It’s hard outchea to level up as a black woman!!
As I’m going through the interviewing process for a promotion myself, I’m being reminded yet again of the unfair treatment black women experience in the workplace and how we are often if not always overlooked for advancement opportunities. I know these experiences are seen a lot more in the corporate sector, but my experience has been in education and it’s something that isn’t often talked about.
In my experience, black female teachers are often left behind. I’ve been in the classroom for five years and it wasn’t until last year or so that I kept getting the “behavior kids” or the kids who don’t want to be in school in my classes. I finally asked one of the counselors [who schedule classes] why I seemed to be the only one on my team with these types of students, and he easily and without hesitation said, “Because you can handle them!”
While I don’t disagree with him, it’s completely unfair that black women are seen as the ‘saviors’ and therefore unjustly being forced into staying in the classroom as advancement opportunities are coming few and far between. I know that if I’m experiencing it, then other black educators are experiencing the same thing too!
As the black teacher, especially if you work in an inner-city school, you’re pigeon-held in the classroom because you’re the “only” one that can “handle the kids” or the only one that the kids “relate” to in comparison to their non-black teachers. And while I do take pride in being the influential reflection in a young black person’s life, it’s unfair that black teachers, especially women, are inadvertently locked down in the classroom and silently skipped over for advancement opportunities.
In fact, there are fewer women in leadership roles and that number is even smaller if you’re black. Despite what companies and districts say, in this good year of our Lord, companies are still not being inclusive and fair to black women. Imagine waking up every day going to a job that you’re a bad bitch in, your boss knows you’re a bad bitch at your job, but instead of moving you up, your boss promotes Larry and when you ask why you were overlooked, you’re told because “you’re too valuable for us to lose!”
And yes I know there are black women who are leaders, but before we give them all the praise, let’s seriously ask … how many of them are actually helping to advance their fellow sistas? Sadly, the answer is not enough and just like you, I’ve witnessed my fair share of this happening. For instance, my black female boss, groomed and hired a non-black woman and promoted her over another black woman who was equally if not more qualified for the same position. How can we even think about a white man helping us when we don’t even help each other?
One thing I do know is that skipping over black women is truly a slap in the face. After reading this blog post, I really felt compelled to talk about this issue because as a black educator who’s actively seeking advancement in her career and being able to count on ONE hand the number of black women who have been promoted to leadership roles compared to non-black women in the past three years, it is a little discouraging.
What makes it so disheartening is that there are so many black women who can easily shift the focus and culture of public education as campus and district leaders, but we aren’t given the chance. The question is why? What are we lacking that everyone else has? The answer surely isn’t degrees, because according to the National Center for Education Statistics, we have that more than any other race or gender! So if we’re out- degreeing everybody, why aren’t more of us holding leadership positions at our places of employment?
One has to wonder if the old adage we’ve heard over and over growing up is actually true! Is being twice or even three times better than the rest even important anymore? It seems like other variables have been thrown in there over the course of the years to where literally bending over backward for a company just isn’t enough anymore!
In this realization, I do know that I’m being selfish talking only about the field of education, but let it be clear that I’m not naive in being aware of the plight of my sisters working in corporate America as well. I literally just had a conversation with one of my sisters about her decision to leave a company she’s been with for nine years due to them overlooking her for advancement opportunities – the same company that she’s earned millions for. It’s crazy that more and more women are having to leave workplaces or switch industries for an opportunity at advancement.
One thing I can say is that the older I get, the more I take an active interest and focus on who is speaking up not only for women but women of color from women and men alike. So when we talk about diversity in the workplace, it has to go beyond just gender and move into race. As a woman, I’m always going to be an advocate of other women, but I’ll never do that when those same issues don’t support or benefit the Black woman!
Brittany B – a boss ass Black woman who inspired this post shared 7 tips on her blog about speaking up and advocating for other women in the workplace:
1.) Set a good example by being your own advocate.
2.) Celebrate the success of women around you.
3.) Speak up for women – if you’re in a leadership position, speak up for those who are not.
4.) Encourage the women around you! Be their cheerleader too!
5.) Be a peer-mentor.
6.) Support and protect each other.
7.) Hire across and up
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Reach for Equal.’ In a perfect world, that would be equality for all, but we know how that goes. Despite this, sisters, I challenge you to take International Women’s Day beyond the month of March and choose to uplift, encourage, and grow another woman of color. We are valuable. We are brilliant. We are leaders. We deserve the right to be recognized and appreciated just like everyone else.
One last thing I want to leave you with is this quote that I hope serves as a catalyst to fuel you and the women you’re going to impact the rest of this year:
“As a leader, it’s a major responsibility on your shoulders to practice the behaviors you want others to follow!” – Himanshu Bhatia