The past few years have felt like a marathon of competing priorities between our home and work lives, juggling mental and physical health and redistributing time into causes we care to champion. There's no doubt that it’s left little time to simply be.
If you are known to be a caregiver, it’s likely that these tendencies show up in the workplace too. You find yourself stretched thin with the titles you own: spouse, parent, adult child, professional and volunteer, among others. If we’re honest, being a caregiver in the workplace also lends itself to the title Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) leader. The championing of creating and holding space for disenfranchised team members in an emotionless, production-oriented and homogenous-viewed culture demands caring and courageous leadership.
To compound the weight of these roles, DEIB leaders often tend to “go at it alone” believing that loneliness is part of the job description.
I too, have owned these titles alone, but my recent revelation is one that I am singing from the rooftops: we do not need to champion our efforts, alone.
Life has taught me that for every title you own, it’s mandatory that you surround yourself with those who hold the same titles with the same passion, care, vulnerability, transparency and accountability as you.
While giving yourself permission to share the weight and responsibility associated with these titles can be very difficult, it is necessary in order to keep pouring into yourself.
I therefore ask you to commit these charges to your memory.
Get Paid for Your DEIB Work
Following the horrific murder of George Floyd in June 2020, many professionals challenged executive leaders, demanding more than their silence, complacency and discomfort. Our reasonable ask: care and courage about the lives and livelihoods of disenfranchised people that invest their human capital into the success of society in general, and businesses, specifically.
With no clear understanding or embrace of the business case of DEIB, the C-Suite launched ad-hoc programs paired with unrealistic expectations; the results have mostly been inauthentic–a window dressing led by unpaid, overworked, extremely dedicated team members.
Now, almost two years later from the signaling event, money is flowing, but not into hands of those who originally championed the work and without up close support for its sustainability.
It’s never too late to reconcile your work to your pay and charge premiums for any work that you decide to do now and in the future. It’s the surcharge on lived experiences and the IOU on back pay. We have the opportunity to pave the way for future leaders, empowering them with capital to continue the important work ahead.
You Have the Right to Declare Burnout
The state of urgency and the compact timeframe imposed to address DEIB over the last two years has been overwhelming. Today’s champions recognize that we must seize the narrow window for engagement, even if we’re not positioned well emotionally and financially to do so.
Unfortunately, often it’s the women who mostly provide the emotional intelligence necessary to navigate the change we seek and the capability to get it done. In McKinsey’s 2021 Women in the Workplace report, one in three women contemplated leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers, while 42% of women say they have been often or almost always burned out. For women, we dust off our capes and polish up our crowns with lightning speed and charge ahead to care for the well-being of others while neglecting ourselves.
I say this passionately: you have all rights to declare burnout when your cups are empty. We were not hired to be Olivia Popes and are not getting paid enough to be Gladiators to fix the financial service industry’s DEIB scandals and crises. Don’t be duped any longer by your bosses and colleagues.
Burnout is a medical condition that often comes along with anxiety and depression. Request your leave. Work with coaches, therapists and counselors in ways that serve you. Get your finances in order so you are ready to activate your next moves.
Reflect on Your DEIB Journey
Many of us evolved to DEIB leadership based on our lived experiences. We formalized our passion by engaging DEIB roles as ally, mentor and sponsor, as well as engaging DEIB terms as psychological safety, unconscious bias and inclusive leadership. HR professionals, who often are women and have specializations in the areas of compensation, employee relations and recruiting, now find themselves also responsible for specializing in DEIB.
It’s impossible to be an expert if DEIB specialist is an adjacent role; yet, the DEIB demand requires that we lead with confidence, even if imposter syndrome haunts us.
We have to remember that we are human too and perfectionism is elusive for all of us. Our best leadership strategy is to practice what we preach, which requires time to reflect on our actions and pivot and course correct, if necessary.
On Moving Forward with Care and Courage
In my conversations over the years, it’s clear that many potential white allies fear being derogatorily labeled a “White Savior” in their efforts to advance DEIB. If you are riding the brand and bringing folks along, as so eloquently shared by Lindsey Lewis, director and chair of the American College Center for Women in Financial Services, you don’t have to worry about the label, because your actions will show that your efforts are not self-serving. You are using your privilege and access for the greater good. Continue to move forward with conviction.
DEIB leaders enjoy seeing all boats rise.
As we charge ahead with care and courage, I encourage you to get paid for doing the work with your human capital, acknowledge and address burnout and take time to reflect on your DEIB journey. Although we will not finish this fight in our lifetimes, we can celebrate that we’re not alone on this journey and that we’re courageously caring for one another as we fight for the greater good.
Lazetta Rainey Braxton the founder/CEO of Lazetta & Associates and co-CEO at 2050 Wealth Partners.