mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Manager Reads - The Memo

In this episode of Manager Reads we enter the room, take a seat at the table, and review The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table by Minda Harts.

Who recommended the book? During the last meeting of Twitch’s Leadership Book Club we discussed Susan Fowler’s The Whisteblower. At that meeting someone mentioned it’d great to cover a book focused on the experience of women of color in the workplace. Fortunately the list of book recommendations from Karen Catlin, author of Better Allies, and Katrina Jones, Diversity and Inclusion Leader at Amazon, included a book exactly about this: The Memo!

Judge the book by its cover, font, page quality? The Memo has a very topical cover: a woman of color in a conference room leaning against a table with two visible seats. The title and author name are in a bright orange which resonates well with the mascot of my alma mater: Go Tigers! Inside features a standard serif font, really thick pages, and somewhat tight leading.

Thoughts on the book and the big take-aways? The Memo has five arcs:

  1. The Ugly Truth: Women of color experience unique and larger challenges in the workplace being both women and black and brown. The Memo is a guide to help these women succeed against these challenges, and a guide for everyone else to better understand these challenges so they can be better workplace success partners.
  2. The Memo: The bulk of the book covers areas women of color need to watch out for and how to better navigate them. Topics covered include office politics, salary negotiation, professional development, and mental health.
  3. To White Readers: In this chapter Harts becomes “the black girlfriend you never knew you needed” and walks readers through vocabulary, hair, self-proclaimed allyship, and the need for white people to be better success partners.
  4. Say My Name: A wonderful chapter dedicated to highlighting many women of color who have already secured a seat at the table. Harts highlights the importance of representation: if you can see other people who look like you making it, you can gain the strength to get there too.
  5. Let’s Werk: The Memo features actionable guidance as it covers different topics but this closing chapter dives even deeper with great people to know (e.g. salary and career coaches), tools (e.g. leadership assessments like DiSC), and reference materials (e.g. email templates).

I really enjoyed The Memo. Hart brings a light-hearted writing style to a very serious topic (i.e. effects of systemic racism on women of color in the workplace) and this disparity between tone and topic works really well in practice, delivering a book that is both enjoyable to read for a critically important topic.

Favorite quote from the book? “Remember to be proud of who you are and what you bring to the table.”

Elevator pitch for suggesting (or not suggesting) the book? Women of color face the dual barriers of racial bias and gender bias. To help women of color succeed in the workplace everyone needs to do a better job of understanding the challenges they face. We can and should do a better job being success partners. The Memo will arm you with the knowledge you need!

Notes in Evernote? Check out my notes on The Memo on 🐘.

Most of the world’s wisdom is written down in its best books. Manager Reads is a series covering books on management and leadership, focusing on books that can improve your own leadership with the wisdom of others. Enjoyed this post and want to see more? Check out more at Manager Reads.