"I do it all, yet I'm always discouraged because of nepotism. What do I do?"
The expert: Ruchika Tulshyan is CEO of Candour and author of "Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work." Here's her advice.
I identify with these feelings of frustration both personally and from my research talking to hundreds of professional women of color for my book. "Inclusion on Purpose." Navigating nepotism is an issue women of color face regularly, particularly because research around affinity bias shows we all tend to favor people like us and reject those we perceive as different.
So even when women of color excel in the workplace, when that workplace is largely made up of white leaders (which is typically the case in corporate America), those leaders are highly likely to recruit or advance white people.
If you feel safe talking with your manager about what's going on, I'd recommend bringing it up. Keep the conversation factual: "I've brought in 10 new clients over the last year which amounted to a 4x revenue growth for the organization. I noticed that the CEO's nephew was promoted to director. Could you explain to me how this decision was made?" I recommend a similar approach when surfacing issues of bias at work too––demonstrate curiosity and ask for more information, which often leads to a more productive discussion than calling someone "biased" or "nepotistic."
In addition, I'd caution ambitious women against "doing it all." Longstanding research from Joan C. Williams finds women and people of color are unfairly expected to complete "office housework," or work that helps the organization run smoothly but won't be recognized in a performance review or with a promotion. The latter is called "glamour work."
Research finds men get assigned glamour work and women often volunteer for office housework, because of societal expectations. My advice would be to be strategic in turning down office housework, or keeping close track and communicating when you do complete it, so you can negotiate recognition for it (such as additional pay or having it added to performance metrics towards a promotion.)
Lastly, you don't have to do it all (and shouldn't!) but if you're doing a lot and still not getting a shot at advancement because of nepotistic practices in your workplace, it's fair to look elsewhere. An inclusive workplace where you feel welcome, valued and appreciated is key to your professional and mental health success.
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