Every year, I like to find a different way of celebrating my favorite day: my birthday. Since I am turning 32 next month (I know…awww…), I’ve decided to share 32 revelations I have had during the course of my life about everything from life in general to business. Think of it as daily inspiration for you and therapy for me. It is a challenge for me, because I don’t think I have ever published a post everyday in the entire existence of The Aristocracy of HR. Plus, I recognize that while I am fairly generous in sharing on social media and here, I have only just scraped the surface on sharing who I am when I’m not pontificating how HR and Business can do better. Let’s use the month of March to get to know one another better. I hope at the end of the month, you walk away with something you can use in your own life or business.
Day 16 of 31- Life Data
There’s a lot of talk about pay equality, race equality, women’s rights etc. Equally, I feel that the rhetoric against equality on all of these fronts is increasingly divisive and disrespectful. Additionally, there is something to be said for what goes unsaid, because that too is an answer. Those that read my posts regularly know I don’t shy away from the tough subjects. I have tackled everything from Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy” campaign to “Race Relations in the Workplace”. Each time, I learn a little more about the moral paradigm the U.S operates under.
When I called the NYPD out for not dealing with their race issues, I got responses like: “black people are always complaining” or “black people commit most crimes and if they didn’t situations like Ferguson wouldn’t happen.” When I talked about how I thought Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy” and “Lean-In” campaigns were short-sighted, I had a man tell me that “there is no such thing as pay inequity.” In all of these instances, I shared my experiences. The comments and moderate backlash is not something I take personally, but I do have a problem when people confuse “experience” and “opinion”.
If I say I have never experienced being discriminated against, but offer up some thoughts based on what I think being discriminated against is like- that is an opinion. If I have worked in Corporate America as a black woman and been passed up for promotions and paid less than my white counterparts- that my friends is a bonafide experience. It is something I would like to call “life data”. No, it hasn’t been incubated and studied with a proper sampling, controls and variables aligned. However, it is something I have experienced and have unofficially corroborated with other black females across the country in similarly situated positions and everything in between. That said, I have every right to speak about these issues.
We have become so excitable about data and proof, that we forget that even one instance of any event serves as some proof that something has occurred. When we are faced with employee complaints or claims in an organization, they are often singular instances of issues that are dealt with on a case-by case basis. It is those individual complaints that often times lead to larger narratives that have to be investigated. If we were to discount the experience of individuals until we had a collection of people coming forward with the same issue- we would:
1) Be dealing with bigger issues because the employee would probably sue or file an outside claim.
2) We would be catching a problem far too late to the detriment of both the workforce and company.
We have gotten very good at discounting the experiences of others in this country. The sentiment is if it’s not happening to me or anyone I know- it isn’t a problem. While I will agree that some of us humans have a completely skewed and screwed up way of viewing the world, even that phenomenon is life data. Everyday we open our eyes and interact in the world, provides experiences that become data we use to inform our decisions in life.
I tell you all of this to say, I am sick and tired of people telling me and others that what we see and experience isn’t real or is at a minimum “a humble opinion”. Until you have walked a day in another person’s shoes, you have no frame of reference. It is not reasonable to swap their experiences out for your sloppy opinion.
The individuals who risked making the comments above forgot to arm themselves with data. I am happy to note that I didn’t go commando, but instead reminded them of the facts using data; I haven’t heard from them since. Poof be gone!
Czarina’s Lesson: Your lack of experience and understanding, isn’t a reason for me to be both silent and blind.