Fuel Your Success: Three Self-Advocacy Strategies for Women of Color Lawyers and Executives in the Workplace

“Advocacy is about having your voice clearly heard in all aspects of life, especially in standing up for what is right and just. Advocating for yourself at work and in the community is an act of creating more effective lines of communication with peers, family, colleagues, and management alike. It is a matter of being confident enough to let others know about the things you have to offer, which can benefit everyone simultaneously.”

                                                                                                            – Laurie Robinson Haden

If you won’t stand up for yourself, who will? Self-advocacy is crucial for women of color leaders. As we navigate our way to the top, we face a myriad of obstacles including systemic biases and cultural barriers. Often times, we are forced to deal with these issues alone.

The truth is we can’t wait around and hope that some person or organization will advocate for us. We must be proactive, bold and assertive if we want to ensure that our needs are being met in the workplace.

When we rise up and advocate for ourselves, we can challenge biases, dismantle stereotypes and create opportunities for personal growth and success. It allows progress in areas of career advancement, fair compensation, and overall inclusivity in the workplace.

How to Get Comfortable With Advocating for Yourself

Self-advocacy involves showing up for yourself, promoting your ideas, and being your own ally. This may not come naturally for most people, especially women of color.

Many women have been socially conditioned to play nicely with others, consider other people’s needs before their own, and not to ask for what they want. While these unwritten social norms may keep you from ruffling feathers in the workplace, they won’t get you ahead.

Furthermore, self-advocacy involves seeking and utilizing available resources, support networks, and information to make informed decisions. It includes the ability to set goals, plan actions, and navigate challenges or barriers along the way. Self-advocacy is not only about personal empowerment but also about promoting equity, justice, and inclusion by challenging systemic issues and advocating for change.

Ultimately, self-advocacy is a powerful tool that empowers us to take ownership of our lives, make choices that are in alignment with our values and goals, and actively engage in shaping our personal and professional trajectories.

Let’s take a look at ways you can become your best ally while advocating for yourself at work.

1. Get clear about what you want. Clarity is key when it comes to self-advocacy. If you don’t know what you want, it’s difficult to get your needs met and advance in your career.

Here are a few questions to consider as you are working to clarify your goals.

  • What are your strengths?
  • Which projects at work increase your vitality?
  • Which projects at work drain you?
  • Does your work environment empower you to be your best and do your best work?
  • If not, what type of environment empowers you?
  • In terms of your career, what’s the next step?

2. Recognize your value. What are the skills and traits that you bring to the table? Self-advocacy begins with acknowledging your unique values and perspectives. You must know that you have what it takes to have the career and life that you desire.

The following tips can help you recognize your value.

  • Reflect on your accomplishments and past successes.
  • Recognize the impact you have made in your work or community.
  • Seek feedback from trusted colleagues, mentors, or supervisors.
  • Embrace positive affirmations and self-talk.
  • Celebrate your strengths and areas of expertise.
  • Assess the value you bring to projects or teams.
  • Pay attention to the positive impact you have on others.
  • Validate your own worth by setting and achieving goals.
  • Surround yourself with supportive and empowering individuals.

3. Develop assertive communication skills. Communicating assertively refers to the ability to express your thoughts, needs, and boundaries in a clear, confident, and respectful manner. It also involves effectively communicating your ideas, opinions, and emotions while also actively listening to others.

Key components of assertive communication include:

  1. Clear and Direct Expression: Assertive communicators express their thoughts and needs clearly and directly, using specific and concise language. They avoid vague or ambiguous statements and ensure their message is easily understood.
  2. Respectful Tone and Body Language: Assertive communicators maintain a respectful and composed tone of voice, as well as confident body language. They speak calmly and assertively, avoiding aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior.
  3. Active Listening: Assertive communication involves actively listening to others without interrupting or judging. It includes giving others the opportunity to express their viewpoints and demonstrating genuine interest and empathy.
  4. Expressing Emotions Appropriately: Assertive communicators express their emotions in a controlled and constructive manner. They acknowledge and share their feelings without becoming excessively aggressive, defensive, or passive.
  5. Setting Boundaries: Assertive communication includes setting and maintaining personal boundaries. It involves clearly stating what is acceptable and unacceptable to you, asserting your limits, and advocating for your needs and rights.
  6. Negotiation and Compromise: Assertive communicators are open to finding mutually beneficial solutions through negotiation and compromise. They express their needs while considering the perspectives and interests of others.
  7. Self-Confidence: Assertive communication requires self-confidence and belief in one’s own worth and opinions. It involves expressing yourself without feeling the need to seek constant approval or validation from others.

It’s time to fully embrace self-advocacy so we can empower ourselves and unlock our full potential. Apply these tips to fuel your success and shape a more equitable workplace for you and your colleagues.