by Jennifer Vo-Nguyen
Over the summer, I worked at my first internship at a marketing and advertising agency. It was great. The people were nice, I learned a lot about the career that I’m trying to pursue and I gained so much experience from it. But since the first day that I stepped into the office, I couldn’t help but notice one thing: Nearly everyone there was white.
I’ve worked many jobs before. Regular minimum-wage jobs like stores at the mall, and diversity has never been an issue there. But since this is my first job in a professional environment, it really opened my eyes to the lack of diversity in the professional working world. Everyone at my internship treated me well and my race has never been a problem or affected my work, but I still couldn’t help but feel somewhat out of place. It was like a cloud of discomfort that filled the entire atmosphere for me every day at work. It feels lonely when you don’t really see reflections of yourself on a daily basis. There were only three people of color at this office: myself, and two other girls who were also Asian. I talked about this issue with one of them and they felt the same way I did.
From this experience, I had to ask myself: What can I do as a person of color to improve the issue of diversity in the workplace? More importantly, how can I use this struggle to work harder towards my career goals and help others who face the same problem? I’ve looked online and found that there are so many other individuals who have dealt with this issue. It’s great to know that I’m not alone. Perhaps in the future, I want to work with organizations that offer resources that help people of color, specifically students, get into the career that they are trying to pursue. I have found some great internship programs and organizations based in Portland that do just that, and I’m happy that they exist. It’s a great starting point to tackle this rarely talked about, but important, problem.