Black Woman in Corporate America
This is the second installment of a content series that will bring diverse voices and perspectives from across the organization to the forefront. Our intention is to ensure Black and underrepresented people in our community are given the space to be seen, heard and recognized. Read more about our commitment to sharing and amplifying these important voices and our action plan for driving diverse, equitable and inclusive outcomes at our agency and in the industry.
To Be Black in Corporate America is…
Feeling hypervisible because of your beautiful melanated skin you love so deeply, yet sometimes invisible, wondering if you are really seen as your whole self.
It’s having to work up the confidence and courage to be authentically you. To wear your crown of natural tresses proudly while fighting internal thoughts about whether or not your peers and clients will deem your natural look “unprofessional.” How will I be perceived? Will it keep me from getting the job? It’s the occasional stare at your afro or your changing hairstyles and even the need to tell people not to touch.
It’s the everyday microaggressions that you shrug off to avoid conflict or simply keep your job. It’s watching a resort guest tell your Front Desk staff that she wants to be moved to a different resort because the resort is “too ethnic” for her and not being able to address the racial undertones directly.
It’s looking around the white room, hoping that somebody in the same skin as you walks in. Hoping to momentarily feel a sense of ease because for once you aren’t the only one or one of a few. And then if you are, you own it and move confidently like you were raised to do. But the idea of not fitting in or feeling out of place often lingers, coming to the forefront of your mind ever so often.
To be Black in Corporate America is commuting home from work at 1 am via the dark back roads in Florida praying you don’t get pulled over. Raised not to have a spirit of fear, but you can’t help but wonder what could happen because the stories of Black people dying at the hands of others has become an all too familiar narrative. Thoughts of anything could happen to me. Who will the officer be? What reason would they have to pull me over? And ultimately, will I make it home?
It’s pushing aside your personal feelings in order to numb the pain you’re feeling to get through the day. To watch a black man or woman die on camera the night before and try to put on a camera ready face and perhaps wear a smile for your morning WebEx call. It’s silently walking around filled with frustration and anger, burying your trauma, just wanting someone to acknowledge your pain, to acknowledge that they see you. And many times nobody does.
It’s a constant pressure to excel in every task, because you just don’t want anything else held against you, since you’ve already internalized your skin is a crime to many who see you. You excel not just for you, but for those that come after you. So that the next time they hire a black woman, you pray they won’t think twice about it because you made a positive mark. To honor your ancestors who paved the way for you to be here. To have a voice and to use your voice.
To be Black in Corporate America is standing firmly in knowing you deserve to be here and have the opportunity to excel just like everyone else, feeling seen, heard, respected, free to be authentically you—free of the stereotypes society has placed on you, and fearless in your beautiful melanated skin.
And the truth is, the world has prepared you for this moment. Society has tried to teach you that you aren’t valued, that your life doesn’t matter as much as other people, but the tender hands and loving words of your community has taught you otherwise. Teaching you that regardless of being the only or one of the few, you deserve a seat at the table. That your voice matters. Now the question is, is corporate America really ready to listen?