Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in the blog series Amplifying Marginalized Voices, which aims to provide space for voices from marginalized backgrounds and inform readers about the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion in all aspects of our lives.
Have you ever felt discredited or wrongfully invalidated within a group? Well, according to a recent study, this behavior is not uncommon. Due to power differences and preconceived notions of oppressive stereotypes by authority figures, valuable ideas can easily be overlooked, stolen, or wrongfully credited.
Within this study, it was revealed that individuals holding marginalized identities are more likely to have their voices demobilized, disrespected, and dismissed: particularly women; LGBTQIA+; Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC); and members of other marginalized communities.
The Danger of a Single Story
Marginalized community members bring different perspectives than their relatively more privileged peers, shedding light on specific issues associated with living under systemic oppression. The single story creates stereotypes, but stereotypes do not provide the full story.
Author and storyteller Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie focused on this issue in a TED Talk back in 2009 called, “The Danger of a Single Story”. Adichie speaks on how the “single story” can affect not only the way we present ourselves but the way that we affect others. The phrase “single story” is used by Adichie to describe the false perceptions and simple misunderstandings of people, groups, or communities caused by a single story.
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete … they make the one story become the only story,” she said.
Listening to marginalized voices allows for the single story to develop into the full story. Not only does it decrease social exclusion but allows for constructive ideas for improving organizational processes and functions to reach decision-makers. Prioritizing all voices at all organizational levels is critical to achieving better decision-making practices, increased creativity, and improved inclusion.
In many cases, people with marginalized identities are elusive and tend to hold back their voices due to fear of negative career consequences or penalties. The root of the problem stems from the traditional business structure. Corporations and organizations are responsible for providing an inclusive community where all individuals feel safe to speak their truth. Otherwise, the endless possibilities and valuable insight will remain shrouded by systemic racism, misogyny, and discrimination otherwise. Institutional leaders and authorities play a critical role in encouraging marginalized voices and are the primary system of support: They have the highest levels of power to foster voice and inclusivity amongst individuals and their teams.
Start with Allyship
More broadly, individuals with relatively more privileged identities have a responsibility to utilize their advantages to advocate for those who have relatively more marginalized identities. This commitment on the part of more privileged members of our communities is imperative to empowering marginalized voices and uplifting the current environment of both the workplace and the college campus. Even individuals who hold certain types of marginalization in their identity, those who have aspects of privilege also need to utilize their platform and advocate for those less fortunate. For example, white women need to advocate for women of color, Black men need to advocate for Black women, and so on.
Advocacy and allyship are important and crucial aspects of amplifying voices, especially marginalized ones. It is key to fostering safe environments that are welcoming to everyone. There is continuous research that supports the benefits of allyship in the workplace and the benefits of an inclusive work culture. Deloitte research has found that employees in organizations with high levels of inclusion and allyship report greater levels of contentment. In addition, there is also a higher retention rate, 56% increase in improved performance, and up to 167% increase in employee recommendations and positive feedback. Notably, If you’re an ally only behind a closed-door, then you’re not a true ally.
Victoria Nguyen is a Marketing & Business Administration student at the Eccles School of Business. She currently serves as an intern for the Marketing + Communications team, as well as a Student Coordinator for the Student Engagement & Assessment team and Business Career Ambassador on the Business Career Services Marketing & Communications team.