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Caroline Flanagan On Being Black, Successful, and Feeling Like an Imposter in a White World



By the Features Desk



Saturday, February 20, 2021.



From the outside looking in, Caroline Flanagan’s life seems blessed. She’s confident, passionate and in demand; a wildly successful former lawyer, she is an international speaker, coach and author who counts some of the world’s largest brands amongst her impressive roster of clients. She’s also a mother of four with a devoted husband. And a woman of colour. 

Despite the success she enjoys today, Ms Flanagan’s life has been spent as that outsider looking in, wondering how best to break the glass ceiling or how to radiate her talent better and brighter against the majority white competition. It has been a struggle, one she continues to fight. Ms Flanagan is a modern Black role model: one of the few female professionals of African-Caribbean descent working in the City - London’s and Britain main financial hub. She is giving back by supporting other Black women and men who want to succeed in a white corporate world where they are still the only Black person in the room. 

In her new book Be The First: People of Colour, Imposter Syndrome and the Struggle to Succeed in a White World, Ms  Flanagan captures the zeitgeist of Black British experience beyond the civil rights protests of Black Lives Matter. She distills the harsh reality of professional working men and women of colour. While support for Black Lives Matter has been broadly accepted, the truth is that white leadership and systemic bias continue to act as a tangible barrier to career progression and success for employees of African descent. Thanks to the lack of diversity and inclusion and the myriad micro-aggressions to which Black workers are often subjected, people of colour can suffer from a unique form of imposter syndrome: they don’t just feel like imposters but rather they are also treated as such by their co-workers. 

"When you wait for an unjust system to change, you give away your power,” Ms Flanagan points out in her book. She  doesn’t write about anything she hasn’t experienced herself, which makes Be The First engaging, honest, authentic, relatable and practical in the advice it offers. 

Ms Flanagan grew up in relative poverty in Birmingham, UK,  UK’s second biggest city. Her father was a bus driver and her mother was in and out of prison when she was young. Despite experiencing racism from her teachers and being evicted from her home during her A-level year, Ms Flanagan excelled academically. She worked her way through her university course at Cambridge as a silver service waitress despite it being strictly forbidden to have a job. She won a training contract at one of the world’s leading “Magic Circle” law firms; today she boasts a prestigious client list and works with global brands to improve their diversity in leadership training

In Be the First, her personal and often dark anecdotes demonstrate just how bleak the struggle continues to be for many Black professionals. But Ms Flanagan fervently believes that rather than waiting for slow moving industries to change for the better, Black British workers, entrepreneurs and students must continue to lift themselves up and play a dynamic role in improving representation, accountability and equality. Her book is the definitive guide to the future of corporate diversity.

The author of Babyproof Your Career (Rethink Press, 2015) Caroline has been featured in Marie Clare, Grazia and The Huffington Post

"I want to empower people of colour who are giving up on high potential careers because they feel the system won’t let them get ahead.” Ms Flanagan says.

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Be The First by Caroline Flanagan, is published by Known Publishing (£12.99 paperback, £5.99 ebook). It is available online from retailers including amazon.co.uk, and can be ordered from all good bookstores. 

You can follow her online at www.carolineflanagan.com and @caroline_flanagan on Instagram.


Caroline Flanagan On Being Black, Successful, and Feeling Like an Imposter in a White World

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