International Women’s Day: 4 TED talks from BIPOC women and what they teach us about racial equity in the workplace

The fight for workplace equity is also the battle against stereotypes. When we push for parity, we have to rewrite and rewire — changing our own perspectives first before bringing others along in the journey.

It can feel like a long and lonely process, but it’s one many people have walked before. And many of those people have taken to the TED stage to share their experiences.

Here is our list of 4 of the best TED talks from BIPOC women, tackling stereotyping, intersectionality, wealth gaps, and biases. This International Women’s Day, let’s learn from each other to promote race and gender equity.

4 TED talks from BIPOC women and their lessons for workplace equity

1. Villy Wang – ‘A business against racism

“I discovered that shiny elevators that smelt more like Armani than ammonia were actually scarier than the ones in the Projects”.

Villy Wang begins her talk by recounting the racially-motivated mugging she and her mother encountered while living in a New York housing project. Villy was just seven years old at the time. It was one stereotype laid over another: two young black men mugging a shy and quiet Chinese family, Villy explains.

Fast forward to her early twenties, and Villy is an Ivy-league-educated Wall Street banker, soon to be a corporate lawyer. “The perfect next-gen Chinese stereotype — and yet I felt far from being the model minority, never seeing Chinese business-women like me being represented in the media, on Wall Street, or as partners in law firms.”

Villy’s solution was to start a business that helps end racism. Part film school for disadvantaged youths, part production studio for ethical clients, BAYCAT set out to change the inequitable narrative perpetuated across the media. Graduates from BAYCAT have gone on to work at Netflix, Lucasfilm, Pixar, HBO, Universal Studios and more — some have even won Emmys.

What’s the lesson for workplace equity?

Villy’s talk reminds us that everyone carries their own experience and has bias shaped by the life they’ve led so far. And yet, narratives can be changed — over time and with dedicated work.

If your hiring practices, promotion opportunities, and ethnicity pay gap could talk, what would the narrative be? Would it be one of inclusion and support for those born with and without advantage? If not, what needs to change?

2. Dwinita Mosby Tyler – ‘Want a more just world? Be an unlikely ally

“You can ask anyone you want, and they will tell you that they are sick and tired of fighting for justice”, starts Dwinita Mosby Tyler in her TEDx talk filmed in 2019.

“People of colour and members of the LGBT community are tired of carrying the burden of speaking up and stepping up even when they’re being silenced and pushed back down.

And white allies and cis allies are tired, too. Tired of being told they’re doing it wrong or that it isn’t even their place to show up at all. This fatigue is impacting all of us. And in fact, I believe we won’t succeed until we approach justice in a new way.”

Perhaps this is an experience you can empathise with?

But Dwinita’s message isn’t for us all to take a step back and rest. In fact, she believes that power lies in unlikely allyship. What if men led the push for workplace pay equality, she asks. What if white people led the way for anti-racism? It’s complicated, she admits, as a “consciousness of grace” is required, and those facing injustice have to be willing to accept the help.

And still, “It is collective work”, Dwinita explains, “It requires everyone to be all in”.

What’s the lesson for workplace equity?

Look at the support groups and initiatives you’ve put in place in your organisation. Is the LGBTQ+ group made up of those in the community only, rather than allies too? Are white people taking roles of responsibility in anti-racism advocacy?

We touched on this in a previous article, but everyone needs to feel empowered to fight discrimination when they see it and promote race and gender equity. Can that be said for your workplace?

3. Kimberlé Crenshaw – ‘The urgency of intersectionality

The opening two and half minutes of Kimberlé Crenshaw’s 2016 TEDWomen talk can’t be quoted here. Not because they contain expletives or because they go against FLAIR’s value-set (far from it, in fact). But because they are simply too powerful when spoken to be reproduced in writing.

Instead, we’ll jump ahead to something she says toward the end of her talk: “If we can’t see a problem, we can’t fix a problem”. And it’s our difficulties with intersectionality, a concept that Kimberblé herself coined in 1989, that lead us to be blind.

What’s the lesson for workplace equity?

We may understand the female experience in our workplaces, but do we understand the Black, Asian, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese female example? Kimberlé insists that we need frames of reference to better understand and represent how these minority disadvantages overlap and exacerbate issues. Can you say for certain what the employee experience is when you consider intersectionality?

>> FLAIR captures the truth of an employee experience, sifting through thousands of data points to measure anti-racism and present improvement opportunities. Book a demo today.

4. Kedra Newsom Reeves – ‘How to reduce the wealth gap between Black and white Americans

Kedra’s TED@BCG broadcast is a stark reminder of the financial inequity that minority individuals live with every day.

As a consultant for banking institutions, hedge funds, asset managers, Kedra sees first-hand how large the wealth gap can be. But, as a Black American, she can also appreciate how “policy intersects with wealth” — particularly how, at the end of slavery in the US, enslavers were given policy privileges over those who had been recently released from slavery, like her great-great-grandfather.

“There’s a lot of history there,” Kedra says to her audience, “But that story tells you a bit about how we get to this 10x gap where we are today”.

As Kedra lays it out, the path to progress is all about giving Black people the same banking opportunities as their racial majority peers. It’s also about supporting Black entrepreneurs and having policies work in a worthy individual’s favour, rather than benefiting one demographic over the rest.

What’s the lesson for workplace equity?

Ethnicity pay gaps are a very real issue in most modern organisations — simply because of the entrenched and systemic inequities that Kedra details.

“This gap is not new. It was born and perpetuated by federal policy, social constructs and business practice over time, and all of those things need to change to start to close the gap.”

So what can your organisation do to close that gap up? For one, you should assess the current pay grades against ethnicity and gender (remember, the intersectionality of both likely means that BIPOC women are paid even less fairly). Publishing your findings will motivate faster, more meaningful change, too.

Moving forward as a community

International Women’s Day is a rallying cry for us all to #BreakTheBias. We all have stories to share and experiences to detail — and together, through collective effort, we can make progress toward gender and racial equity.

As IWD 2022’s theme, Breaking the bias means:

  • A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
  • A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
  • A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

That’s a future that FLAIR is dedicated to achieving, as well. Learn more about FLAIR’s approach to anti-racism over on the blog or by contacting the team today.

New England Schools Partner with FLAIR to Help Stay Accountable for Progressing Racial Equity
7th September 2023
success stories
St Mark's - Case Study
7th September 2023
success stories
How Wellan Montessori School is Using FLAIR's Technology to Drive Racial Equity
7th September 2023