In The Memo (Seal, Aug.; reviewed on p. 80), Harts dispenses career advice specifically for women of color.
How has your career development platform, also called the Memo, informed this book?
As a black or brown woman in the workplace, you’re often working in isolation, and you don’t know if it’s normal—or that other black and brown women are going through the same thing. The Memo was a test case to share my experience. If you build it, I thought, they will come. The Memo became a forum. We saw each other, we realized the problems were real and universal, and we talked about what to do next without leaning out. I wrote this book so others, far and wide, could see themselves in it.
What does workplace structural racism look like in the day-to-day?
Women of color get up every day and enter a space where they’re the only ones. No one who hasn’t experienced this knows what it feels like. People don’t want to have those difficult conversations in the workplace, and I want the book to allow people to listen and learn. The Memo is a love letter to women of color, so they can talk about their experiences—and not as an asterisk to someone else’s story. As long as I’m breathing on this earth, I will talk about this—I don’t want the next generation of women to suffer in silence.
How do business books already on the market fail women of color?
They don’t talk about the systemic issues that affect WOC. They’re one-size-fits-all and the statistics they quote don’t apply globally. WOC need to read about their own experiences, and not be asked to fit into other people’s boxes.
What do you wish you’d known when you started out?
I wish I’d known I wasn’t alone—that I deserved a seat at the table. The people who created the table don’t see WOC as the obvious winner, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t. This book is meant to foster the community that will help other WOC so that they don’t have to feel isolated and alone while building their careers.
What’s the #1 advice you would give young women just entering the workforce?
Be your own best advocate and write your own narrative. Never be ambivalent about your own career.
What can others do to be allies to women of color?
One chapter of The Memo talks about shifting the focus from “allies” to “success partners.” Some people have influence they can use today, right now. They can see who’s not at the table and speak up. Being well-intentioned isn’t enough—don’t just talk about it, be about it.