If you listened to my radio show Views From the Top this past Friday (June 4, 2010), you would have heard a very interesting conversation. I had Shireen Mitchell and Chris Curtis on my show discussing Black Women (or the lack of) in Technology. These are two women who are great examples of Black Women who started off in technology early (think Radio Shack Tandy computers that hooked up to the television….wait, I’m dating myself because I was one of those geek girls early on) and spent all of their adult lives in the heart of technology. My path was different in that I went into Recruiting in the technology space, but I still continue to keep a healthy interest in technology.

The heart of the conversation was about the many excuses that companies and hiring managers use to justify or excuse the fact that Black Women are poorly represented in the space. Now I’m an advocate for all women in tech, but for the purposes of this blog post, I’m focusing on Black Women. In my 17+ years of recruiting, most of those years in the tech industry, resumes of Black Women rarely came across my desk for technology positions unless they were in web DESIGN or Business Analyst. I’d get the occasional Technical Writer or “Sales Engineer” but anything deeper than that it was a ghost town. Being the type of Recruiter I am, I never waited for them to apply. I would always have to go out and hunt for them. And trust me, it wasn’t very easy in the beginning. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was to get these meaty technical positions and get the same profile of candidate: male, 20′s or 30′s, White or Indian. Sure, I would get the occasional Woman candidate, but more times than not, she was White. The more I noticed that a pattern was developing, the more I counseled my clients to step out of the norm and do something, anything to attract more women of color. I would always be met with subtle resistance. “Well Adrienne, you’re the Recruiter. We’ll leave that to you”. It burned me up to no end to hear that. I KNOW I’m the Recruiter. I can identify your sore spots and bring you the talent you need. But I need some help to do it! One woman shouldn’t be charged with taking on the diversity initiative for a major corporation. Recruiting need buy in, resources and support to build and cultivate relationships with communities and organizations to be able to attract these talented ladies. Yes, I know where to look and build organically. Can you say the same about YOUR recruiting team?

I would try to connect with the Diversity departments and some times they were absolutely clueless. They were more concerned with avoiding discrimination lawsuits, meeting certain “quotas” and providing sound bites to the public. Sure, they would have their marketing departments create the touchy feely warm and cuddly “look we employ everyone and our people look just like YOU” ads. But I knew the truth. My job is to get the most qualified PERSON for the job who can deliver and fits in with the company culture. But it’s also my job (with the backing of the executive suite) to make sure the company gets in front of a cross section of people. But when you have companies that care more about avoiding lawsuits than truly creating a diverse environment, you’re fighting an uphill battle.

But back to the subject at hand. I would really like to see the numbers of Black Women or any women of color for that matter in the hands on development and leadership technical positions at companies like Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, Intel, Google, Yahoo, etc. Yes, I’m calling names. I NEVER EVER see any visual representation of any Black Women in prominent technology roles. I see them as end users or customers. But never as developers or contributors. Now, I’m sure someone from these companies will come back and challenge me. Bring it on. This is not an attack. I’m just curious about your numbers. I have recruiter buddies and some tech folks (I won’t name names) who share their stories with me in confidence. If you’re worried about who would be telling secrets, maybe that’s a sign that you should be focusing on getting more women of color in the mix, not alienating or ignoring us.

Let’s turn the focus if you will to the media and conference organizers. Are you not looking hard enough for women of color to showcase? Fast Company, Inc, Wired I’m talking to YOU. Hold on now, Black Enterprise, I’m not leaving you out of this. I rarely see a Black Woman tech business owners or executive adequately covered. You have a Black Woman as a Tech Editor! Come on, we need better representation. And hey all you conference organizers, you mean to tell me you can’t find ONE Black Woman to have on panel? Oh wait, from what I understand, one of my associates said that you were more concerned with the “quality of the content and sessions”. Hhhhmmmm. I don’t know about you all, but to me that reads “a Black Woman would not be able to bring anything to the table to intelligently connect with the audience. OK got ya! To the women focused organizations out there, please, I beg you, do a better job of outreach. Start tapping into the women who are fortunate enough to be in the spotlight. Connect with recruiters because they (well some of them) should know how to tap into that market. Have a Black Woman on your board, facilitate sessions, or work with you to drive membership. There are a whole segment of Black Women out there who are frustrated because they feel left out or alienated. Reach out to them and I guarantee your membership will diversify….if you truly want it to.

Now as I said on my show, Black Women please don’t think I’m going on the war path and only pointing fingers are the companies. Because we have a role in this too. There have been many times where I had solid Black Women candidate who opted NOT to go after certain roles because they didn’t want to be part of the politics and bullshit (their words, not mine). They knew that it would be an uphill battle to get hired, then accepted into the fold by their tech comrades. I’ve heard the horror stories, I’ve seen the treachery. But what does not kill us makes us stronger. Now this is for all women. We cannot hide away in the shadows if we want to be recognized for our achievements. I want to see apps developed by Black Women (or Latinas or Asian Women, etc). I want to see platforms and systems created by women of color….hell, by women period! Don’t keep your ideas and projects under wraps. Be proud of what you bring to the table and take every opportunity to show people what you can do. Reach out to other women and start building relationships. Be vocal in meetings. Don’t just sit back and let the “boys” speak at the table. Be heard and respected. I you start feeling left out, minimized or disrespected, nip it in the bud from day one. Continue to upgrade your skills and keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the industry. Get better at what you do. And stop denying yourself opportunities because of the likelihood of bullshit and politics.

Ladies make sure you connect with your HR representative and managers and map out your career path. Don’t let anyone talk you out of your path. If you’re gunning for the CTO title, do whatever you need to do to improve your skills, volunteer for projects, network, keep up certifications and training, showcase your expertise and everything else you can do to climb your way to that CTO spot. Let your skills speak for themselves. Open the lines of communication with Recruiters in the tech industry. If you’re in a company where you are under appreciated or devalued, take your skills elsewhere. Recruiters can help you find the best environment for you. And if you don’t find the right fit, take your knowledge and talent and start your own tech firm. When you do, I’ll be that one to find you the talent you need….a diverse cross section of talent, male and female, White, Black, Latino, Asian, etc. The most successful companies with the happiest employees are the most diverse companies.

You can only use how the corporations treat you as an excuse but so long. Own your part in it then work past the corporate politics to excel at your craft. Companies, pay attention. Technology is not just a guy thing. There are plenty of women, especially women of color, who have a lot to offer. Don’t let ignorance keep you from hiring the best.

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham

blogtalkradioWe’ll find out! Be sure to tune in to my radio show Views From the Top Monday morning at 9AM EST. We’ll be having a healthy discussion on the need and role of Diversity Initiatives. I have the pleasure of have a panel of wonderful dynamic and powerful women who will lend their expertise and experiences in diversity.

The show which will air live on Monday, July 20th will focus on Diversity and how it plays a role in professional development, advancement and opportunities for women in the corporate and business world. We’ll have several prominent women on to discuss the trials and tribulations of corporate diversity, and most importantly inclusive diversity. We’ll also focus on companies that are getting it right. Some of the topics we’ll discuss are:

• Initiatives companies are taking to ensure inclusive diversity
• Opportunities & professional development that are available to women (especially women of color)
• The need for the diversity discussion in 2009, where we stand today and what the future holds
• Tips for women to navigate career success when there is a lack of diversity initiative
• The role and need for affinity groups/networks in 2009 and beyond

So if you want to be part of the discussion and possibly solutions, make sure you tune in and feel free to call in with your perspectives. We might have to extend the show some, but as it stands, the show is 90 minutes. www.blogtalkradio.com/viewsfromthetop

The panelists include:

Norma Henry– Information Technology Chief Diversity Officer and Program Manager at Verizon Business in Virginia.
Jane Hyun– President and Founder of Hyun & Associates in NYC and author of the book “Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling”.
Michelle Greene– the newly appointed Director IT of Governance, Application Architecture and Acquisitions within the Building Efficiency Division at Johnson Controls in Milwaukee.
Deepika Bajaj– founder and president of Invincibelle, a company empowering diverse, multi generational workforce and women to thrive in a multicultural world.
Leslie Sanchez– Republican strategist and former adviser to President George W. Bush and founder and CEO of Impacto Group LLC, a communications and market research firm, which specializes in defining social and economic trends affecting women and the emerging U.S. Hispanic community.
Carol Wyatt– is the Director of Human Resources for the BE 100 inducted Carol H. Williams Agency in Oakland, CA.

Be sure to tune in and call in with your questions and comments 347-215-9362. The chat room will be open during the show.

maraHi all. This week I am visiting Los Angeles on business. I’ve always loved coming out here. Not to see the movies stars or celebrities (well I wouldn’t mind running into The Rock- Duane Johnson). But because I’ve always had great business relationships out here. And contrary to what some folks may believe, the entertainment industry is a huge business. In fact, I want to specifically address the entertainment industry, in particular, women of color and their (lack of) influence and voice.

It’s no secret that over the last few years, black television has all but disappeared from main stream media. Sure we have BET and TV One, but I will refrain from showing my disdain for the programming made available.  We had one Latino show for a while, the George Lopez Show, which is also gone. There is a noticeable void in ethnic programming. One example of this is the recent fight that writer/producer/show creator Mara Brock Akil was embroiled in with the CW Network in keeping her second show with them from being canceled…The Game.  She has her show Girlfriends abruptly canceled on her last year with no closure to the audience and fans. Now the Powers that be have decided, even in light of the massive online fan movement to save the show, to cancel it. While admittedly I hardly watched the show, I understand the significance of this slap in the face. Mara has had a stellar track record with some pretty prominent show. Someone with her track record deserves more respect than she’s been given.

As I look around Hollywood, I can see a noticeable absence of recognized Women of Color in the business. Sure we see people like Jada Pinkett Smith, Shonda Rhimes, Tracey Edmonds, Tyra Banks, Oprah Winfrey and Christina Norman. But they are the “known” power brok(h)ers in Hollywood. For each of them, there are at least 20 more unknowns or “unsungs”. That really bothers me. For years, I’ve been reading about the women of Hollywood fighting the good fight to get more sisters in front of AND behind the cameras.  I haven’t felt it as much as I do right now.  As I drive through the city, I can’t help but notice the lack of color on the billboards.  I’m not a big tv watcher but the lack of diversity on the small screen isn’t lost on me.  In fact it frustrates the hell out of me. Networks can buy into bullshit like Flavor of Love, Charm School, New York does whatever and so on. You have Oxygen showing crap like Bad Girls. When you have strong positive women like the ladies I mentioned above, why isn’t their images portrayed? Why can’t we show positive women of color? True we have Jada on her new show Hawthorne, but it’s on cable, not any of the major networks. I pray that the show lasts because I think it has promise after watching the first episode. She is not only the lead BLACK female lead, but also the Executive Producer. We have Grey’s Anatomy & Private Practice, but we have two Black women and one Asian woman, and one Hispanic woman between the two shows. I’m grateful for at last that much diversity. I have a feeling that’s credited to Shonda. But can we have some more please?

I am advocating for more diversity in Hollywood.  Black Women, Hispanic Women, Asian Women, Middle Eastern Women. We are all beautiful women of color. Hollywood has to do better or at least start promoting and talking about more of them. We have to do better in holding the right people accountable. Mara had the right idea in taking the fight to the web. It is such a great, powerful tool. But here’s the thing. We need to get to our own young ladies and demand that they expect better and do better for themselves. Fighting over Flavor Flav (regardless of ethnicity), shaking their ass in videos like video hoes, and either allowing themselves to be disrespected or disrespecting themselves is not acceptable. If we had more positive programming featuring, showcasing and celebrating women of color, there would be a lot less of them making asses of themselves on tv.  TV shows like Candy Girls does not represent women of color in the right light. Our young ladies have to know and understand that we can be successful in entertainment without shaking our asses or fighting over an idiot on tv.

So Mara, what can I do to help further your cause?  This is my open letter to you.  How can I make this “our” cause?  What can I do to help? To the general public, how can we get more Latinas in front of the camera and in power positions outside of Univision? How can we get more Asian women and Middle Eastern Women their recognition as well? How do we get more diversity in front of and behind the camera?  Help me please, because I’m at a loss. I’m a Recruiter, so I can find the top talent. But how can we get the “brass” to take notice and the media to start reporting on them?

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Good morning.

I came across an interesting set of videos this morning regarding IBM’s Black Professional Community. In the clip, the young woman mentions that our parents couldn’t teach us the nuances of navigating and etiquette of corporate life because they didn’t have the same advantages and experiences as we have today.

This video made me think. Is this true? Most likely it is. But that shouldn’t be an excuse. We all have to learn how to navigate in different situations throughout our life, social, professional and personal. Sometimes we have guides to help us along, sometimes we have to go it alone. But should we allow the fact that our parents had it “different” than us to be used as an excuse for not conducting ourselves or attempting to learn the rules properly? My parents were not entrepreneurs. I didn’t have any entrepreneurial “role models” per se. But I made it a point to be a continuous learner.

So give me your opinions on this comment. How should we navigate through Corporate America?

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Ranked as one of the top ten most diverse companies in the country. Goldman Sachs was the first in the industry to take diversity as a high priority. Lance LaVerne, VP of Human Capital Management for the company talks about their diversity initiatives.

Goldman Sachs was featured in the July 21, 2008 issue of Fortune Magazine (page 4) as part of an article about Global Mentorship for Women. GS participated in Fortune’s annual Most Powerful Women Summit where Dina Powell discussed Goldman’s participation in 10,000 Women. They are a company that stands by their values and promotes diversity. They thought enough of the program to invest $100 million!

Keep up the good work Goldman Sachs. I’m looking forward to seeing some more diversity at the very top levels.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Diversity is a wonderful concept.  Total Inclusion is even better, when you can find it.

There was a discussion on a recruiting site that I occasionally visit in their Diversity Forum regarding the lack luster performance (is that an accurate term for a job board?) of diversity job sites. Now, I do keep up on what sites are out there. That’s my job as a Recruiter, to keep up on all the places to seek talent.  But being that my specialty is Diversity Recruiting, I go to great lengths to keep in the know about where to find diverse talent.  Ethnicity specific, gender specific, disability or veteran specific, all the way to total inclusion (which would make it supposedly like all the other job sites I suppose). But there is a lingering misconception that a diversity job board will magically bring in diversity candidates. I can’t tell you how wrong that is and how frustrating it is to me as someone who specializes in diversity recruiting. I think some people just don’t get it. Some companies are tight fisted with the dollars and don’t want to put their money where their mouth is as far as diversity initiatives go. Recruiters on the average don’t care about diversity because their objective it to fill the job by any means necessary.

I bring you this post from the perspective of a recruiter and a diverse candidate and hope you’ll feel compelled to fill in any areas I may inadvertently leave out.  I won’t get too heavy into it from the recruiter perspective, as that is not my intended audience.

Job boards of any kind are but a tool and should not be relied on to be used for a major portion of “diversity” sourcing. I think everyone would agree with me that a true diversity (or rather inclusion) initiative would include the company GETTING OUT IN SIGHT OF CANDIDATES. Posting an ad on any diversity job board is not enough. I believe candidates want to see companies who get out and get involved to show that they stand by their mission. Attending events that target diverse candidates, creating a message to share that will catch the interest of diverse candidates, and contributing time, expertise and writing talent to deliver content attracts diverse (or specific) candidates.  Most employers fail to take advantage of those opportunities to step forward and present their company in a different light from the competition. Honestly speaking, I, as a diverse candidate, would only utilize a diversity job site if it had other things besides job postings to catch my eye. Show me why I stand out. Show me why I matter as a diverse candidate. Show me how you as a company promote diversity, not just that you are posting a job on a site to attract my attention. You need to HOLD my attention. Show me how you have a message I might be interested in. Show me that your experts look just like me. Show me that I can see a kaleidescope of people in your company that match the global landscape (and I don’t mean just in the call center). Wouldn’t you agree?

There are lots of sites in the internet to choose from.  In terms of Diversity sites, I know people sometimes want to visit a site that relates to them in some manner.  A site that shows they understand the needs and wants of you as a person from a certain gender or ethnicity.  Some hit the mark and provide a range of tools, articles and activities to keep the continuity of interest. Others are an extension of a network or organization (such as Empower Me! Careers…which is still in development).  Then there are some that put up some cute graphics or flash and proclaim to be the #1 source for [insert ethnicity or gender here] and want to charge exorbitant fees for access to their “exclusive” database of resumes.  Newsflash….if they are selling their database to anyone who pays for it, how is it exclusive?  But I digress.

As a diversity recruiter (and an African American and Hispanic Woman), my approach is different than the average recruiter. I gauge a job site by how useful it is to candidates. I put myself in the mindset of a (so-called diverse candidate) and try to understand the draw of the site. Is it related to an active organization? Do the members actively participate? How does the site get into the mindset of the candidates who visit the site? What types of people does the site draw? What is the attraction and why do people want to return? Are there things for me to do there as a recruiter other than just posting? Will I be able to create a relationship with the site through contributions (articles, etc) that will brand my company as being truly involved in diversity initiative? The answer to many of these questions for a lot of diversity sites is often NO.

As head of Empower Me!, I know that my members are fickle. They are not looking for companies that are just fishing for black women to add to their staff. They are savvy when it comes to making their career decisions and are interested in looking at genuine opportunities from top notch companies. They want to see more than just a job ad, so they expect more in a job site than just a colorized version of Monster or Careerbuilder. Companies that do advertise jobs on the Empower Me Careers site need to understand that they need to create a message for the candidates they seek, and they are agreeing to a partnership of sorts to promote their employment brand to members. They can’t just post a job and run. Companies that we partner with are excited about being able to answer these very same questions (I mentioned above) and know that they are not just being sold the same database that other employers are receiving the same access to. Oh yeah, and I don’t sell the resume database. The site allows for companies to create their brand identity to attract diverse candidates. In other words, they have to put in time and work to cultivate relationships and get their message out.

So I ask you as visitors and potential users of the site.  What, besides job postings, keeps you returning to a job site?  How important is the diversity message that each company portrays? What tools would be helpful to you? What type of content will make you think and take action to use in your own career?  What do you like to see from employers?  And finally, what are your thoughts on a website created “just for you”?  Your answers will help me in further refining the site to bring you the best tool possible.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Hi Ladies. I’m going to deviate for a moment to address the significance of today.

As we all know, today is the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. The year was 1968. But what you don’t know is that I was born exactly a year later, in 1969. I have had the pleasure (or is that misfortune, I don’t know) of sharing a birthday with the anniversary of one our country’s most renowned orators, leaders, ministers we will probably ever know. When I was little, it didn’t affect me much. Children don’t think of such things in their small microcosm of the world view. But as I got older, I had mixed feelings about it. Yes, it was a sad and pivitol point in our history, but I started to think of it like this. For every life that is taken, another life is created. I am in no way comparing myself to Dr. King. But I could never help but think I have a huge responsibility to live up to.

I was listening to Warren Ballentine this morning on the radio and snippets of Dr. King’s speeches. They touched me deeply, as always. All that he hoped for and dreamed of, some might say we have achieved. We have and then again we haven’t (case in point the Jena 6). I couldn’t help but acknowledge that if it wasn’t for Dr. King, I would not have had the opportunity to grow up as I have. I would not have been able to be a successful business woman. I would not have been able to move where I want, pursue the education I want, raise my son as I want, or be able to set the wheels in motion for the phenomenon that is Empower Me. So, yes, in many respects, we have overcome. Barack Obama is living proof of that. Who would have thought a Black Man would be a serious contender in our lifetime? My son, my mother, my sisters, brother, nephew and nieces get to see this….in our lifetime. Unfortunately my Dad never did. He passed away 6 years ago this coming July. Dr. King certainly didn’t and neither did Mrs. King.

I still remember the stories my Daddy used to tell me about Dr. King and the “struggle”. Daddy was very animated when telling stories. He had a way of drawing you into the stories as he was telling them. I remembered being so afraid and fearing that “they” were going to get me. I was very small and had not grasped the fact that we were indeed free. My mother being a product of that time, was one who was always telling us keep your mouth shut and do what you need to do. Don’t make trouble. But daddy, man he would tell us we have the right to do and go and say what we want. Yes, even in the late 70’s early 80’s we encountered racism. Not at home though (New York). We would encounter it in the south. But daddy never let us just “take it”. He always had a lesson to teach us and always was able to somehow channel Dr. King. Very early on I could never understand some of the racism. But as we got older and daddy used to tell us these stories, it became clearer. Especially after watching Roots….can I get an AMEN!

It was in my early teens that I took Dr. King’s words and thoughts and hopes to heart. I became this outspoken grown child. I was never to let anything stand in my way of what I wanted. Naive? Perhaps. But I said to myself, dammit, we have these Dr. King celebrations every year to continue the fight. In NYC I did have a mix of friends. But when I went downtown to the Wall Street, Fifth Avenue, or any other areas deemed off limits to us, I felt a bit out of place. It wasn’t until my late teens early 20’s that I began to shake that off and own a sense of entitlement. It was my right as an American, as a New Yorker, as a BLACK WOMAN to be there making money like everyone else. And when those doors did not open, I made my own way. My first adult taste of overt in your face racism was back in 1988 or 1989. I went on my first trip to California without my parents. My friend Kim and I went. And of course, I was always miss fancy so I wanted to “do Beverly Hills”. Fresh off the plane with my daddy’s American Express (don’t laugh), I walked into Beverly Hills like I had lived there. I won’t mention store names, but the minimum wage earning sales clerks had their noses up in the air and nobody wanted to give me the time of day. A few people even asked if I was “lost”. Huh? Are you kidding me? I was dressed just as nice as any of their rich customers. One asked me, are you sure you want to buy this? It costs$….. Again, huh? Don’t you see this Amex card burning a hole in my pocket? My friend said let’s go. But the stubborn rebel in me didn’t want to give THEM the satisfaction. So I bought 3 bags. Of course my daddy freaked out and demanded I pay the bill myself. I was a project girl living a princess life. LOL Or what about in 1991 when I took my infant son, mom and sisters with me back to California. I was once again on Rodeo Drive looking around and my family headed on a walk through the residential area of Beverly Hills. Within minutes, the Beverly Hills Police were called. Someone hit the panic button when they saw these “strangers”, BLACK strangers (with a damn baby stroller mind you) roaming their neighborhood. Nothing jumped off, but my mom was pissed!

Why do I tell this story? Fast forward to February 2008. Just about 6 weeks ago. I flew to California for the Women of Power Summit. I drove over to L.A. to stay for the remainder of my trip. I had a ton of emotions going on. I was no longer this kid I was so long ago. I wondered and was a little nervous of the treatment I would receive upon my return to Beverly Hills. Well I was quite surprised. I strolled Rodeo, in and out of stores. And so much has changed. I was greeted and doted on by the sales clerks in nearly all of the stores I visited. I was taken aback. Really. I saw people of different ethnicities working in these stores and also shopping! Yeah, we black folks have money too. Some even chatted with me and asked where I was from. I was amazed. The men were holding doors open for me. The women were showing me things from the cases and the back. I didn’t buy anything. This time, I could afford it, but I ain’t crazy! LOL It made me feel good to see how things had come full circle. Could Dr. King’s dream have become a reality?

Every time I see a successful black man or women open a store, business, restaurant, etc, I fill with pride. Every time I see a black man or woman achieve top rank status in a company, I fill with pride. Every time I see a black man or woman earn their degrees, be it BS, BA, MBA,MA, PhD, I fill with pride. We HAVE overcome. To an extent. But we still have a way to go. I think if Dr. King were alive today, he would be in awe of what he and others set in motion. So I come to you and ask, what is your purpose? What dream do you have that needs to be fulfilled? What’s holding you back? I, a girl from the projects of the Bronx, sits here a CEO of 2 companies, a mom, a wife, a mentor, a homeowner, a teacher (not in the school sense), a diversity expert. A black woman living Dr. King’s dream. A black woman fighting to empower and educate my sisters, and inspire them to not quit and to achieve all their hearts desire.

I am hopeful for my son’s generation and my future grandchildren’s generation. If or should I say WHEN Barack Obama wins, that will break all kinds of barriers and set precedents that Dr. King was never able to see come to fruition. So am I sad to be born on the day of Dr. King’s assassination? Hell no. I consider it a privilege and an honor. Happy Birthday to Me. Thank you Dr. King. You have touched and molded me in a very profound way.

Till next time.

Adrienne Graham