While enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at my PWI (predominantly white institution), I expected to be in the minority. It’s not uncommon to see less minorities in PWIs, especially in graduate level education. My hope was that the workforce would be a little different. Why? In the workforce there are many people from all over who are transplanted in Greenville, North Carolina, my small college town. I live in a place that would not be exactly be hailed as a black Mecca, but it is still somewhat diverse. The population of my county is roughly 55% White, 34% Black , and 6% Hispanic. I was mistaken. It seems the few minorities that were in my town moved away shortly after graduating from the university, or garnering a few years experience in their field.
I cannot even begin to tell you how many people actually assumed that once I graduated I would move to somewhere like Charlotte, or Atlanta. So, as I set out for employment I accepted that there may not be many colleagues that looked like me. What I did not expect was for there to be none.
I happen to work within an organization that I feel supports diversity, and I have a supervisor who is very inclusive and appreciative of all cultures. What I could not help but wonder was “Am I the ‘twofer’?”
A few years ago, I was watching a spinoff movie called ‘What Women Want’ starring the amazing Taraji P. Henson. She plays a spunky black female sports agent. In this particular scene, she was discussing her value to the team with her boss, when he hinted that she was only employed at the company because of her ethnicity and gender. I remember her proclaiming “I am not your twofer!” That struck a chord with me. ‘Twofer’ would imply that you check the box for racial inclusion and gender inclusion in a predominantly homologous role.
Fast forward to today’s newly overt recognition of what many minorities already knew, that inclusivity matters. Duh?! One can’t help to wonder whether we are being offered new roles based off merit and education or off the sudden need for companies to show that they support diversity. Am I more likely to get a job now because I am a black Nurse Practitioner or because I am the right fit? For years, the running joke in the Black community used to be name your kid something simple so that when they submit a job application, someone will not overlook them due to their ‘ethnic’ name. This may be reverse now. Are we sought after because our names indicate clues into our race when we submit applications?
Here is the kicker, being the ‘twofer’ isn’t always a bad thing. Why? Well, a seat at the table allows you to pave the way for more chairs later. This is how we change the narrative. This changes the work place from being a secondary ‘PWI’. This means we don’t all flock to the placers that are more culturally diverse, we create that space where we are so that our whole nation becomes culturally diverse.
So, if the only way to get in the door is to be let in from checking the boxes, it is our responsibility to ensure that we remain at the table because we actually have the education, experience, and expertise to stay there and make it a better place because of us. Or better yet, remember the words relayed to Tara Jaye Frank by the late Dr. Maya Angelou, “You don’t have to give up your seat to anyone. You are just as worthy of that seat as he is, and you have every right to sit proudly in it.”