Three takeaways from ColorComm’s C2 NextGen conference
On Friday, ColorComm held its second annual NextGen conference in New York City, a day of panels and lectures addressing the specific issues of young people of color—particularly women—in advertising, marketing, communications and tech.
Like many events with a heavy focus on millennials, business and finance leaders doled out specific, practical advice for career advancement. But they also related stories of microaggressions, outright racism and searching for mentors who were few and far between—to murmurs of knowing assent from the young audience—and gave clear directives for navigating work environments that continue to be ill-equipped to embrace and cultivate diversity.
Here’s the best advice of the day from the experts.
It’s no surprise that millennials and Gen Z attendees wanted to know how to ask for raises. Many of them finished college just before a global recession, and now the drums of financial downturn are beating again. But people of color need to be proactive about getting paid more, speakers stressed. “I thought if I work really hard, I will be recognized for it, but that’s not in corporations’ best interests,” said Brooke Devard Ozaydinli, product marketing manager at Instagram.
Be persistent about reviews and raises, and always negotiate salaries. The pay gap is real, and it’s even larger for black women, and larger still for Hispanic women. For people of color who lack corporate connections, it can be hard to know what appropriate pay looks like, so peers should compare salaries, said Alencia Johnson, director of public engagement for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. “I also think it’s very important that white women join us in sharing how much money they’re making.”
Have a plan (and don’t stick to it)
No one knows where they’ll end up, but prepare for multiple possibilities. For Sallie Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, that means women should take control of their financial futures and learn to invest. “Money is the No. 1 source of stress for women. When they think about money, men feel power, but women feel uncertainty.”
Be strategic about taking on expenses. “Student loans are an investment in yourself,” said Syeedah Smith a financial professional at Prudential. In contrast, credit card debt can be useful to build credit but needs to be managed carefully.
At the same time, be flexible enough to handle big changes, like a job loss or family emergency. “Donald Trump is president. Who would have thought that would happen?” said Jeanine D. Liburd, chief social impact and communications officer at BET Networks, Viacom.
Do it yourself
Corporate “meritocracies” can’t be trusted, Krawcheck added. It’s often just an excuse for managers—even well-meaning ones—to hire people they connect with, relying on a “gut” decision to choose someone similar to themselves, even if on paper a woman or person of color may be more qualified.
So where avenues for advancement don’t exist, women and people of color must create them. As an undocumented student in Ohio, Daniela Pierre-Bravo applied to hundreds of jobs, pretending she was already living in New York. When she landed a next-day interview for an unpaid internship with Sean Combs’ Blue Flame Marketing, she took an overnight bus 18 hours to Manhattan. That job led her to MTV Networks and eventually to MSNBC, where she is now a booking producer.
“I know we always say if you can see, you can be it. But even when we can’t see, we have to be sure we adjust our mindsets to think differently,” said Bonin Bough, former chief growth and marketing officer as Sundial and founder of Bonin Ventures. “We can zig when everyone else is trying to zag.”