A recent study found that between 1997 and 2017, the number of Black women-owned businesses grew by more than 600%, compared to just 39% for white women-owned businesses and 114% for women-owned businesses overall. This statistic suggests that Black women are the fastest-growing entrepreneurial group among women.
The same study found that as many Black women as white men (41%) say that they want to become top executives. However, for every 100 men hired into managerial roles, 64 Black women are hired.
From statistics alone, we see a concerning trend: Black women are more than capable of being leaders but are not being allowed to do so. What’s going on?
To answer this question, we need to take a closer look at office culture and racial inequality, specifically in the time of Coronavirus. This post will guide you through the challenges Black women face in the workplace, how these challenges have worsened during COVID, and how we need to move forward.
A Learning Experience For The Global Workforce
Challenges Pre-COVID: In comparison with coworkers of other ethnicities, Black women have always had specific, and for the most part more challenging, experiences at work. They are promoted more slowly than other groups of workers and are significantly underrepresented in senior leadership or key stakeholder positions.
Statistically speaking, Black women are not as supported in their professional endeavors. They are far less likely than women of other races to say their manager encourages new opportunities for them.
Only 26% of Black women say they have equal and supported access to sponsorship, compared with 32% of white women.
Studies show that Black women are less likely than white women to say that their managers give them chances to:
-manage people and projects (36% vs. 43%),
-showcase their work to peers (36% vs. 41%)
-navigate organizational politics (24% vs. 30%)
The numbers show us that many Black women feel unheard at work. One cause of this could be microaggressions, which are hard to pinpoint, but extremely harmful to the mental health and professional development of Black female workers.
Paving New Educational Pathways With Empathy
What are Microaggressions? A microaggression is different from other aggressions, in the sense it is often small, subtle, and difficult to put a finger on, similar to passive aggression.
Many women who experience microaggressions report feeling “dramatic” if they bring the problem to HR. This is especially dangerous, as it means that the perpetrator stays in control and the sufferer is often left feeling powerless.
Because they are delivered in a ‘well-intentioned,’ not overtly hostile way, microaggressions are often dismissed in the workplace. For Black women, experiencing microaggressions can be common, as they are targeted not only for their gender, but their race as well.
Black women often face a wider range of microaggressions, from having their sense of judgment questioned to hearing remarks about the way they look.
Additionally, many Black female workers feel that they are the sole “ office spokesperson” for their race. While some well-meaning coworkers might believe that this title is respectful, it can prove extremely problematic.
Black Women Aren’t “Mascots”: Expecting your Black female coworkers or employees to be the spokesperson for all Black women puts them in a highly stressful, uncomfortable position.
It puts pressure on them to do a lot of extra unpaid work, such as providing opinions outside of their area of expertise or helping with diversity in other departments.
This kind of microaggression might appear to be a nice gesture at first, but it ultimately comes from a lack of understanding, empathy, and respect for another person’s individuality.
Staying Constantly Connected To What Matters Most
The Continued Struggle: Many Black women are struggling now more than ever before, as they are being disproportionately impacted by the traumatic events of 2020.
Overall, they are more than twice as likely than women of other ethnicities to say that the death of a loved one has proved to be one of their greatest challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only that, but the emotional impact of racial violence in America is taking a heavy toll on many members of the Black community.
Managerial Failure: Work should be a safe and encouraging place for Black women, especially in a time of crisis. Unfortunately, for many, that’s not the case.
Black women are less likely than women overall to report that their manager has checked in to see if their workload was balanced, or taken the time to see if their work-life needs were being met. Only about a third of Black women say that their manager has created an inclusive office culture.
Leaders Moving Forward With WeLearn’s Learning Development Blog
The fight for racial and gender equality in the workplace isn’t even close to being over, but it begins with realizing where we need to improve. If you believe you are exhibiting microaggressions to your Black female coworkers, check in with them and talk together about how you can move forward.
Perhaps you are the person experiencing those microaggressions. We want to hear your story. Share your thoughts and experiences about being a Black woman in the workplace here with us at WeLearn’s Learning Development Blog, because only together can we truly learn.