In Bie’s shoes: Mind the Empathy Gap

Name: Bie Aweh

Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts

Where do you live? New York City

What does it mean to have a voice?

Having a voice means being able to articulate what you are feeling on the inside.

How did you find your voice?

Leadership roles at a young age helped me to find my voice and college further developed my expression.

What event or series of events led to you finding your voice?

I grew up in Boston, Massachusetts to two immigrant parents. The experience of being a first-generation American has greatly shaped how I move through the world, and most importantly, how I hustle. My dad has multiple jobs and my mom had more steady employment, but both of them worked hard to send money back home to provide stability for the family abroad. I grew up poor in terms of financial brackets yet rich in love. Ironically enough, my parents never said “I love you” but it manifested itself through acts of service.

My identity as a Cameroonian and Haitian woman shows up in everything I do. The history of Haiti as the first independent Black nation means that I am resilient and do not take “no” for an answer. It means I am constantly calling out inequities when I see them at the expense of being seen as a trouble maker. 

Tell me about when you finally found your voice.

I took on leadership roles at a pretty young age at the Boys & Girls club and those experiences helped me find my voice. It was not until college when I acquired the language to be able to speak about all the injustices I was seeing and experiencing that I truly started to express myself. This came mainly in the form of speaking out against various social injustices like racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.  At that point, I knew I wanted to dedicate my career to not only talking about these issues but putting solutions behind them. In the first iteration of my career, I supported students of color to succeed at the number one public university in the world – University of California Berkeley. In the second iteration of my career, I am focused on creating inclusive environments for professionals of color to thrive in a high growth industry.

The most powerful lesson I learned growing up is that as a black woman, I have to work 10 times harder than my peers for maybe half the recognition – sometimes. While some may not see this as inspiring, my mom taught me about power and privilege in this country. It has also informed my work ethic. I can’t give others the benefit of affirming negative stereotypes about Black people. It’s a lot of pressure but I welcome it because I know everything I do is bigger than me.

It’s always surprising when people reach out and say I inspire them. My goal was never to inspire, it was just simply to be true to myself and achieve a more equitable world. Evidently, I have inspired people to pursue their true passions and not the passions dictated to them, to leave toxic situations and prioritize a more healthy lifestyle.  

Define “voice” and why it is important?

Having a voice is contextual, but overall it is being able to articulate what you are feeling on the inside. For example when you are invited to meetings, are you given the room or is it safe for you to vocalize your thoughts?

I spend a lot of time internally processing information and my feelings, having the room to safely vocalize my feelings is important for a couple reasons but most importantly it centers my thought leadership. I have left companies or jobs that don’t align with my values but I am reminded of the sacrifices that my ancestors made which were far more severe than economic stability and that keeps things in perspective for me. 

What advice do you have for someone trying to find their voice?

Empathy, specifically dialogue and not debate. Culturally in the U.S, we are taught to debate one another, therefore there can only be one right answer. Dialogue teaches us that there is room for multiple truths. Therefore, be intentional about listening and engaging multiple perspectives. Understand what the opposing side is saying because that is their truth.

I lead with empathy every day because I may not personally know someone’s experience but I would never diminish it or them because it is dehumanizing. There is a gap in empathy today, and empathy is the only thing that will truly help us address so much of the hate we see publicly displayed.

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *