Prep, Push, Pivot: Essential career strategies for underrepresented women

Career expert Octavia Goredema MBE publishes the UK edition of her career guide for women of colour this International Women’s Day. Relocate Global talks to Octavia to find out how we can all advocate for every woman’s progression at work.

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An acclaimed career coach and speaker, Octavia Goredema is passionate about helping underrepresented professionals advance their careers.Founder of Twenty Ten Agency, where she coaches employees at some of the world’s largest companies including Google, American Airlines, Tinder, General Motors, Nike and Dow Jones, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts where she leads the Gender Equity Network, Octavia Goredema is an ambassador of the Pankhurst Centre and has been recognised with an MBE for her work. This International Women’s Day marks the publication of her new book, Prep, Push, Pivot: Essential career strategies for underrepresented women. It is published as companies are pressing ahead with diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives to embed systemic change throughout their organisations, and as large companies are facing pressure to analyse and publish race pay gaps alongside gender pay gaps.This guide is essential reading for women looking to set and achieve career goals with their unique purpose in mind. Relocate Global caught up with Octavia Goredema to find out why her book is so important, and what we can all do to level up our efforts to be more inclusive.
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Breaking the bias

“Women of colour are the most underrepresented group in the corporate pipeline,” begins Octavia. “We are hired, promoted, and retained at lower rates. When I was growing up, my mother told me that I would have to work twice as hard as everyone else to get ahead.“I tried my best to follow it, but it was not healthy or sustainable. Waiting for your boss to notice is not enough. Women of colour are doing the work and achieving results but are not always seen. It’s time for a change. And that begins with women of colour knowing their worth, their core values, and paying it forward.”Women have also been impacted most by the pandemic of the past two years. With retention challenges now facing many organisations and a greater focus on wellbeing, employers are looking to create environments where everyone is valued and there is greater equity of opportunity."Knowing your own worth matters, even when it’s not being reflected back at you,” says Octavia Goredema. “Building your career is the most valuable and most personal investment you will ever make."I remember when I first moved to the US I was initially too afraid to ask for a transfer. But asking is so important. Being really clear what you want in your career, and communicating what you want, matters.“Knowing your worth is about understanding who you are, why you do your work, what enables you to do your best work and what your non-negotiables are for your career. You have to hold on to those things, even when you don’t get the salary that you’ve been trying to negotiate for, or the promotion, or you hear no.”

Making your purpose count

Understanding your purpose, setting goals and understanding how small intentional acts cause big ripples are themes Relocate Global has explored in previous International Women’s Day events and coverage, and the Think Women global community. Prep, Push, Pivot puts these themes into an action-oriented and accessible format that is relevant for underrepresented women at every level. It draws on Octavia’s own experiences from her international corporate career and coaching practice. “Coaching can be quite expensive, so I wanted to create a resource that could help someone who doesn’t have access to one-on-one coaching,” says Octavia Goredema.“As a black woman who started my career 22 years ago, I only had the opportunity to work with a coach the first time when I was mid-career.“I really wanted to recognise that there is a huge opportunity gap that can affect underrepresented professionals. It’s when you are in your early to mid-career when you need the most support. That’s when those resources might not be available to you. I wanted to create a guide that could help someone at every pivotal moment we might face in our career regardless of seniority.”

Closing opportunity gaps 

As well as helping readers identify their purpose and what matters to them as individuals, Octavia Goredema advises underrepresented women on how to negotiate and talk about pay. Recognising your worth and the value of what you do is vital to closing pay gaps, lifetime earnings and opportunities. “Yes, the onus is on employers to do better and make sure that pay is equitable, but it’s also important for individuals to continue to do their research into salary brackets and to have conversations with peers who are more senior in their industry,” says Octavia Goredema.“You don’t have to ask that person 'how much do you earn?' You can put it to them like ‘what do you think the range should be for X opportunity?’ But it’s really important to continue to have those dialogues and to practice having those conversations so that when you are, you feel more confident talking about money, and from early on in your career.” Mentoring, sponsorship and ongoing investment in professional development also matters to closing the opportunity gap for women of colour in the workplace. “Inclusion and performance are inseparable,” says Octavia Goredema. “Often the most senior professionals in an organisation have access to the most in terms of resources, and it should be the other way round. “Investing in career coaching and providing your employees with a professional development budget they can utilise in ways that make sense to them demonstrates you are providing a tangible commitment to supporting, retaining and advancing your diverse talent. You are not just hiring, but you are supporting, amplifying and retaining.”

Amplifying talent and making achievements visible

People who mentor and can provide sponsorship/advocacy are critical to promoting inclusion and closing opportunity gaps, believes Octavia Goredema. “Mentors and advocates are so important. Sometimes mentors and advocates are the same, but there are very distinct differences between the two. “A sponsor is focused on amplifying you and your work more broadly and presenting you with opportunities you hadn’t thought of. Having sponsors and advocates in the workplace make such a difference. “Employers need to be really intentional on an ongoing basis,” continues Octavia Goredema. “This comes into your corporate culture of visibility, which trickles down from senior leadership. It's about empowering all your employees to be advocates for underrepresented women in the workplace; and about being invested and identifying opportunities to support women with their professional goals.“For example, there is a study I reference in the book by Working Mother Media that found 46% of minority women surveyed had had a meeting with senior executives in the past two years, compared to 63% of white men. “It’s also about pay equity. For minority women, the pay gaps are even more pronounced. It’s really important for companies to be making their own internal steps to make sure that they are providing equitable pay for all.”Getting involved in global and local communities and networks too – either as individuals or employers – will also make the difference.“In the book we talk about paying it forward,” says Octavia Goredama. “We need to continue to advocate for each other. We are all striving and reaching for something.“While we are on that journey, let’s see who is walking alongside us, or looking up to us, and how can we pay it forward as we try and advance and figure out our next steps."I think, yes, it’s important for senior leadership, but we also as women can do this for one another.”

If you have a people-centred approach to driving success across your organisation and understand the importance of wellbeing in all its forms for talent to flourish, then why not enter the Think Global People and Relocate Awards. There are ten categories to choose from. Join us on 9 June for the results and the Future of Work Festival.

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