Today’s workplaces are ever evolving, and one of the best consequences of that is the pursuit of equity and access. It is imperative that we not only foster inclusive environments but actively celebrate such workplaces that embrace diversity and recognize those individuals working to advance inclusive initiatives.

In today’s post, guest author Sabrina Short, Founder and CEO of NOLAvate Black discusses the power of the inclusive workplace and explores practical strategies and ways to empower those in the environment to truly embrace and support equity in the workplace. Thank you to Sabrina for sharing about this outstanding organization and challenging us to rethink about workplace diversity in a new light.

Enjoy the read,

Lindsey Downs, WCET


I have been very fortunate in my life to be surrounded by people who believed in me, poured their time and affection into me, and supported the progression of my career. Navigating your career can be tough, especially when you feel like you are the only one who looks like you. Early on in my professional journey, I worked for corporate and large organizations. In these roles, I was often the youngest and often the only or one of very few Black people on the team. However, there were those, specifically Black women, in my life who believed in me and opened many doors that helped me get to where I am today. While having mentors who share your background provides validation and safety, cultivating relationships with individuals from diverse backgrounds also brings invaluable perspectives, networks, and opportunities that promote professional advancement.

I am the founder and CEO of NOLAvate Black, a global tech exchange that focuses on bringing resources, funding, expertise, and innovation to our local technology and creative economy.

We started as a conference focused on addressing systematic racism and injustice that prevents Black people and under-resource communities from gaining access to higher demand and higher wage jobs in the technology section. A major part of my work is fostering spaces that are inclusive and accessible, and inciting leaders in the technology workspace to think differently about how they engage underrepresented talent. When building culturally inclusive teams, allies are instrumental in removing barriers, providing access to opportunities, and offering perspective for uncharted spaces. Embracing both representation and diversity in our support networks builds a sustainable organization that can thrive in a multicultural and interconnected world.

Embracing Equity in the Workplace

Building Relational Advocacy

While all three roles—ally, sponsor, and mentor—can contribute to diversity and access in the workplace and professional circles, they have distinct functions and responsibilities:

Ally

An ally is someone who supports individuals from marginalized groups, and works to challenge discrimination, bias, and systemic barriers for underrepresented people. Allies often focus on creating a more inclusive environment and raising awareness about issues related to diversity and equity.

Mentor

Mentors are experienced individuals who provide guidance, advice, and support to a less experienced individual to help them develop personally and professionally. Mentors offer wisdom, perspective, and expertise based on their own career experiences and knowledge. While mentors may also advocate for their mentees’ career advancement, their primary role is to provide guidance, coaching, and developmental opportunities.

Sponsor

A sponsor is a senior-level individual within an organization who actively champions and advocates for the career advancement of an early career professional. Sponsors use their influence, networks, and power within the organization to create opportunities for others. Sponsors are typically more directly involved by providing visibility to decision-makers and advocating for advancement.

When deciding to be an advocate, each person must decide if they have the time, resources and commitment to invest in someone, break barriers that they can’t achieve on their own. No matter what pathway you choose as an advocate, be intentional to actively foster a space where power is transferred, barriers are removed toward access to opportunity, and where there is a redistribution of influence and resources to foster greater equity and inclusion.

Advocacy, in its most profound sense, goes beyond tokenistic gestures and surface-level performative actions to address systemic inequities that have existed for generations. It is crucial to recognize that with the right mentorship and access to resources, everyone has the potential to be successful.

No matter your background, whether as an ally, sponsor, and/or a mentor, we all must work together to amplify the voices of marginalized individuals and ensure that everyone is empowered and valued within our organizations.

Our work is not easy work, as diversity isn’t a priority for many organizations, but it is so worthwhile when I hear “thank you NOLAvate Black, because you changed my life.”

Helping people find jobs, fostering communities of culture, helping businesses secure funding, and supporting companies as they build inclusive teams – not only changes lives, it changes our communities.


Sabrina Short

Founder & CEO, NOLAvate Black

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