Sexism, Racism or Both: the Black Professional Woman’s Plight

black-woman-professionalHappy Thursday!

I wrote recently about African and African-American women’s experiences being the only Black women at the meeting table. Recently, I read an article in which Oprah was stating that as a powerful Black woman who very often sits at some of the most prestigious companies’ boards, she realizes that many think that she should not be sitting there. Now is it because of sexism, racism or frankly, an unhealthy mix of both? Hmmm…

It’s the same dilemma that many Black professional women, perfectly competent, top-notch educated women, face daily in the workplace. Being a Black woman in a professional world where power still belongs in its majority to wealthy males not only makes African and African-American women a double minority, but also translates into just about the same statistics as the most endangered species in the world. In her bestseller “Lean In”, COO Facebook and women’s advocate Sheryl Sandberg recognizes that as much as the statistics for all professional women are still alarmingly low, the statistics for Black professional women are even more alarming. And that certainly does not come as a surprise…

So how do racially diverse, Black professional women, make it in a professional world where, frankly, there are not many of them, and where many times, there is a sense that they shouldn’t be there in the first place? Should this phenomenon be put on account of sexism, racism, or both? And how does one face an upward battle on both fronts, without giving up altogether? Without facing the reproaching excuse of “playing the gender or the race card”? From speaking with many African, African-American and racially diverse women colleagues in the workplace, the echo of the conversation is very often the same resounding arguments, those that have not changed much from decades ago, those that are not exactly discussed in the media or out in public because it may not be politically correct.. It’s about the wave in one’s step as one enters the interview room fully conscious that the odds may be already stacked against one’s appearance. It’s the knot in one’s throat as one is deemed less competent from the onset because of one’s appearance. It’s the fear that one’s sacrifices to climb the career ladder, despite being late to pick up the kids, despite putting in extra hours or being as professional as can be, the road to career advancement may still be steeper than for others…

Well, the answer may just be that there is no answer. The answer may just be, as Sheryl Sandberg puts it, to “sit at the table” and “lean in”, even if more often than not we may have to keep our hands up longer than necessary to be heard…Or to acknowledge with honesty and strength, even as one of the most successful and powerful woman in the world, like Oprah, that we are still not accepted at the “boardroom” table…But the one constant is that we should sit anyways, recognizing that sexism and racism may very well never disappear, but insisting by our very presence that neither defines us…

 

 

Love Always,

Miss Awa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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