Worktivism: Racial Equity in Practice

The 4th annual Career Expo goes virtual and speaks to the current moment.

A core component of Rainier Scholars’ mission is to create access to transformative educational and career opportunities, inspiring and empowering scholars to be leaders in their chosen career paths and communities.  Each summer we host a Career Expofeaturing career panels, workshops and networking opportunities for our high school and college scholars and alumni, with representatives from a wide range of industries and career sectors, including Rainier Scholars alumni who work in those sectors. 

This year’s event was anything but business as usual. 

In addition to a pandemic, we are in the midst of an uprising, drawing national attention to and conversation around the inequities present in our society, and the racist outcomes we’ve come to accept as status quo, “said Kaila Davis Nsimbi, director of leadership and career development. “If anything, the intersection of this series of complex tragedies has highlighted the need for diverse voices in the spaces where decisions are being made.

 The need for systemic change is apparent. And now, with reputations and the bottom line at risk, we see institutions and organizations motivated to move in that direction. 

Career Expo participants were able to choose from career pathway breakout sessions in technology and engineering, business, science and environmental impact, law and public service, careers in health and arts, culture, entertainment and design.  Topical workshops included nailing your virtual job interview, navigating bias and imposter syndrome in the workplace, financial management and the reassuring, “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up (and that’s okay).” 

Though Career Expo has traditionally focused on personal career development within the structure of the status quo, a special plenary session, Worktivism:  Racial Equity in Practice, addressed the landscape for young professionals of color on the precipice of much-needed systemic change. Panelists Sherrell Dorsey, a data journalist and ecosystemic strategistAlina Ball, founding director of the Social Enterprise & Economic Empowerment Clinic at UC Hastings College of Law, and Dr. Ali Thomas, an internal medicine hospitalist and equity leader with Kaiser Permanente of Washington, spoke candidly about seizing strategic career development opportunities, but not burning outThomas warned of the nation’s short attention span and the need to keep the momentum towards racial equity going. Dorsey noted that Black professionals are feeling more empowered to speak out about why they are leaving certain careers and that she’s seeing a push for companies to do important internal equity work. 

Ball encouraged the audience to assume the mantle of change and acknowledged that Generation Z gives her hope. “You have to be somewhat optimistic to do racial justice work. Do not underestimate how powerful your voice is.