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Posted under: Community Submitted

My Name Is My Name: The Issue With Conforming To Societal Norms To Get Ahead In Corporate America

I will not change by "black sounding name"

I recently came across an article about an African-American woman who changed her name in order to get ahead in corporate America. This made me think about how growing up I was always called the "oreo” amongst my friends. In today’s society, an "oreo” is someone who is black on the outside as but has “white people tendencies.” This term could describe an African-American who uses proper language, grows up in a two-parent household, watches on TV and follows certain celebrities. I grew up in income-based housing but with two parents in the household, which was very rare for where I lived. 

My name is SaDiedrah (pronounced Sah-Dee-drah.) I was given the nickname “Dede” when I was just six years old. This was a name that my family members called me, but not many friends. I went to an HBCU for my undergraduate career. During my tenure there, I went by my first name. I held a leadership position on campus, volunteered in my free time and also held a campus job as a writing consultant. When I started to look for jobs after college, I began to wonder if my name was preventing me from getting interviewed or getting hired. Ultimately choosing to attend a PWI for my graduate degree, this issue started to get me thinking about how I would be perceived on campus. This is a concern I see frequently in the Black community and especially in corporate America. According to the Huffington Post, those with black-sounding names have lower chances of getting an interview than those who have a more American name.

This issue is definitely on the rise since increasing numbers of African-Americans students are earning college degrees and applying for corporate jobs. I think that there should be more diversity workshops in corporations and even nonprofits about issues like this. It would benefit not only the company but also the person seeking a job. Just think to yourself, when you hear a “black-sounding name” what is your first thought? If you worked in the HR Department for a company would you be more inclined to pick that candidate to interview or someone else?

With a variety of companies being scrutinized over a lack of diversity in their brands, efforts to be more inclusive of different cultures, especially the black culture, will help boost their brand awareness. According to Fortune magazine, there are twenty-four female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, and only two of those CEOs, managing partners and presidents are of color (and their executive teams often reflect the same). This issue will remain prevalent if the companies don’t take it upon themselves to reconstruct their policies and ensure that their decision-makers are representatives of their future pool and their customers.    

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