Is It Me? Or The System?

My first job was in the Northeast which is drastically different than where I grew up... "The South". During the first few months of my first job there are a lot of micro aggressions, but I thought this was from ignorance, and that I was just "something new"... I looked very different than a lot of my co-workers on top of the fact I look very different than what my coworkers thought I would look like.

I am a Caribbean American woman who, apparently, looks young for their age. I am articulate, intelligent and passionate about my work. My job is primarily in an office, sometimes a electronics lab, other times the two overlap.

Because of retention policy, I stayed at my first job for a about 3-4 years and dealt with racist and sexist micro aggressions. These "comments" we're about, but not limited to, how I spoke, my hair and what I was "allowed" to wear to work.

Fortunately I was able to find a job back in "The South". It was an amazing opportunity and while working there I had so much support and mentorship... But I was not supported by my manager.

My manager determined my pay, the projects available to me, and my employee evaluation.

After 2 years of intense work and growth I was offered another opportunity to take a different job outside of my current company (2nd job, this opportunity would be my 3rd job). Before I was offered this job I spoke with my manager multiple times within the last year about a promotion and each time I was denied because I was told I didn't have enough work experience. I also asked about moving full time to one of the projects I was working on, of which I was also denied. (I was working part time on two disjointed projects assigned to me by my manager).

There are other aspects to what happened next but I don't want to explain too much in case someone I know reads this post. In the end a second set of eyes looked over my experience and realized that not only was this incorrect, but that I should have been promoted a year ago and I was under compensated for my work.

I'm worried about the future of my career. According to my project managers and my coworkers I work well with others and I'm not hard to talk to. I'm worried that there's something about me, something that I'm doing... that causes this to happen... And I wish that there was something that I could do about it...

I don't know if it's me, or just the system. If anyone can offer some words of advice I'd appreciate it.

Hello Jacquelyne, Hope you are doing ok. Thanks for sharing your story. It is not you. Let's start with that common ground. Respect is what everyone deserves. Respect should be given unconditionally. Every employee deserves clarity on the criteria and metrics for a promotion or raise. Request for that clarity in this new job
helkin's profile thumbnail
hi Jacquelyne - thank you for sharing your story. I can only imagine how much stress this is causing you and I hope you are finding ways to take care of yourself. To echo what Brynn said, this is definitely NOT you and is 100% the system. You are likely to run in to versions of this throughout your career. Please don't internalize this as a "you" problem. It's not! I've found that by creating an inner circle of trusted people to run job offers, work scenarios, etc by, I can ground myself and strategize in how to navigate these scenarios. For your new work, I'd ask for clarity on what's required for raises and promotions and have everything documented wherever possible.
lenapopretinskaya's profile thumbnail
Hi Jacquelyne. Thank you for your vulnerable and honest share.I think in your case it's mostly "the system". Like others already wrote: don't internalize it as "you".I wrote "mostly" because it's up to you to chose what to do about it. And I see that you are already taking steps by asking for advice.I would recommend getting a hand on building/strengthening self-trust (because it seems to me you are a great professional) and surrounding yourself with a supportive environment and network.Would be happy to offer more personal advice in a call, if you are willing to talk. Feel free to DM me 😊
maddogS's profile thumbnail
Hits too close to home : )(I was also getting strange comments for looking young, having a more... um..."urban" style with how I dress and talk etc... also was under-promoted and underpaid, in my anonymous reviews for promotion... a few people thought I was already at the level (I was being promoted to) and I was being promoted to 2 levels up... I always suspected things but this was proof : )So yea, it's the system and the system feels like "a lot" when you are just 1 person.So I decided to look at what I can do and my options:- ask for a raise/promotion and provide evidence and rally support from people who know me and my work (I gave them a chance)- use the slack time due to being under-estimated / not given opportunities to improve my skills and prep for my next role- make sure the next role / company I took was very well vetted to avoid similar problems (still for practical reasons I sometimes "filter" how I act, it sucks)- I also made a rule to never stay at a place longer than 1.5 yrs if I am not learning and growing constantly, job switching every 1-2 yrs is also the best way to increase your income... It's not fair, but you can go get what's fair for you.Not every company will see your value or care about keeping you and that's okay, it's their loss, and after you leave for something better maybe they will see that, and maybe due to their close-mindedness, they never will.I am sorry this is happening. I hope you find what works better for you!(Now is also a great time to be a job seeker : )
adcommodore's profile thumbnail
Hi Jacquelyn, I relate so much to your story. And I know right now things are not easy. But you will find way or find the right job to flourish and thrive in but it might take some time and effort from you (unfortunately). I found that I was happiest and most satisfied in a job when I had co-workers who looked like me or shared my experience but it took me a while to figure out where that was. In the end, being undermined throughout my entire career taught me discernment and self-awareness of when to listen to the criticism and when to not. I eventually branched out to start my own business and I learned that there was a reason why everything had been so gave me the resilience to build the work place I dreamed of. Its not you baby girl, its the system.
What you are going through sounds so frustrating. I'd say its systemic.Comments on looking young is a way of dismissing your contribution or muting the impact of your leadership. I've gotten these comments my entire career. To neutralize that behavior I've tried superficial things like dressing differently, wearing more or less makeup, wearing more conservative jewelry, and wearing platform heels..because I'm also short and there is nothing more annoying than having a tall man look down at me while he is being rude. Some of it helped reduce conversations about my looks. It didn't stop it. Calling people out has worked best. Sometimes I do it with humor. "You should see my parents they look younger than me!" Sometimes I don't use humor. My honesty makes the other person uncomfortable. "I hate when people bring up I look young. It is not important." I don't know what will work for you. I know it never fully stops.
Hi, I'm so sorry about what you are going through! This is definitely related to racism and/or sexism. However, when I face situations like this, in order to succeed, I need to pretend the world is fair and look at non-discrimination reasons why this might be happening. This is because if I assumed it was because of sexism/racism, I would be personally crushed and would feel like I couldn't accomplish anything, creating a vicious self-fulfilling cycle. (It's like I'm trying to trick my brain in order to motivate myself).So let's pretend your situation is happening to a white dude. The issue is still your manager. Having a bad or good direct manager makes a huge difference in whether you should stay at a job. It is worth switching managers or switching jobs until you find the right manager.Start within your current company and think about those awesome people that provided you support and mentorship. Are any of them in senior positions? Do any of them need someone to join their team (whether or not they are openly hiring)? First see if you can finagle your way into working for one of those people instead of your current manager. The reason I suggest this is because you are already inside the organization and can witness how people truly treat each other. It's harder to screen for this when you are job interviewing because everyone's presenting the rosiest picture possible to get you to join.If that won't work (I'm guessing you already know if it's possible or not based on the politics of your organization), start looking for new work.Keep in mind the manager matrix (see image). Beware of "nice" people who will never advocate for you. Hints that someone will be a good advocate: you have meaningful-back-and forth discussions, they ask for your opinion/input on things (don't just ask you to do stuff), and (most importantly) you've witnessed them successfully advocate for other people.