On February 23, 2023, Professor Erika Walker-Cash, Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School Associate Dean of Academic Administration, was the featured speaker at the Lyft Black History Month Fireside Chat about Corporate Code-Switching. Originally developed in linguistics, code-switching is now broadly defined as the act of adjusting one’s style of speech, appearance, behavior, mannerisms, and expression in ways that will optimize the comfort of others, to conform to a different culture norm than what might be authentically done at home. According to the Harvard Business Review, research suggests that code-switching often occurs in spaces where negative stereotypes of Black people run counter to what are considered “appropriate” behaviors and norms for a specific environment.
Code-switching in academia and in corporate spaces is one of Dean Walker-Cash’s scholarship interests, and she enjoyed engaging Lyft employees in an open discussion about strategies Black employees use to navigate corporate spaces, advocate for upward mobility opportunities, have difficult conversations about race and intersectionality with colleagues and management, and a range of other topics.
The fireside chat was a part of the company’s Black History Month programming, and, as described by the company, “This Black History Month, we celebrate those who have fought, and continue to fight for Black excellence and equality. This year’s theme, It’s the BLACK for Me, reminds us that Blackness is meant to be celebrated in all its forms, facets, and varied experiences in order to broaden our understanding of the African-American community as well as create a more inclusive culture for all. As we dive deeper into what Blackness is and makes it unique, we will explore how it molds and shapes in different environments – including through “code switching” in corporate settings.”