There’s a Zulu word, “sawubona,” which means “I see you; you are important to me and I value you.”
Deepa Purushothaman shares this word and definition in the closing paragraph of her introduction to The First, The Few, The Only – How Women of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America. The book describes her journey and stories of other women of color (WOC) as they struggle and fight to gain power and true equity in business today.
I picked up the book after a non-white male business colleague emailed me and said that it included “several thoughts that wouldn’t have normally occurred to [him], several did, [and he] experienced some of the situations as an immigrant.”
Subjects offered in The First, The Few, The Only include:
– Delusions held by businesses, including that “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Will Fix It All”
– Personal Delusions held by WOC, including “The Shame of Invisibility and Difference”
– Tolls that micro-aggressions and inactions take on the mind and body
– Approaches to gaining power by deciding to stay with an organization or to go
If your curiosity is piqued by any of these topics, as mine was, I encourage you to read the book.
I learned that the reality for the first, few, or only WOC in an organization, or in a role within a company, is different from others. After being among the youngest and the first Indian American woman in history to make partner at Deloitte, I greatly admire Purushothaman for having had the courage to leave that role to pursue the empowerment of WOC. I believe her compilation of stories, perspectives and calls to action are useful to people of all genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
I encourage WOC, business leaders and those on leadership journeys to read this book. It offers an opportunity to build workplace empathy that leads to genuine inclusion and belonging.
Consider seeing the importance and value of color more clearly.
As always, I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts and comments!