Episode 21

Deepa Purushothaman: Finding, feeling, and forging your power in the corporate world

Women of colour are one of the fastest-growing segments in the corporate workforce, yet often they are underrepresented — among the first, few or only ones in a department or company. For too long, corporate structures, the social zeitgeist and cultural conditioning have left them feeling exhausted and downtrodden, believing that in order to ‘fit in’ and be successful, they must hide or change who they are.

How can they ‘find, feel and forge their power in the corporate world’? Understanding the delusions that pervade the system is an important start, as is shedding messages we tell ourselves (or have been told by those who’ve come before us). Playing this role, acting as the role model and mentor to others is demanding, often taking its toll on mental and physical health.

Improving the representation, inclusion and belonging of women of colour requires allies — yes, men in the powerful positions — and collective action to confront, outdated behaviours and workplace assumptions and inertia.

Deepa Purushothaman shares the highlights of her book The First, The Few, The Only: How Women of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America in this moving, challenging, eye-opening conversation with me.

The best bits of these conversations are captured in my newsletter Flashes+Sparks.

Further resources

Deepa Purushothaman is a former senior partner at Deloitte, a corporate inclusion visionary and a co-founder of nFormation, a membership-based community for professional women of colour, offering brave, safe, new space and helping place women of colour in C-suite positions and on boards.

VIEW RUNNING ORDER

03.31 The concept of delusion.
04.41 Talking about what’s broken in the corporate system.
05.26 The delusion of a meritocracy.
06.05 The delusion of ‘eventually I’ll do it my way’.
06.40 The delusion of scarcity.
09.02 The inner work.
11.33 The responsibility of mentoring.
13.15 Where to start if you’re a white, male leader.
17.18 Making changes in meetings.
20.17 Power of ‘we’ — it isn’t networking.
23.34 Deepa’s own story.
27.03 A picture of corporate America.
29.22 The most important actions to take.
32.48 The biggest change since leaving the corporate world.
33.56 Power.
34.56 Her lasting impact.

“We have to change the game while we’re playing the game.”

Deepa Purushothaman, Co-founder, nFormation

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