I was given the opportunity to share my story with my fellow MBA for Executives students Black History Month, and it was an enlightening experience. I’m grateful that Yale SOM not only welcomes diverse perspectives, but also encourages us to engage in open discourse about them in furtherance of the school’s mission, educating leaders for business and society.
As black students continue to be underrepresented in business school programs, fellow future business leaders are denied the opportunity to learn from the unique and rewarding experiences that shaped the lives and careers of their black classmates. Our panel consisted of an orthopedic surgeon, a certified public accountant and financial manager, and an attorney and healthcare executive, whose achievements have come from the immigrant, African-American, and first-generation American perspectives.
While I expected that many of the challenges we face as black professionals would align, I was surprised at the variety in how these challenges presented in our varied careers. Some of us experienced them overtly as the only minority in a scholastic or professional setting, or subtly as common racist micro-aggressions such as presumption of criminality or assignment of intelligence as representatives of our race.
To be honest, after the panel I felt that the biggest commonality we shared was that just as professional success does not define racial and cultural identities for anyone, none of us allow our identities to define our careers. However, we are all appreciative of both the disadvantages and benefits we face and the unique perspectives they provide us.
More about Black History Month at Yale SOM: