Leadership – seems like a serious heavy word right? Something us Black women are still striving for. Sometimes it feels like we’re still chasing it too – without getting the rewards. What brought me to this topic? I watched the US Inauguartion and seeing Kamala Harris sworn in as Vice President, made me smile.
As we know, the last four years have been a political roller-coaster, horror show and comedy rolled into one. The drama, chaos and racist climate has been frightening for us ethnic minorities and any truly decent people. Seeing the stories of Black people being killed and the most high profile murder of George Floyd still makes me angry. While the protests gave me hope, at times I also felt despair.
Pride in seeing Kamala inaugurated
But the biggest twist of the last year has been seeing Kamala Harris, a half Black and Indian women move towards this position of power and leadership. Like so many women, I was so proud to watch her. As a Black woman, it made me so happy to see Kamala standing strong and proud. She has the career history, legal and political experience showing she’s capable of leading with intelligence, courage and strength.
Why don’t leadership and Black women co-exist?
But this made me think about a Black woman’s path to being a leader. How every Black women like Kamala has to still fight and overcome barriers. How did we get this place where the subject of leadership and Black women do not ‘easily’ co-exist?
We don’t have to go back to far, to remember that our foremothers and mothers were never seen or treated as leaders by the western world. The battles to be accepted in communities and the workplace often meant they were held back. They were relegated to the sidelines of society. Without the knowledge or help, they were often stuck in frustration but still fighting for better. This meant that we were born, into a position where leadership would have to be fought for and not easily attained.
Fighting barriers of racism and gender
We still live in a male dominated world, where women are still fighting to be given the leadership positions they deserve. For us Black women, we have a double layer of this – our gender and race combined are often used against us. So while we fight one battle, there’s another which could dismantle our efforts. It’s like a boxer fighting with one arm behind his back – fighting from a losing starting point.
The lack of opportunities in the workplace and to improve our lives financially has created so many barriers for Black people. Being blocked from accessing promotions, the salaries and pay rises to help us improve our lives continues to be a major barrier. This also affects our health, especially when the barriers create stress. This stress is seen in how we’re still pushing like hamsters on a wheel. Trying to have the lifestyles providing decent living conditions, regular holiday or the type of income buying us freedom of choice. This struggle can all lead to ill health; for example the high blood pressure alot of us Black people suffer from.
Overall the racism that’s holding us back means we don’t have the finances and the networks needed to support our career paths. In addition to our career paths, it’s those networks that help us to find new jobs or have friends in seats of power, something that white people often have and take for granted.
Some strategies for becoming a leader
While I want Kamala and every Black woman leader to succeed, I still think we have alot to do to work on our strategies and networks to help us get into leadership positions. There are no easy answers, but we Black women and people must work on how we will push past these barriers. I believe we need to find the answers to our problems. So where do I suggest we start?
- Our self-belief: Do not let barriers/racism make you think you are not good enough. The negative treatment and lies are just that, nasty lies. Stick to knowing you are deserving of more opportunities and bettter.
- Focus & plan: Keep focused on what you want/need but plan for changes. It’s especially important to plan for the obstacles – like the racist who blocks your promotion – for how you can deal with this.
- Build your Network: Having friends and other professionals in your corner is so important. Whether you join a group or keep in touch with people in your industry, these are all valuable steps to help you. Whether it’s a problem you’re having at work or just someone to chew over ideas with, get your network firmed up.
What do you think? Do you think Black women are still being held back from making it to the top? Leave a comment below:
If you didnt see Kamala being sworn in as Vice President, heres a short clip:
#Afrowomanonline #Blackwomenleaders #Blackwomenrising #Thrive&Strive #Blackwomenatwork