An Honest Interview Of Being An Immigrant Woman In Corporate America

Lola M. Adeyemo was born and raised in Nigeria. She immigrated to the United States for career opportunities. While in graduate school and pursuing her career field, she began to notice a trend in immigrant women’s experiences in corporate America. Her knowledge of these experiences led her to desire change to ensure everyone has equal opportunities despite their country of origin, race, sex, and other factors. I had the pleasure of interviewing Lola and taking a deeper dive into her book, her TED Talk, and the other ventures she is pursuing to advocate for immigrant women in the American working world. 

Lola’s book “Thriving in Intersectionality” explores the stories of many women in corporate America. 

These range from women who immigrated to the United States at many different points in their life, some as children and some as adults. One quote from the book that encapsulates the narration Lola is trying to create says:

Our career paths are individual journeys, and they begin with our identity.”

Below are some highlights from our interview,

Theresa: In the corporate world, I feel there is so much caution around protecting a company’s image of not being discriminatory. In your book, you mention that if others knew English wasn’t someone’s first language, it could lead to more understanding. How do you navigate the fine line of communicating differences while promoting a non-discriminatory workplace?

Lola: The individual who is not a native English speaker can navigate this by sharing and explaining more of their experience. There needs to be no fear if they don’t understand something. They can navigate communication difficulties by repeating or rephrasing things to ensure they understand. They need to be bold to get what they need.

Theresa: In your TED Talk, you say, “Our words and actions can exclude others without us knowingly having malicious intent.” Then, you encourage people to seek to learn. What would you say is a good first step for someone trying to be more inclusive?

Lola: Shut up and listen. We all want to bridge the communication gap and get on the same page, but we can’t do that unless we find a connection point. We can’t find a connection point if we only know so little.

Theresa: Many of the women you discuss in your book describe having to let go of what they knew for so long as polite methods of communicating to assimilate to Corporate America and what was expected here. How would you say individuals can find that balance of remaining authentic to their true selves while also doing what they must for professional success?

Lola: People often compromise their health and well-being in pursuit of fitting in. It’s important to find a community to keep you true to yourself. Compromising makes you lose yourself. Find that balance. (She then goes on to discuss a woman she got close with who also came from Nigeria. In college, this woman would cook her Nigerian food and bring it to her. Through this exchange, she found more community, a deeper connection, and created a friendship she still has today.)

Theresa: In your book, you discuss a woman who works for Amazon whose role is helping create a more welcoming culture for employees of different backgrounds. Do you think this is something all global companies can benefit from?

Lola: The culture within America can even be different. The East coast has a different culture than the West coast. So this is a role that needs to happen in every company. ERGs (employee resource groups) help integrate and align individuals in an organization, leading to more desire for production, success, teamwork, and positive representation.

Lola’s trailblazing on creating equality for immigrants in Corporate America is just beginning. 

Her book Thriving in Intersectionality is available on Amazon via hard copy, paperback, and e-book. She also has a podcast on all major platforms called Immigrants in Corporate. In addition, her website has many resources for students, employees, and human resources departments. Lastly, her TED Talk will only take twenty minutes to watch. Yet provides a lot of information we can all use in our daily walks of life. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to interview Lola and am excited to see the impact of her work unfold. I challenge everyone to read her book, take a step back to look at their interactions with those they work with, and recognize that there is education in awareness.

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash


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