Making your workplace a safe and healthy space

Apr 19, 2023

By Ross Marshall, Senior Director of Community Engagement, MassBio

At the Boston While Black Summit 2023 I moderated the panel, Biotech and Life Sciences is the Future of Boston – Where is the Black Talent?  The energy and enthusiasm to participate in the enormous economic opportunities presented by the industry’s success is tangible.  

What happens when you show up at that dream job, and you are the only one.  How do you create a safe space in predominantly white workplaces? 

Being the only person of color can be a daunting and isolating experience.  POC professionals often have to navigate microaggressions, stereotypes, and other forms of discrimination that can take a toll on their mental and emotional wellbeing.  However, there are ways to create safe spaces for ourselves, even when we are the only one. 

Here are five strategies we can use to create safe spaces when you are the only person of color at work: 

1. Set boundaries

Setting boundaries is crucial to creating a safe space for yourself at work.  Boundaries define what is acceptable and what is not.  It helps communicate your needs and expectations to your colleagues.  As a POC, you may encounter insensitive remarks, jokes, or stereotypes that make you feel uncomfortable or disrespected.  By setting boundaries around such conversations and behaviors, you can protect yourself from harm and make it clear to your colleagues that you will not tolerate discrimination or microaggressions. 

2. Connect with other professionals of color

Connecting with other POC professionals can help you feel less isolated and more supported at work.  Seek out opportunities to network, mentor, or collaborate with other POC professionals in your industry or city. Join a professional organization, attend networking events, or participate in online communities where you can share your experiences and learn from others.  Having a community of like-minded individuals can provide you with a sense of belonging and validation that can help you navigate the challenges of being the only person of color at work. 

Although you may be the only one, take heart that you are not alone.  There are industry affinity groups created to connect and support POC.  Check out Blacks in Bio, Latinos in Bio, and OUTbio.  Don’t forget to check out Boston While Black if you’re in the greater Boston area. 

3. Advocate for diversity and inclusion 

Advocating for diversity and inclusion in your workplace can create a safer and more inclusive environment for all employees.  Connect with MassBio’s DEI department to find foundational tools, thought partnership, and best practices at, 

4. Take care of yourself 

Taking care of yourself is essential to maintaining your mental and emotional wellbeing at work.  Prioritize self-care by taking breaks, practicing mindfulness, or engaging in activities that bring you joy.  Make sure to balance the demands of work with your personal life, and seek support from family, friends, or a therapist who can provide you with a safe space to process your experience. 

5. Seek allies 

Seeking out allies who are willing to support you and advocate for your needs can be incredibly helpful when navigating a predominantly white workplace.  Allies can be coworkers, supervisors, or other people in your workplace who are committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment. They can help amplify your voice, provide you with feedback, and offer you support when you need it. 

Being the only person of color at work can be a challenging experience, but there are ways to create safe spaces for yourself. By setting boundaries, connecting with other POC professionals, advocating for diversity and inclusion, taking care of yourself, and seeking allies, you can create a safer and more inclusive workplace for yourself and others.  Remember, you have the right to be treated with respect and dignity, and you deserve to work in an environment that values and celebrates your diversity. 

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