WOCA 2023: Fireside Chat With Joy Fitzgerald

Joy Fitzgerald, SVP, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at UnitedHealth Group, discussed stifled authenticity and the importance of allyship at Fair360’s 6th annual Women of Color and Their Allies (WOCA) event.

The fireside chat was held with Carolynn Johnson, CEO of Fair360. 

It’s a common belief that hiding one’s authenticity is self-imposed. For many women of color, stifling authenticity is taught to make others more comfortable, Fitzgerald said. For instance, suggestions to smile more often to appear less intimidating. 

“I need your help in fixing this and rewriting the language so that when we come into rooms and we occupy demographics that are unprecedented, that you allow our value to come in first and not the demographics we represent,” Fitzgerald said.

Despite the abundance of talent, there is still a struggle to include women of color at high-level tables.

To illustrate, seventy percent of high school valedictorians are young women and more women hold college degrees than men.

“It is not an education issue. It is not a performance issue. It’s not an intellect issue. It’s not a capability or a competency issue. I’m going to submit to you some of this is our issue because we’re still waiting on men to help us,” Fitzgerald said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if a man hadn’t helped me, but I don’t see (enough) women showing up in this conversation to help other women that don’t look like them, like we need them to.” 

Allyship is crucial to the success of women of color. Analyzing who currently sits at the table is one step toward lifting up underrepresented individuals in the workplace. 

“It is our time to take our power and leverage it for the good of other women and stop worrying about what that means for your career,” Fitzgerald said. “Your value system and your integrity should be worth the cost of doing what you believe is right. That’s when we will win for everyone.” 

Additionally, Fitzgerald spoke about the importance of individuals understanding their persona. She urged others to understand what gives them energy and their unique value proposition. Undoubtedly, this will help encourage moving more intentionally in life.

“I found my voice. I found my rhythm and I am not willing to be silent anymore for the sake of making other people comfortable. And I encourage you to do the same,” Fitzgerald said. 

Watch all our 2023 Women of Color and Their Allies event sessions here!