Book Review – The Memo: What Women of Colour Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table by Minda Harts

This book was clearly written out of frustration with the career advice offered to women in books such as Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois Frankel. It’s great advice but the majority of the standard-issue career tips they offer don’t always address the experience of a woman of colour in a white male-dominated corporate environment. Women of colour face unique challenges in the workplace because of gender and racial discrimination as well as structural inequality. The answer is no, we don’t have the same 24 hours as men or white women and we start the race further back than they do.

Minda shakes the table and evens the scales for us by pointing out what the real problems are and how they should be addressed. As an African woman in a corporate job, it was a relief to finally read a book with career advice that speaks to my experience of working in a largely hostile environment. I have personally experienced many of the things she writes about and witnessed the others being experienced by women I know. The validation is heartfelt and appreciated.

We are not crazy. The micro-aggressions, passive-aggressive behaviour, gaslighting and the resulting anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress that we suffer are real. However she offers actionable insights that will put you in the driver’s seat of your career and well on your way to that seat at the table and the C-Suite. She talks about negotiating pay and benefits, being intentional in your career choices, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, setting boundaries and leveling up in terms of skills. She delivers her advice in a straight-talking manner. Call it tough love, but after reading this book you’ll put your big girl panties on, wipe those tears and come out of that corner swinging harder and faster than Muhammad Ali.

She also addresses white people, stating how their behaviour in the workplace is problematic. The truth is most white people suffer from unconscious bias and just don’t know how damaging their words and actions are. In this book she does not give them any free passes and tells it like it is in #DearWhitePeople style. When they get the message, they too will know better, do better and get on the team by becoming success partners for black women. In Minda’s own words, success is not a solo sport and to quote Jesus Christ, ‘he who is not for us is really against us and he who is not helping us gather is really scattering.’

My favourite quote says: “There are future generations of women of color counting on us to finish this race and make it better when they arrive! Please don’t bite the apple and leave the garden before your time.” Oh Amen! Was there ever any more encouragement than that?

Reading this book is like having lunch with a girlfriend, having the best time with laughter, a few tears, dessert and wine and coffee. I would definitely recommend it for any woman who’s tired of bumping her head against the glass ceiling. This is the sledgehammer you’ve been waiting for. Get your goggles because baby, that glass gon’ break in every direction.

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