Maria G. Arias, Comcast Corporation’s Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion, shares how her experience as a woman of color in corporate America helped her build an inclusive culture for multidimensional diverse talent. (Comcast NBCUniversal is No. 29 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list)
I was a young girl when my family moved from Mexico to Chicago, and I knew early on that the classic “doctor or lawyer” career question set the parameters for success in my parents’ eyes. So, I decided to pursue a degree in law.
When I arrived at law school in the late 1980s, I didn’t see many women of color. And when I joined a major Chicago law firm upon graduating, I faced a familiar void again. I did what so many other others do, I kept my head down and worked harder than anyone I could compare myself to, and eventually I made partner.
I strived to assimilate to the norms and values of the majority culture, but I faced an internal struggle about being my authentic self. At times, it was isolating, and I felt compelled to downplay my multicultural background and femininity. Soon, I traded my bright dresses and chunky jewelry for black pant suits paired with pearls. I traded time spent salsa dancing for time at the driving range.
Back then, I thought I had to trade authenticity for success. But, over the course of my career in law and business, I’ve come to learn that success is truly achieved when you are able to combine authenticity with talent.
Here’s the good news a lot has changed in thirty years! I’ve learned a lot about myself, and the value I bring as both a woman and a person of color. I’ve learned to embrace my unique experiences, and use them to my advantage. Both parts of my identity make me an asset to any company looking to reach a diverse customer base.
Here are three things you can do to make authenticity an advantage: