“There are not enough black women in professional spaces and that is what I am trying to change”. – Zeina Barr
Lately, there has been a lot of buzz about making the workplace more diverse and inclusive, it is almost like companies just want to tick off a box. Diversity and Inclusion workshops are rarely managed by people of color which can make diverse employees feel uninspired. Zeina Barr created a solution to solve this problem, she is changing the way companies address diversity and inclusion.
Zeina recently earned a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for creating the HR platform, Raise the Barr. Before creating the platform, she was a banker at a top financial firm. She is currently an IBM Intraprenuer! We recently sat down with Zeina to talk about her career path and what inspired her to start Raise the Barr.
As a young black woman in corporate America, how did you navigate your career in the Banking industry?
I originally wanted to go to medical school so I majored in biology and english. I somehow found myself in banking through an internship in college. That was basically my entry into corporate America. I soon found that it wasn’t my niche. The entrepreneurship journey has been challenging but very rewarding.
What was your inspiration behind “Raise the Barr”? What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?
I was in corporate America and I didn’t see any engagement with diversity and inclusion. I didn’t see the “inclusive part” of the training being effective and being executed properly. I wanted to do something that wasn’t as monotonous and actually left an impact.
Diversity means allowing people from all different perspectives of life to be in a place and collaborate from all points of life. Diversity and inclusion means so many different things because it is different in every situation.
Did you have a lot of black female mentors growing up? Did you see black women in careers you aspired to?
It was really difficult to find black female mentors. We have Opera and she broke barriers in every single aspect of her life to get to where she is. If I could do half of what Opera is doing, I will be very happy.
There are not enough black women in professional spaces and that is what I am trying to change.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is allowing the people you are managing and leading to shape who you are as a mentor and learning from what you are teaching them. Being a leader means being inclusive to all people. Having a team of seven is hard, and it is hard to be an effective leader, you will make mistakes but you will also realize what works.
“I was in corporate America and I didn’t see any engagement with diversity and inclusion. I didn’t see the “inclusive part” of the training being effective and being executed properly. I wanted to do something that wasn’t as monotonous and actually left an impact”
For Millennials in the Workplace: Go above and Beyond. Just go out and do it. Just don’t do the norm because as a black female you have to work twice as hard as our white counterparts. Do what you can’t stop thinking about. I wake up without an alarm clock because I am so passionate about what I am doing.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Ask for Mentorship. Ask for Money from investors. Don’t be afraid of people telling you NO.