You often hear about certain industries being dominated by straight, white men — technology, business, science, etc. And while there is still much to be done to diversify many fields of work, it's hard to ignore the tremendous strides people of color — particularly women of color — have been making to bring fresh narratives and mindsets to the professional realms. One of those women? Melody Myers, an associate television producer for a financial media outlet in New York.
Nearly three years ago, 24-year-old Myers broke into the industry after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She started as an intern for her current company — after members from her college's chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists encouraged her to apply — and has worked her way up to associate producer. Now, she's pitching commerce-related ideas to her team, helping to produce show segments, booking guests, tracking financial market trends, and assembling research packets for on-air anchors. Although Myers is aware that there aren't many visible black women in her line of work, she doesn't see her identity as a setback or disadvantage — quite the opposite, actually; it's her superpower.
"We're very quick to say, 'I'm black, and I'm a woman — that's two strikes against me,'" Myers told POPSUGAR. "But because my experiences differ from a white male or someone else of another background, I'm able to give another angle that might not have been thought of. I also feel like, shoot, if I already stand out, you have no excuse to not remember me." But Myers also noted that women of color often experience moments of doubt because of their identities. "You always have that inner dialogue with yourself, like 'Do I do this? Do I not do this? How am I going to be perceived or thought about?'" she added. "But at a certain point, you just have to say 'whatever, forget it.' I want to do the best job possible and be the best whoever I am possible."
Image Source: Nigil Crawford
Myers recently experienced that bit of second-guessing before deciding to pitch a story about Lauren Simmons, a 24-year-old black woman who is making history and a name for herself in the fiscal field. In 2017, Simmons became the youngest and only full-time female trader at the New York Stock Exchange as well as the second black person to hold such a position in the NYSE's history.
"At a certain point, you just have to say 'whatever, forget it.' I want to do the best job possible and be the best whoever I am possible."
"I thought this would be great with a good angle of diversity," Myers recalled when she brought the story idea to her manager. "You have someone who's young and a woman of color, and I related that with me being a woman of color, as well. That's a really big deal." Thankfully, Myers's coworkers were receptive and supportive of the idea, and Myers was able to make it come to fruition and have Simmons be a guest on the show.
It's that type of victory Myers remembers when she's encouraging other black women to apply for positions they might not feel equipped or adequate enough for. "I just try to encourage people to apply for what they want," she said. "Don't say 'no' just because you're not sure how you're going to do. Always try. Don't hesitate to do something outside of your comfort zone because that's what I did when I went after this job."
One of the biggest benefits of representation in the workplace is the impact of inspiration, Myers emphasized. If someone from an underrepresented group sees someone like them living out their dream career, then that can galvanize their aspirations and encourage them to aim high. Then suddenly, barriers will be broken, glass ceilings will be shattered, and the world will see a colorful range of experiences.
"Even if you're scared to get into a space that's dominated by one specific group, do it anyway," she said. "Put yourself in that room because you provide a valuable viewpoint that other people might not have. Don't let the fear of being the only one or one of few keep you from embracing what could be an amazing opportunity because you don't know where that could lead you and how that can open doors and inspire other women of color."