Episode 5

The Personal Cost of Code Switching

Published on: 9th September, 2020

In this episode, we discuss linguistic code switching, natural black hair, navigating a male dominated industry as a woman of color and how to get into good trouble.

The definition of code-switching is, “the modifying of one’s behavior, appearance, etc., to adapt to different sociocultural norms.” Code switching is a part of everyday life for most people. Between interacting with friends, family and strangers, your demeanor and language can change to match different situations. 

In my book This Shit Works I have a line that states that you can 100% be who you authentically are and still be wildly successful? But is that true for people of color? Harvard business review conducted a study on code switching and their research clearly shows that minorities who code-switch are likely to face a professional dilemma: Should they suppress their cultural identity for the sake of career success? Or should they sacrifice potential career advancement for the sake of bringing their whole selves to work?

To be or not to be? Is the question for many people of color in corporate America; do you bring your authentic selves and your heritage to the office and potentially miss out on career growth opportunities or do you alter your identity in the hopes of moving forward in your career. 

My guest today is Summer Martin, Summer is the host of the Unconventional Woman Podcast. 

In this episode, Summer takes us on her journey of discovery as a black woman, growing up in Los Angeles, moving to Louisiana for college where she first experienced being told that she “didn’t sound black” and was often referred to as a Valley Girl, and then into her corporate life navigating the male dominated industry of sales, and now as an entrepreneur. Summer tells us about a mindset shift, which began in her 30’s when she started moving away from code switching and how she evolved from straightening her hair, to having “magic” hair and now to rocking braids while stepping fully into her bad ass, staying in good trouble, authentic self. 


00:30 - Introduction 

00:50 - The history of code-switching 

08:00 - History comes to life in the south

15:00 - Natural black hair

23:30 - Navigating male dominated industries as a black woman  

30:00 - The American Caste system

33:00 - The mindset shift of turning 40

40:00 - How to get into good trouble

41:30 - Outro

Drink of the week: Paloma

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 2 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2 ounces sparkling water (or soda water)
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • ¼ ounce agave nectar 
  • Coarse sea salt, (or Tajin) to rim the glass
  • Ice

Relevant Links: 

Cast - The Origin of our Discontents

This Shit Works

The Unconventional Woman Podcast

Julie Brown Social






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About the Podcast

This Shit Works
The people you meet can 100% Change Your Life! Networking is how you meet those people. Which sucks because you hate networking, you think you're bad at networking, and you certainly don’t have time to network. Bullshit! Welcome to This Shit Works, a weekly podcast hosted by entrepreneur, CEO, public speaker, author, business development strategist and networking coach Julie Brown. Just don’t call her Downtown Julie Brown - she doesn’t like that.

Each week Julie will bring to you her no nonsense tips, tricks and conversations around networking your way to more friends, more adventures and way more success!
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