A recent article from Harvard Business Review discussed how women and people of color (so especially women of color) are often assigned tasks that while necessary to keep a business running are not assignments that help propel your career. We are often assigned to doing “Office House Work” where white men are more often assigned “Glamour Work.” Glamour work gets you noticed and can be used to show growth and your success and experience with glamour work can be used to push for a promotion or more plummy assignments.
I highly encourage people to read the HRB article especially because it discusses what managers and companies should do to take the burden of house work off POC and methods to make sure glamour work is more equally assigned.
The article is also clear that the answer for an individual isn’t just as easy as saying “no, I don’t want to take notes or help organize a not-so-important event.” Because just saying no to those things can have negative impacts in that you look “difficult” or not like a team-player. Cue eye rolls.
Ok, but what if you’re noticing you’re not getting assigned the glamour work because it’s being given to Chad or mainly assigned office house work. And what if your firm isn’t interested in being the one that makes changes? Find a new job! Oh right, you have student loans…
The reality is that regardless of how progressive your place is, many of us will hit up against this because there is so much biases in people and systems. We can wallow in that and be angry (totally normal to be angry) but you also want growth–so what can you do?
One. Control what you can. First, don’t add admin tasks to your workload just because you want to be nice or because it feels weird to not help. Meaning, don’t always volunteer to take notes or help clean up/set up or do chores. The last part is super tough. When I first started working, I hated being at meetings and watching older admin support that could be my tias or mom cleaning/setting up, while the rest of us sat there. Of course I wanted to get up and help–I have manners! But you have to sit a lot of that out. I’m not saying never help with office house work, of course you can, but don’t make it a habit that it becomes part of your job description.
Two. Copy others. Look at your firm, who are the rock stars? Not just the ones that look like you (if you’re lucky enough to have a Latinx rock star at your firm), but just the ones that have made it. The ones decades years ahead and even the ones just a class or two above you. What do they have in common? Who were there mentors? What kind of work did they do? What kind of initiative can you take so that you can work with them? Can you even grab coffee with one of them to ask how you can eventually grow your practice with better/more challenging cases (and top it off with how that will help your firm, not just you)? Yes, this means google-stalking them to get a better picture of their career and seeing possible ways that you can mirror them (just don’t tell them you googled them b/c …creepy lol).
Three. Take initiative. Are you comfortable enough with your boss to mention that you notice some things are uneven? Mucho cuidado with this approach! You have to be really certain your boss won’t take it the wrong way. So if you don’t know, don’t. Instead, can you ask for more responsibilities? Can you add more challenges to your plate on your own? Think creatively of ways you can stand out at work so that you can be trusted with the glamour work.
All of this is risky. It’s far easier to keep your head down and do the work that is assigned. You may even move up a couple steps because you’re such a team-player…but…statistics show us how hard it is for Latinas to succeed in this field; to make partner is even harder. Your career is important enough to be an active participant. Take the time to figure out how you can succeed at your place of employment and then get to work.