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Navigating the Unique Career Challenges Facing Women of Color

Published by WŌC, a nonprofit organization that celebrates, inspires and champions women of color in fundraising, philanthropy and related fields through building community and providing unparalleled personal and professional development resources. To find out more about WŌC, including access to their Resource Library and upcoming events, please visit their website here.

By Faith Eutsay, Lindauer Senior Consultant, and Zena Lum, Lindauer Senior Advisor, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

As we grapple with the impact of health, economic and societal challenges that seem to grow exponentially, we should also recognize the enormous opportunities emerging. Without doubt, a strong non-profit sector will be key to recovery, reinforcing the resilience of communities and continuing to move our world forward. This article is for our sisters — women of color in fundraising and philanthropy — who are assessing their professional aspirations against this complex backdrop.

Many of us have heard the axiom, “women must work twice as hard as men to receive the same recognition.” Women of color are challenged even further, not only having to strive harder, but also having to achieve more than men and white women, to be seen and heard as valuable contributors in predominately white spaces. Throughout their careers, women of color have learned to navigate these complex spaces, while remaining true to themselves. You might ask, “What do I need to know to be successful in my own career?” We offer some guidance to help you navigate these unique workplace challenges.

Where Do You Want to Go? Knowing your destination and charting your path are essential. Research is imperative. Can you identify growth opportunities within your current organization? If so, what might this path look like? Make sure you are well-positioned to develop skills and experience critical to that next level job and beyond. If an internal path is not available, which other organizations offer such potential? Finally, be sure to understand the culture of diversity and inclusiveness of the organizations you are targeting.

How Are You Wired? Once potential paths are identified, make a self-assessment. Do you enjoy the challenge of a start-up or prefer contributing to the sustainability of an established mission? Do you prefer wearing many hats or specializing? As you conduct your research, ensure that your next role will align with your skills and experience, feed your passion and increase your proficiency.

How Will You Be Perceived? Germane to your career considerations, and certainly to self-assessment, is the practice of code-switching. In the research text, Language and Interracial Communication in the United States: Speaking in Black and White, George B. Ray describes African-American code-switching as “a skill that holds benefits in relation to the way success is often measured in institutional and professional settings.” For many women of color, code-switching is a skillset that is integral to our perceived credibility, promotability and ultimate survival in the workplace. Knowing how and when to shift your demeanor and speech is critical to effectively engaging with others in an interview setting or thriving after landing the job. Perhaps, in the future, code-switching will not be essential to success; for now, mastery seems wise.

Are You Maximizing Your Network? Women of color are often subjected to compromising stereotypes. Networking is essential to building a support system of allies and staving off those misconceptions. Navigating your career path will require support and encouragement from people who may not look like us, but who are enthusiastically willing to stand up for us. Collaboration is the secret sauce to creating allies that will boost your career, as it allows others to experience your work ethic, creativity and problem-solving ability. This insight into your skills enables allies to tout your talents to internal leadership and serve as references in a career transition. Use this data-proven approach to activate allies who can help open doors. “Outstanding You,” coupled with “Open-minded Them,” equals a stronger, diverse institution, outperforming homogeneous groups.

For women of color, navigating career and job choice is a complex task, compounded by “unspoken, but understood” rules. Systemic challenges present barriers to growth, and many organizations are not ready to see past their blind spots. For further reading, we recommend Race to Lead, an initiative of Building Movement Project, which provides a series of reports on the racial leadership gap in the non-profit sector, including an intersectional analysis of Women of Color in the Non-profit Sector.

Finally, we encourage you to boldly share your accomplishments and showcase your excellence during your job search and after securing your new position. Know your audience, and then, be courageous, confident and strategically brave enough to speak. For women of color, it will take all of this, as well as an organization’s commitment to disrupting bias in hiring or in internal promotion, to see the wonderful talent we bring and the assets we can be.

Faith Eutsay, Senior Consultant, Lindauer

Having viewed the development world from an executive perspective, Faith Eutsay is strongly attuned to the characteristics of leadership. Her innovative nature and exceptional communication skills, finely honed from her experience in senior level non-profit and for-profit roles, help Faith effectively identify, engage and match top candidates with culture-appropriate clients.

Her connection to the non-profit world began with Integral Resources, Inc., telephone fundraising specialists for the non-profit profession. There, Faith was hired as Fundraising Campaign Manager and Account Executive, and quickly moved up through the ranks to her eventual role as Vice President of Client Services. In that capacity, Faith managed annual giving initiatives for 13 non-profit partners, raising over $7 million yearly, and directed all communication programs in addition to other responsibilities.

Faith made the leap to the non-profit sector as Vice President of Development for Easter Seals Massachusetts, where working closely with the president, she oversaw every aspect of the department. In addition to supervising all major gift, annual fund, special event, corporation and foundation activity, Faith served as chief frontline fundraiser to key donors while managing a development staff and Board relationships. In her seven-plus years helming the development division, Faith played a key role in advancing the organization’s strategic initiatives.

As Senior Consultant at Lindauer, Faith relies on her twenty years of development experience to guide her in fulfilling client needs. A self-described “generalist,” she brings the best of both frontline fundraising and management expertise to the Lindauer team. Faith is responsible for placing Chief Development Officers (or the equivalent position) at Buckingham Browne & Nichols, Walker, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Perkins School for the Blind, Babson College, Western Connecticut Health Network Foundation, Society for Science and the Public and Whitinsville Christian School. She has placed multiple candidates at WGBH, PBS’s single largest producer for television, mobile and the Web; Princeton University and Stanford University, counting Phillips Academy, University of Texas at Austin and Syracuse among her successful placements with several others to her credit.

Faith holds a B.A. in Communications/Business from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and an M.A. in Interpersonal Communications from Purdue University.

Zena Lum, Senior Advisor, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Lindauer

Zena Lum serves as Senior Advisor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Lindauer, having been a member of the Lindauer team for more than nine years. This role synthesizes her depth and breadth of knowledge of the nonprofit sector; her experience as a recruiter and fundraiser for mission-driven organizations; and her deep professional and personal networks. As Senior Advisor for DEI, Zena ensure that Lindauer sustains, enhances and continues to activate its leadership in diversity, equity and inclusion across nonprofit leadership and advancement. Building on Lindauer’s longstanding position as the nation’s #1 firm for advancement search, the firm is committed to leveraging its growth to influence hiring, retention and professional advancement of BIPOC individuals across broader segments of administrative and leadership roles.

A sought-after panelist and facilitator for her experience in the field, Zena has presented for African American Development Officers Network (AADO), AFP Massachusetts, CASE Multicultural Advancement Professionals, Grant Professionals Association – New England Chapter, Women in Development (WID), Women of Color in Fundraising and Philanthropy (WŌC), and YW Boston. She co-chaired the inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for WID Greater Boston, serves as an Advisory Committee member for WŌC, and is a LeadBoston Alumni Ambassador. She is an engaged member of her community, serving on the Development Committee for United South End Settlements and on the Executive Board for the Girls’ and Boston Latin Academy Association.

With more than 25 years dedicated to mission-driven organizations, Zena has directly raised tens of millions of dollars for leading organizations in Boston such as WGBH, Jumpstart for Young Children, and New England Aquarium. Prior to joining Lindauer, Zena served as the Director of Institutional Advancement for Boston Public Schools. As a recruiter, Zena has placed development leaders across the country and across the sector that have collectively raised hundreds of millions more to advance education, the arts, health care, and social and environmental justice. While mission is her “North Star,” successful navigation is predicated on her strengths in building genuine relationships and the ability to see connections and commonalities that lead to high-impact matchmaking, in fundraising, recruiting, and talent management.

Zena has a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Georgetown University.

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