A Place to Connect

Jessica Pharm ’16 has built a wide following as a dispenser of honest career advice on her blog and on social media. Now, the Alverno MBA alumna is expanding her mission — and her reach — through a new website and podcast.

Blackness and the Workplace launched in July with a 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.” A podcast by the same name debuted Aug. 23, offering another platform for professionals to discuss key issues. New episodes will be released on Sundays.

“I talk about the good, the bad, the ugly and the in-between,” she says in the first episode. “All of this is coming from love. I believe in Blackness and the Workplace. I believe in what this platform stands for.”

The website builds off Pharm’s blog, where she continues to share her professional expertise and lessons learned in a bid to help, validate and support others with similar experiences. The site also features a members-only discussion forum called The Tea Room and a collection of resources to support professional, financial and personal development.

Pharm created The Tea Room in response to her readers, who often sent her private messages about their own experiences with racism and sexism in the workplace. “Many of these people are too afraid to talk about their issues on such a public and unprotected space like LinkedIn, so The Tea Room is there for them.”

Pharm hopes her site can facilitate important conversations around race and the workplace, providing Black professionals a safe place to share their experiences without being attacked or dismissed.

Pharm had only just discovered that safe space and sense of validation a few years ago online. Discovering that she was not alone in her experiences opened a whole new world and helped her erase the doubts that crept in about the cause of unfair treatment and negative experiences at work.

“Because you’re often times the only Black woman in your space, [you wonder:] Is it me? Am I the problem? Am I causing this? And then you realize no, it’s not me. It’s not me, it’s the system,” she says. “I’ve realized that I’m not the only one, and I need to be here for other Black women and Black men.”

To encourage important conversations, people of all backgrounds are welcome to join the Blackness and the Workplace community. Those who join as an ally in the fight against injustice are encouraged to listen and be willing to be held accountable

“To be a good ally, you step aside,” she says. “You listen and learn. You confront your own biases.”

This important work of ongoing self-assessment must begin before important conversations can happen, whether on the site or elsewhere.

“In order to address the issues that we’re seeing, you have to have dialogue. Everybody has to be willing to be transparent. We have to be honest with each other,” Pharm says. “We also have to be forgiving with each other. A lot of times people don’t know what they don’t know.”

To learn more and become a member, visit blacknessandtheworkplace.com  

On Sept. 17, 2020, Pharm will be one of the featured panelists at Alverno’s biennial Rise Together: An Evening to Celebrate Women of Color event. Click here to register for this virtual event. 

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