As the nation undergoes a moment of reckoning about racial injustice, people are turning a critical eye to racial disparities that exist in their own lives, including their workplace. For Bruins who feel they are experiencing racist barriers to job opportunities and promotions or racial microaggressions, the UC Alumni Career Network will host the “Navigating Racism in Career Advancement” event on April 19. The online session will acknowledge and address racist barriers that professionals may face in the workplace and share strategies for building a trusted network to support career advancement.
UC President Dr. Michael Drake will moderate the event, which will feature Linda Barreto, an alumna of UC Merced, and D’Artagnan Scorza, who earned his bachelor’s degree in religion and his doctorate in education at UCLA.
Scorza, who is currently president of the UCLA Alumni Association, spoke with us about the upcoming event and how it will provide support to those who are trying to navigate structural racism in their own careers.
What can attendees expect from this event?
One of the things this event is going to do is provide a grounding for alumni and participants to understand the moment that we’re in, to understand the importance of racial equity in this moment and to gain insights on how structural racism can serve as a barrier to career advancement. They will receive actionable tips on how to address those barriers, as well as any sort of issues related to microaggressions in the workplace.
Have you personally experienced racism that prevented a job promotion or opportunity?
Yes, in a number of ways, but my career is different in that I decided to make my career centered on and focused on dismantling structural racism. I’ve definitely faced it, but I’ve faced it by literally trying to take it head on. I take these systems on, take these challenges on and work to dismantle them. If we build policies and practices that challenge public and private agencies to do better and to do more to improve, then all young folks in our society can ultimately thrive.
What advice would you give to someone who experiences racist barriers in their career?
The advice I would give to people is to clearly understand what structural racism looks like, but also to begin to navigate that by calling upon your workplace to create the space needed to tackle those institutional barriers. A very practical way they can do that is by creating a work group or committee that identifies internal challenges to promotion opportunities or workplace practices that demoralize people. People can create the space for the dialogue that needs to happen in order to facilitate change. Employees can work with their supervisors, managers, CEOs and executive teams to elevate these conversations and topics in the workplace. They need to identify the policies and practices that are getting in the way and design solutions that ultimately dismantle or eliminate them.
How does this topic relate to your current role as the executive director of racial equity for the County of Los Angeles?
I help county departments identify the policies, practices and/or procedures that may inhibit opportunity and career advancement for communities of color. We’re working to open up opportunities for promotion and analyzing workplace culture and climate. We’re providing training as well as resources and tools, so different departments and agencies, both public and private, can eliminate barriers that folks may face in their workplace, which ultimately improves the workplace culture and climate.
It seems like a lot more companies are becoming aware of structural racism in the workplace and working to address it.
I am actually seeing it quite a bit. In fact, a lot of companies are developing employee groups to tackle these issues. Their employees are coming together, especially in the public sector, and calling upon their leadership to do more, to do better. They’re calling for more training, engagement, technical assistance and evaluation in their employee handbooks. I think we’re seeing a moment in time where employees are starting to push their companies to reckon with these inequities in the workplace. People have asked me if I feel like things will actually get better. And I tell them that I couldn’t do this work if I didn’t believe that people can change. I believe that people can change and that things will get better over time. We didn’t get here overnight, but we can make sure that each day shines brighter than the one before.