#StopAskingPermission: Why black women must be their own superhero in the workplace
September 30, 2016 at 6:14 pm
There has been an extra push lately to get me to say #ImWithHer. I appreciate the HBCU tour and the chance to win tickets to see Pusha T, it seems as some effort is there. But outside of these things, I have some major concerns about a few of the promises she’s laid out for us. Two of these promises in particular are the gender wage gap and equality in the workplace. I learned a long time ago that a win for women doesn’t necessarily mean a win for black women. With issues like the gender wage gap, a win for all women doesn’t mean a win for black women. We will continue to make less than that of our white female counterparts. Do you know how hard it is being a black woman in the workplace, trying to break into the market? Do you know that no one is coming with a cape to save us if we don’t fight and save ourselves? In this week’s #StopAskingPermission, I want the world to know black women have been and will continue to have to be our own superheroes in the work place.
If you don’t believe me and need to see some receipts, take a look at the Women in the Workplace study. Compared to white men and women, black, Hispanic and Asian women are the most underrepresented group in the corporate pipeline, and experience deepest drop-offs in middle and senior management. Furthermore, even though women of color make up 20 percent of the U.S. population, they hold a mere 3 percent of C-suite positions, despite having higher aspirations for becoming a top executive than white women. Finally, in all cases, black women appear to be the most disadvantaged. Only 29 percent of black women think the best opportunities at their company go to the most deserving employees, compared to 47 percent of white women, 43 percent of Asian women and 41 percent of Hispanic women. That sounds like privilege, doesn’t it?
So where does that leave us then? If it’s proven that we are greatly affected in the workplace and limited in opportunity for promotion and professional development, who must we convince that we are enough? I wish that I could say that our degrees will set up a part from the rest. Having three myself, this has yet to be proven to me. I wish that I could say being a diverse candidate sets us a part from the rest, but being the “token negro” doesn’t mean you’re well respected, well paid or well treated. So who is going to cape for us while Hillary Clinton capes for #ThemOverThere? Sometimes you have to do it yourself.
Companies promise to diversify their talent pool and practice what they preach by increasing the number of women of color they hire and promote, but many of us have seen how that plays out. It’s like believing a man who sells you a dream and continue to hold on, hoping that he actually has that dream in stock.
Before we buy into the dreams for sale, we should fully buy into the idea that we are qualified, and add to the narrative of being change agents. No matter what field we work in, we have to #StopAskingPermission to feel as if we are qualified and worth the investment. I don’t need permission to push for a promotion or an opportunity for professional development. I have the right to have the gender wage gap conversation on my behalf and for those who come behind me. I also have the responsibility to honor my fellow black woman, sister girl and member of the #BlackGirlMagic clique.
If you #StandWithHer, make sure she stands with us when it comes to making the argument for women in the workplace, which is an argument that she crafts that touches on every disadvantaged group. Even if you’re confused on where to cast your vote, let’s not be confused on where to cast our voice. At this point in my career I’ve stopped asking permission, and purchased a cape in my size to wage a war against an enemy I didn’t choose for myself.
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