Politics

The Root Institute 2021: Black Women, Are We Thriving or Simply Surviving the Workplace?

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“When I show up in a room, there are three things I just know automatically,” says former White House Director of Political Affairs Minyon Moore, also the co-author of the NAACP Award-winning  For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics. “One, I walk in the room knowing that I’m Black…I walk in the room knowing that I’m a woman, and the other thing I walk in the room with is receipts about my knowledge and what I know about what I have learned to be in that room.”

As previously noted by yours truly at The Root, “Black women, widely reported to be the most educated demographic in the United States, are also among the most enterprising, outpacing both their while male and female counterparts in starting new businesses.” However, the reasons why many Black women take the risk to leave more conventional modes of employment to pursue their own ventures aren’t as frequently discussed. Aside from being on the losing end of a wage gap that leaves us, on average, making 63 cents on the dollar of our white male counterparts, the lack of comprehensive national childcare support, microaggressions in the workplace, the “emotional tax,” and a general lack of parity of opportunity for Black and brown women have profoundly impacted our experiences and mobility at work. This dynamic has only been exacerbated since the onset of the pandemic, during which Black and Latina women also suffered the largest job losses.

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“What we know to be true is that not all women experience the workplace the same, and Black and brown women certainly don’t experience the workplace as some of our counterparts,” says career development expert, podcaster and consultant Minda Harts, also the award-winning author of The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table and the upcoming Right Within: How to Heal from Racial Trauma in the Workplace (10/5). “The only way we can make the workplace work for everybody is to identify who is being harmed in the workplace to begin with,” she adds.

Harts and Moore are Black women with particularly keen insights on the American workplace; Moore having had a front row seat to how policies are made and Harts having departed the conventional corporate world (which she aptly refers to as her “former life”) to help legions of women of color reclaim their own power at work. As we continue to navigate the myriad effects of a pandemic which, like most American crises, continues to disproportionately affect Black and brown people, and, within that demographic, women, both women tell The Root Institute that examining policies and practices are more crucial than ever.

“If companies do say that equity is important and we want to say that our Black lives matter inside of the workplace, then we also need to be transparent about pay practices,” Harts maintains. “When are companies going to start doing pay transparency audits so that Black and Brown women know where they sit on the scales and where we are being affected in our pockets?…These are things that we could solve today with intentionality.”

Moore agrees, reminding us: “Corporate America showed up when George Floyd got killed—they showed up in unprecedented ways…but then, when you look at some of their policies, do the policies actually help women who are disproportionately impacted by these things?…A lot of times, these women are hidden, and we have to keep advocating for them, because somebody needs to say they need help.”

As the two tell me during today’s conversation for The Root Institute, while the necessary policy changes may largely be out of our control, self-advocacy is not. “I have to tell myself a new story about myself,” says Harts. “As Black women, do we not deserve equity, respect, dignity in every space we walk into?”

“We deserve to go into every room we enter, but not every room deserves to have us,” she adds.

For this and more in-depth conversations, visit us here, and share your thoughts with us online in social media by following the hashtag #RootInstitute.

  

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