Being black and a woman in a prestigious firm is a personal achievement. It shows tenacity and perseverance; not just for getting there but being able to sustain that drive and all that comes with being a colored woman in a predominantly white firm.
However, let’s be real. As many upsides there are; including career advancements, creating representation for our communities, and just feeling empowered, there are just as many downsides.
It’s Never Enough
You have to be twice as good to get half as muchROWAN
As a person of color, you’ve heard your parents preach this mantra to you, and as you get older and build experiences you begin to understand why. As black women, especially in America, we are often belittled and rarely seen for our achievements and capabilities (other than what we see in the media).
Being a black woman is understanding and having to accept that taking all of the necessary steps towards our education and careers is still not adequate enough.Tweet
We still come in second to white women despite being more ambitious and earning more degrees. It’s realizing the minor errors that we make are scrutinized and weighed higher compared to our white counterparts.
It’s constantly having to be questioned and feeling like you have to prove why you’re qualified to be there. It’s hearing often, the backhanded compliment that you’re intelligent for a black woman. As if my skin color determines my intelligence.
It’s saying that I must be special because naturally, black women are foolish. What’s even more frustrating is having to mask and internalize these prejudice remarks and emotions, for fear of being too much and ever making a white man uncomfortable.
Fear of speaking up and being assertive
Stigma of being too black …
Fearing being too black by having to constantly walk on eggshells and manage our emotions due to how our white counterparts perceive us. Having to be hyper alert at all times and manage insensitivity – having to determine if the other person is just an ignorant asshole or just looking down on me because of my dark skin.
Having to deal with being judged on the texture and style of my hair rather the intelligence that qualified me for the position. Do you know what it’s like to hear the hiring manager tell you that your natural curls are not suitable for the workplace?
However, the biracial woman with the big curly hair is glorified for her natural curls. It’s exhausting because we are constantly having to make others comfortable when they’re uninformed and offensive.
We are constantly having to be pleasant and prioritize the comfort of our white counterparts over our own.Tweet
I connect more on a personal level with W.E.B. Du Bois concept of Double Consciousness in The Souls of Black Folk. I see how undervalued we are as black women and how till this day, how repressed we still are. I constantly find myself battling with who I truly am as a black woman and what that means and how I am perceived by some of my white counterparts. This brings me to my next point:
Being Underrepresented ‘The Only One‘
Working in a firm with predominantly white people can be a bit intimidating and uncomfortable. Not only because we’re constantly having to prove ourselves, but regardless of what we do, we stand out. It’s like we represent ‘all black people’.
It’s such a weird space to be in because as a black person, we are the first to be noticed in a room full of white people but also the first to be looked down upon by many. Having this kind of experience forces us to be cautious with our words, tones, and body language so we are not perceived as “stereotypically black”.
As a result, many black women suffer from anxiety and struggle with self identity – most commonly due to socioeconomic/race related stressors.
As a black woman, it’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re often facing barriers due to the color of your skin alone. Being a woman in a male dominated industry is a challenge, however there are clear disparities of black women facing racial oppression and being discriminated more often compared to white women.
The issues first lie with the way we handle stressors – we experience traumas in our lives and immediately repress them without processing our feelings. Ladies, we need to do better in this area of ourselves. We need to focus more on becoming self-aware and taking care of our mental health.
Talk to someone; whether it be a therapist, a close friend, or family. We need to have those specific people around who we can be our authentic, unfiltered, and most comfortable selves with. After being out in the world every day and having to always be hyper alert, we need the ones who will keep us grounded and centered.
This is a good way to release the stress we experience throughout the day. The gym is a great way to let go of some steam – especially when you feel like kicking someone’s ass haha. Furthermore, working on a hobby that interests you, meditating, writing, or even a glass of wine helps reduce stress levels!