Dr. Sheila Robinson became an expert in diversity and inclusion, and learned firsthand how racism holds Black women back during her 14 year career at a Fortune 100 company, working her way from the factory floor to the executive office. After stepping away from that career path, she founded her company, Diversity Woman Media, to reach other Black women, support them, and build awareness and education to promote diversity and inclusion in business. Having built her company to national prominence, she sees the way out of systemic racism by following the lead of the over 100 corporations she partners with. They know that integrating a diverse culture of all colors, races and backgrounds results in more profits, greater business success and more engaging employees, and that’s why they have made it part of their mission and growth to be more inclusive organizations. She says, “If we can learn from that as a government and society, then globally we can become more competitive and understand that we are the greatest country in the world.”
Black History Month—Awareness Through Sharing Stories
Black History Month has been celebrated every February since its founding in 1925. Dr. Sheila says that it provides a focus on Black history for 28 days that Black people have 365 days of the year. She hopes the increased awareness will educate everyone not only about historical stories, but also the inequities that still exist, prompting them to work together to abolish the systemic racism that continues to persist in this country. She lists the inequities and barriers to equality throughout our systems: education, health care, the criminal justice system, housing. But most of all, her work focuses on empowering and valuing people equally in the workplace. Dr. Sheila says:
Let’s acknowledge that a problem exists, and that McKinsey research shows that Black women are at the bottom of the workplace from entry level all the way up to the C-Suite. Of every demographic, of any race, of any color, Black women are at the bottom. And that’s a problem because we already know that there are so many Black women that have done some extraordinary things in life. They continue to soar and contribute to greatness and there’s no reason why—well, there’s only one reason that Black women are not valued for their worth, and that’s racism.
The extraordinary things Black women and men have done throughout our history are largely omitted from our history books. Dr. Sheila points out that we have mandatory American history classes throughout high school, but there is nothing for Black history. That’s also part of the systemic racism. Black History Month celebrates those extraordinary things that extraordinary Black people have contributed to our American history, so we can learn their stories and honor them in the way they deserve.
Black History Month Theme: The Black Family
Dr. Sheila says she sees two aspects of the Black family. One is love and the other is resilience and all of the things they mean to families. While there is much to celebrate, part of her aches for the Black family, because they are up against so much and even have to tell their children to be careful when they are walking outside. She points out, “You know our child can be shot down for wearing a hoodie or certain article of clothing.” She says that Black families are not allowed access to the same health care and housing as others because of systemic racism that exists in America. And she says that the Black family is suffering. People have come to her and said, “You’re not suffering. They’re just not working as hard as you.” Dr. Sheila says that is not true at all and told a story about Oprah Winfrey going into a store and being treated like a criminal because they didn’t know who she was. It doesn’t matter who you are or how hard you work or how much money you have when people have biases about the color of your skin, they‘ll treat you accordingly. Dr. Sheila sums it up, “This is a human race problem. This is about dignity and respect for all people.”
Resources through Diversity Woman
Listen to this conversation to find out more perspectives on how we can get more done together. Dr. Sheila talks about the initiatives of Diversity Woman Media, and how she thinks if we educate enough people, we can create systemic change that creates excitement about having more jobs and economic growth. Then we can focus on how great we can become—together—instead of struggling through fear.
Visit her website and register for the new “Wellness Wednesday,” a free workshop at noon every Wednesday to help women navigate through the challenges we’re having with COVID. Sheila says, “We love to give and we love to help.” One of those ways Diversity Woman gives is with the annual Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference, the conference that Dr. Nancy completely changed the way she sees diversity and inclusion. Dr. Sheila says that she started the conference to connect CEOs with entry level women and it has succeeded beyond her dreams. It’s the corporations that give her hope of pushing past systemic racism. She says, “Corporations have policies in place to focus on putting more Black leaders into management roles, to advancing more women—getting more women on boards, investing in non-profits to help do this work. So there are some great things happening, but we have work to do.”