There was something I always admired about Ryan Rogers*. No more than 6–7 years my senior, I worked alongside Ryan while I was in Public Relations. I, a Senior Account Executive, he about three promotions ahead of me as a VP.
A 30-something-year-old white man, Ryan was the type of person who clients gravitated towards. He was smart yet affable. Approachable but confident. Funny without trying too hard. Ryan somehow always appeared unfazed by problems that would leave our fellow colleagues in a tailspin. In that regard, Ryan had this effortless way of moving within PR — and arguably — the world.
But I had a hard time working under Ryan.
I needed more direction than he wished to provide. I craved more project organization than he felt necessary to have. I was hungry for more managerial support in busy seasons than he offered to give. In my opinion, Ryan was simply fulfilling his duties; rarely going above and beyond.
Throughout my time working in corporate America, I’ve met many Ryans. Not simply because the name is common, but because corporate America is filled with white men who are good enough.
Good enough to get the promotion.
Good enough to get by without exerting too much effort.
Good enough to be considered great.
To be fair, Ryan was not necessarily doing anything wrong. It took me years to realize this; to understand my frustration with him or every other white man who got by on average effort was because of my innate knowledge that I could never be afforded such a luxury.
The Impact of Upbringing
I spent great effort battling my own imposter’s syndrome my first years in corporate America. Despite growing up in a household in which my parents affirmed my wits — early in my career, my belief in them evaporated as if a switch was flipped off.
Maybe the light was dimmed before I even started working. In those final years of high school, when I was the lone Black girl in my International Baccalaureate classes. In those days, I felt I was being unfairly…