relaxer, which was once thought to be a necessary corporate hairstyle. The pressure to fit into a specific mold has caused many Black women to sacrifice their natural hair, resulting in cultural erasure.
The CROWN Act
The CROWN Act was recently passed to protect against discrimination based on hairstyles, but the fact that such a law was even necessary frustrates Yvonne. Yvonne described hair as akin to her culture and identity. To have something so closely linked to our existence be deemed unprofessional by societal standards is sickening. The Crown Act, although a step in defiance of oppression, highlights the issue of who ultimately has the power to determine what is considered "normal.
Fitting In vs. Standing Out
The notion of fitting in to succeed is pervasive in professional culture. Yvonne's philosophy, however, is to stand out rather than fit in. Being different takes courage, but it's important to differentiate oneself to be noticed. Conforming to societal norms is not worth sacrificing personal principles and values, and it's important to be true to oneself in order to be successful in a way that is fulfilling.
The Need for Entrepreneurship
Yvonne believes that a viable alternative to much of the anguish we witness in corporate spaces is entrepreneurship. Though there are injustices in the entrepreneurial landscape as well, Black women can create their own paths and build their own businesses. Entrepreneurship provides more opportunity to generate wealth and create opportunities without conforming to societal standards. Additionally, Yvonne sees it as essential to recognize that some problems are not for Black women to fix.
We hope you find encouragement and empowerment from our conversation with Yvonne Tate. She is affectionately known by Blazies as our "Internet Auntie" - always keeping it real and calling a spade a spade.
Be sure to connect with Yvonne using the links below: