My Corporate Story

By Pam Pryor Grace

Upon graduating from college with a BA degree in Psychology, I couldn’t get a job without a secondary degree, so I went off to business school to obtain my MBA. Joining the workforce in corporate America – but not being a member of the “good old boys club” – presented its own challenges in the world of manufacturing and textiles. Being the ONLY minority and often the ONLY female in meetings meant my words needed validation by a colleague of the other gender and most certainly the majority persuasion. And this was in the early 80s, well after the civil rights struggles of the 50s and 60s.

I kept my head down, stayed in my lane where possible, did my work and then some, and tried to fit in by being as conservative as possible in my behavior and my appearance. But it was never enough. I had several managers who never gave me the benefit of the doubt. Climbing the ladder was merely hanging onto the rungs and having to prove myself time and time again. In one instance, after a departmental reorganization took place, I was assigned to a new manager. On day one, he called me into his office and privately told me in no uncertain terms that he did not want me on his team and would do nothing to support me in my role. It was apparent in every team meeting that he was against me from the start. Any time that blame was to be awarded, I received the prize.  This included poor annual reviews, his special gift to me. I fought the good fight and watched my health suffer until one day, while out on vacation, I finally decided I could not do this anymore. I was about to succumb to my manager’s fate for me when something ordinary happened – a miraculous change of heart.

A shake up was taking place while I was out of the office on vacation. When someone gets the opportunity to walk in your shoes it can be eye-opening, and the truth can come to light. Attending meetings and reporting out on my behalf was the ONLY thing that made my manager realize that I was not the problem. There was nothing I could say or do to make him see me differently, except to let him take my place for a few days. And though my manager made the choice to treat me badly, in the end, my good efforts triumphed over his evil ways. His job was eliminated, but before he left, he rewrote my last evaluation and apologized for his attitude toward me.

I have always known I had to do twice as much as my majority colleagues – I hold two degrees while they worked alongside me with high school diplomas. I was passed over for promotion, and often had to train my managers, but I have kept a steady faith and belief in myself. That has led me down an interesting and successful 40-year journey in corporate America. With all of its heartaches and joyful moments, I remain a diverse force in the business world reaching back as an ally to help smooth the rocky path and build bridges for others to cross.


Pam Pryor Grace

Spelman College, C’1981 – BA

Atlanta University, C’1985 – MBA


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