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Job/Vacancy: Black women are in ‘survival mode’ at work and company diversity efforts ‘fall short’

 Job/Vacancy: Black women are in ‘survival mode’ at work and company diversity efforts ‘fall short’ 

Women in the workplace have been very vocal about the inequities and discrimination they face on the job, from gender pay gaps to a lack of child-care support. Black women in particular experience specific challenges at the intersection of racial and gender discrimination.

Companies don’t have adequate policies to protect and promote Black women, and it’s leading them to report lower job satisfaction, greater challenges to career mobility and a higher likelihood of quitting for a different job, according to a new survey titled “Black Women Thriving,” from Every Level Leadership, a consulting firm dedicated to helping organizations create inclusive environments.

“Companies aren’t creating solutions that will help those who sit at this intersection of being a Black person and being a woman,” says Ericka Hines, founder and principal consultant at Every Level Leadership. Diversity, equity and inclusion efforts will “fall short unless you take into account those who are the most affected.”

Black women aren’t being tapped for their skillsets or supported for promotions

According to the survey of 1,431 Black women, 75% of Black women say their organization does not take full advantage of their skills. Plus, 63% say they don’t see a path to advance their career within their current organization, and as a result, 71% say they’d quit for a new job in order to get a pay raise or promotion.

This may be because companies aren’t doing enough to hear directly from Black women about their experience, or to work with them to build inclusive workplaces, Hines tells Africaflavour.

Over the course of her career, Hines has witnessed several companies “failing to create solutions” for issues around equality. Even now, the consulting work she does with employers reminds her of “my own personal, lived experiences of being a Black woman.”

Survey respondents also called attention to how non-inclusive workplaces impact their mental health. While most Black women say they feel valued for their contributions at work and they have the freedom to make their own decisions, 88% experience burnout on the job sometimes, often or always due to the pressures of performing in non-supportive environments.

The difference between merely surviving and thriving

The Black Women Thriving report makes the distinction that Black women are merely “surviving” in the workplace. Many are barely making things work.

Hines describes surviving as feeling stuck in your role and having to threaten to leave to get a raise or promotion.

“It also looks like experiencing burnout,” she adds, “not just because of the amount of work that you have to do, but also because you have to navigate the workplace as a Black person and a woman and all of the possible microaggressions that come with that,” from code-switching to altering your natural hair to fit workplace norms.

Thriving at work, on the other hand, means “being in a position where you feel like you have vitality, and where you are growing in a way that you want to.”

“In our research, we found that thriving for Black women includes feeling joy about what they’re doing or as a result of what they’re doing,” Hines says. Black women also described thriving at work as feeling supported and having energy at the end of the day.

How companies and colleagues can help

While 2020 was a landmark year for companies committing to diversity, equity and inclusion initiativesBlack women from the report say they’re still waiting to see employers implement such plans.

“Employers have to keep the promises that they made about diversity, equity and inclusion. They need to examine their promotion process and their policies around raising pay. And they need to eliminate as much bias as possible,” Hines says, calling for more transparency on opaque pay practices that contribute to the racial and gender wage gap.

Hines also believes it’s important for workplaces to foster a culture of allyship and self-education in order to show up for Black women professionals.

“There is a need for colleagues who consider themselves to be allies to be willing to put some of their social capital on the line to advocate on behalf of their Black female peers,” she says. “How are they leaning into allying? How are they lifting them up? How are they going into the office with their Black women colleagues and saying this is a problem?”

Without structural changes, actionable goals on racial equity and inclusive cultures, Hines says Black women will have to “continue to morph themselves as they navigate the system.”

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