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Building Our Own Table: Jessica Pharm
Meet the founder of the Blackness and the Workplace podcast
I’ve been enjoying Jessica Pharm’s posts on LinkedIn for a while now. We talk and write about similar issues, and she’s a fellow podcaster. So I was interested to learn more about how the Blackness and the Workplace podcast came into being. Please meet Jessica…
Tell me briefly about your background prior to founding Blackness and the Workplace
My career is in Human Resources with a focus on Talent Acquisition, a field I've been in for almost ten years now. Throughout my career, I've often witnessed or have experienced discrimination and other forms of trauma in the workplace. Initially, I posted on LinkedIn solely on topics based on HR and TA, refusing to get personal for fear of backlash or harassment, but in 2019, something changed for me and I started Blackness and the Workplace as a blog. From there, I started to find my voice and not only wrote articles about career development but also personalized my content and spoke about my experiences as a Black woman both in corporate America and the world at large.
What’s the elevator pitch for Blackness and the Workplace?
The pitch of Blackness and the Workplace lies in our mission, "to empower Black professionals by providing resources, guidance, and support within a safe place to speak truth to power about the uniqueness of our shared experiences and identities."
And in more detail?
Our vision is to center, promote, build and support the experiences of Black professionals. In other words, it's about Black folks all day every day!
What inequity were you trying to redress/address, and why is this important?
Back in 2016, a viral hashtag called #blackwomenatwork circulated on Twitter. From there Black women from all backgrounds spoke about the blatant disrespect and sometimes outright racism they’ve experienced in the workplace. It blew my mind! For years, I thought I was the problem, and to realize this is systemic changed everything for me! It caused a major shift in my thinking and how I presented myself in the workplace. From there, I started Blackness and the Workplace to bring those conversations out into the open in an effort to make a change!
How’s it going? What has the response been?
It has been going great! I launched the podcast back in August 2020 and the feedback has been incredible. I bootstrap everything I do and had to take a break for a few months due to major life changes but I love the work I do! I am always getting messages from people (Black and white, if you can believe that) who appreciate my voice and the work I do. Blackness and the Workplace has led to some great collaborations and amazing relationships!
What are your top three episodes?
I did a series about Performance Improvement Plans aka PIPS and how they can often be used as a weapon against Black professionals. This last episode in the series is hosted by myself and Deborah Owens, the founder and CEO of Corporate Alley Cat. We discuss how someone can protect themselves and overcome the PIP.
I advocate for people to advocate for themselves and in this episode we talk about just how to do that. I speak with Brianna Green who drops some major gems!
Erika has written two articles I share on a regular basis about the Black woman’s experience in the workplace. I knew I wanted her on the show! She speaks about her career which included handling the trauma she experienced from dealing with a toxic workplace.
Any other interesting ventures coming up for you in relation to redressing inequity? What's next for Blackness and the Workplace?
At this time, I am still not 100% sure what’s next. I still love collaborating with others and speaking out about injustice and inequality as that will never change. As for Blackness and the Workplace, I am writing a book (God only knows if I’ll ever publish it) about my experience in the workplace as well as imparting advice to my fellow Black professionals.
In relation to racism, what’s your vision for the future?
I’m not sure about the future. In addition to racism and other divisions, we are losing the battle when it comes to protecting the environment which is going to add fuel to the fires we already have. I do what to see less talking and more action from our leaders to level the playing field and provide access to opportunities for everyone.
Thanks for reading,
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2022. All Rights Reserved.
Background image courtesy of Getty Images - Colors Hunter - Chasseur de Couleurs