A few weeks ago I interviewed at a company in Los Angeles. I walked into a beautiful studio space thinking just a few years ago this would have been a dream job for me. The walls were white, the office clean, the decor on point. My interviewer introduced herself to me wearing a millennial pink trench and Warby Parker glasses. It seemed picture perfect.
After a round of question asking and answering, she offered to take me on a tour of the office. She took me by the photo studio then introduced me to the women in the front office. She greeted each one by name and proceeded to explain each woman's job description. After meeting a few people, I noticed something that completely caught me off guard. Every single employee (save one) was white.
Next she asked me to follow her into the production area of the building. Seated at a large square table were six to eight women - none of them white. This room had a very different vibe than the first, and instead of greeting the women by name, my interviewer referred to the production team as a collective group, not once looking one of them in the eye. Then she made a comment that shocked me so much I had to use self control to keep my mouth from falling open.
She told me that "they" didn't care as much what this space looked like since no one ever saw this part of the office anyway. Then she turned and said "Now the only other significant person I want you to meet is..." She was standing right in front of the group of middle-aged African American and Hispanic women, as if she didn't even notice (or care).
I made eye contact with one and tried to smile nervously, but she immediately looked away. I wondered how many people get a tour of the office and never get to know her name. My interviewer didn't seem to know it either. And it really bothered me.
A few years ago I'm not sure I would have even noticed the exchange, but now I simply can't unsee. What happened in that interview was called workplace racial bias. And it's not something I can excuse, nor will I quickly look the other way.
In the end, I left feeling so grateful for the education I've received and for the friends from different backgrounds who have let me into their stories. I realized then, that I am a different person than I was a few years ago. I smiled. It felt good to be different.
Once you start seeing other people for who they are regardless of their skin color or background, you can't just turn it off. If we let it, self-awareness and education help us get past our unconscious bias.
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