In the November of 2021, I made a video asking Black women across Europe to share their experiences in the workplace for three reasons:
1. To elevate the European voice, as the Black female corporate voice has been long dominated by the US market and US Research
2. Far too often, reports around Black women are heavily based on trauma, not solutions.
3. To provide a clear directive on what is needed by Black women beyond how they feel.
Any company that cares about equitable practice needs to refer to this report. Having a Black woman in your company without acknowledging the experience chasm she faces compared to White women means you will never achieve the success you want when attracting, engaging and retaining them.
Specificity is key
This was one of the major findings in the report. Sixty-seven per cent of respondents reported that their companies had taken some sort of action since George Floyd’s murder, which was mostly in a general sense, but none of them specifically addressed Black women.
Companies tend to have a Black Employee Resource Group and a women’s Employee Resource Group, but where are the Black women meant to go to address the journey that is specifically theirs?
We asked where companies are failing them, and one of the answers said, ‘accept there is a problem’.
The dial has to be moved from a broad stroke approach to a focused one, especially when trying to achieve gender equality in the workplace. There is no gender equality without equity.
We have developed our Closing the Chasm Programme specifically designed for companies to learn how they can support their Black female colleagues and what immediate steps they can take to rebuild a relationship of trust.
The research shows that Black women are very proactive in managing their careers and investing in their further education and skills, as they no longer choose to wait until their employer might be ready to support them. A narrative that isn’t spoken about enough and should be highlighted, and one that also shows that employers need to do so much more to ensure personal development is integral to everyone’s career development.
There is an opportunity here for companies to really accelerate their overall diversity, equity and inclusion efforts when they double down on focusing on
Black women, especially as 22% of the respondents confirmed that the experiences of other Black women in a company heavily influenced their decision to take a job. If they evangelise and confirm that a company is safe for them to work, it significantly increases the chances of other Black women wanting to join.
The goal isn’t always to attract new talent but to engage those already there and co-create solutions.
There were further insights above and beyond the questions, and one of those was psychological trauma. The burden faced by every Black woman in her job, a factor in being hesitant to change jobs, was whether she would have to educate all her colleagues on terminology, behaviours when she was already exhausted from being the face of a DEI committee that did nothing to help the issues she faced, for example.
Reading these responses highlighted two points
1. Companies need to prioritise the mental health of Black women now because as they are deciding whether they should go ahead or not and push it into six-month discussions, she may not last out that six months.
2. The true weight of being a Black woman in the corporate world needs to be addressed more until we normalise hearing about these experiences so that we can change them.
The Closing the Chasm: Changing the Workplace for Black Women Report is a solutions-driven report and if nothing else, take the company recommendations page as a guide to actions you can take today.
You can read the full report here.