Representation matters

Getting into varsity is hard while getting into the working world can leave you tearing your hair out. The one thing that helped me ease into another chapter of life was the support from other women of colour.

I was lucky enough to work with several black/brown women at my first “real” job and I can’t tell emphasise how important it is to have that kind of representation around a fresh-outta-varsity graduate.

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I’ve heard some horror stories about managers who belittled their interns or team members, who stalked people’s social media and others who blatantly refused to help impart knowledge.

There are some brilliant minds out there, a shit ton of young creative people who want to work. It boggles my mind that there are still companies who view graduates as nothing but cheap labour, when they can be your greatest asset. Train someone well, respect them and let them feel valued.

At the ripe old age of 24, I was a social media manager who needed some assistance so I got the go-ahead to hire some interns. I wanted to make a difference and mostly, just make sure that young black and brown women I hired had a support structure at their first jobs. I don’t think I did too badly. 

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I still keep in contact with some of the interns I hired and they’re exceptional people who are multifaceted af.  But the reality is, being a woman of colour in South Africa’s creative industry is tough, from the flippant racist micro-aggressions to the underhanded office politics swirling all around you.

I aimed to be a teacher of sorts, but I think I learnt more about myself. I love teaching and I enjoy working with “the youth”. I also realised that not everyone is cut out for teamwork or respecting others, no matter how fair you are.

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Every little bit helps and while I love being a resource, I had to learn that I don’t have to give my time to anyone. Time and time again, people took advantage of my kindness and willingness to help.

If you’re looking to have someone mentor you or just give you advice, kind of be prepared to work? It’s not fair to assume one person can give you all the answers without some preparation from your side.

I’m but a mere 25 (almost 26) and certainly don’t know it all. I’m still reeling that someone even let me be a manager (sometimes).

But I hope more black and brown women can experience representation in all levels of the workplace. Even if it was little ol’ me.

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