A couple years ago, I helped a client put together a new speech supporting his latest book.
Together, we carefully chose the images he would project to tell the three pivotal stories in his talk. For one of them—about a young NYC professional couple—we picked an African American image.
We did it on purpose—to underline that his practice and his expertise served more than one culture.
But I wasn’t thinking about that as I stood in the back of the room in New York when he debuted his speech. I was watching the crowd to gauge what caught their attention or seemed to move them.
One young woman in particular had tears in her eyes, but I wasn’t sure what had sparked them.
So when the speaker finished, I made it a point to meet her. When I asked what she’d remember about the talk, she jumped right in.
She was a twenty-something Black PR specialist and said: “I go to a lot of professional meetings and presentations, but I almost never see someone who looks like me up on the screen.”
I blinked back a few tears myself—how unfair that a promising young woman in a sophisticated city didn’t get to see other women like herself on the big stage.
That’s what it’s like for many in the professions.
It’s damned annoying not to see yourself reflected in pivotal venues—the ones that can accelerate your career development or give you some much needed industry visibility.
And let’s be clear—that is only one small part of the systemic racism built into our culture.
So what can we do to make this better?
Clearly, that’s a big question that needs many voices and even more ears to listen and brainstorm—together—on solutions.
In the meantime, I’d like to make a small suggestion. Something we can each do right now to start unwinding the unconscious bias around us.
It starts with knowing that images are powerful.
So when you use them—on your website, in social media, in your articles—don’t limit yourself to the conventional choices.
Casting a wider net sends a signal that you care about a more diverse experience.
Ditto when you’re looking for speakers and guests to share your platform.
Think of ALL the people who might be in your ideal audience, hoping to see that you serve—and care about—someone just like them.