Years ago, back when I was job hunting, I had a set response to questions about my weaknesses:
I was a "recovering perfectionist." Risky, I know (I could sense the suppressed eye-rolls), but it was the truth. Until then, it was absolutely crucial that everything
I touched was delivered with exceptional quality, inspiring trust and leading to strong relationships. If I felt I was at risk of under-delivering, I would do everything necessary to reverse that, to exceed expectations and ensure the satisfaction of my clients and my supervisors. It was a huge weight to take on, and the pressure was immense. Ultimately, it slowed me down, and the result was that I was less agile. Recognizing this allowed me to search for approaches such as the 80/20 Rule, which allowed me to better manage my time without compromising outcomes.
What I always kept to myself was the reason why I’d unquestioningly taken on this burden. Just as many Black parents have to educate their sons about how to safely interact with authorities, many Black mothers have parallel conversations with the daughters about the societal perceptions of their race and gender. As a Black girl, we had to be three times as good to be considered equal. Mediocrity was not an option; exceptionality was survival.
The hiring managers and HR reps I met rarely looked like me. Somehow, I didn’t think they would understand.
Since founding Boldly Inclusive, it has become increasingly apparent that there is a loud silence around Black women's experiences in the workplace. This results from what Civil Rights Advocate & Legal Scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw called “intersectionality." Conceptualized in 1989, intersectionality became a metaphor for explaining why human resources complaints by Black women could not be adequately addressed because they could not be understood, named and categorized. The intersecting impacts of racism and sexism created unique of their experiences of exclusion – distinct from the experiences of Black men facing racism and from white women facing sexism.
Today, intersectionality describes the broader effect of multiple and overlapping systems of oppression; however, for many Black women, the definition remains the same – being unseen and rarely understood.
This narrative-based research project is for Black women to share the stories of the challenges we’ve faced, the barriers we’ve overcome, our success and the lessons learned along the way. It allows us to be seen, heard, and validated. In the long-term, we hope to promote healing, celebrate our resilience, and offer a safe space for dialogue with those who walk beside us and those who follow in our footsteps.
We will take a grass-roots, "each one, reach one" approach to foster breadth and depth of diverse stories. This research will lead to eventual Calls to Action that will provide all organizations with actionable steps to create environments where Black women feel safe and that they belong, and where they can thrive. We hope that this will be the first of a series of independent research projects unpacking intersectionality.
Are you interested in participating? We want to hear from you. Please get in touch using our confidential contact form to learn more!