Empowering Black Women In The Workplace

Being a Black woman in the United States presents considerable challenges. From witnessing the unjust killings of individuals who resemble us to enduring persistent discrimination, Black women are fatigued by the historical harm inflicted upon them. During the colonial era, Black women were often forced to give birth to children without their consent, many of whom were teenagers or even younger. For centuries, they were expected to breastfeed the children of white women, and they endured the horror of watching their loved ones being subjected to violence and oppression. Today, the presence of the police force, which originated from the Slave Patrol, continues to perpetuate fear and systemic racism.

Despite this enduring pain and intergenerational trauma, Black women are excelling in their careers like never before. However, in professional settings, they have still encountered instances of having their hair touched, experiencing sexual assault, and enduring silencing tactics. While there appeared to be a surge of support for Black people in 2020, it now seems that some individuals have forgotten about the ongoing fear and racism experienced by Black individuals.

Amira Barger, the executive vice president and head of DEI advisory and DEI communications at Edelman, believes that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, especially in support of Black women, are currently under attack. She highlights that the most marginalized individuals in the country are, in fact, Black women, considering the country's historical founding and demographics. The recent pushback against DEI initiatives is negatively impacting Black women in professional environments.

Harmful tropes, such as the stereotype of the "angry Black woman," persist in corporate America and hinder the progress of Black female professionals. It is essential to acknowledge these detrimental tropes and actively work to perceive Black women as individuals rather than stereotypes.

Abre' Conner, the director of environmental and climate justice at The NAACP, emphasizes the importance of companies creating cultures that recognize and address issues when Black women are being demeaned or treated differently. Recognizing biases and challenging harmful tropes that impede the advancement of Black women is crucial in creating a supportive workplace environment.

Kimberly Dowdell, the director of strategic relationships at HOK and the first Black female president of the American Institute of Architects, emphasizes the significance of including women in leadership positions at all levels in empowering women in the workplace. Having women, particularly Black women, represented in leadership helps provide diverse perspectives for decision-making and fosters a more inclusive environment.

Amira Barger stresses the significance of genuine allyship, asserting that it requires individuals to speak up for and listen to Black women. True allyship, she notes, comes at a cost, whether it be comfort, reputation, money, or a job. Barger underscores the unique challenges faced by Black women due to the intersection of their race and gender, emphasizing the importance of empathy and respect for Black women every day, rather than just during Black History Month.

In sum, Black women play a significant role in the well-being of the country and the world. They have demonstrated resilience and strength, despite enduring mistreatment. What Black women desire is to be truly seen and heard, not just celebrated through themed merchandise or performative DEI training. Authentic allyship demands empathy and respect for Black women continuously.  

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