Paving the Way Authentically
Many Black women often go to great lengths to demonstrate that they are as intelligent, competent, trustworthy, and reliable as their non-Black friends and coworkers. We sometimes find ourselves expending significant energy to create an image that, while meant to dispel these unfair myths about us, is still beholden to them. As a result of this great effort to prove ourselves as equals, in addition to the energy devoted to our basic responsibilities, we often struggle with feeling inauthentic at work.
Rather than fighting to conform to the expectations set by the traditional power structure, I believe embracing our authenticity, and demanding that our whole selves be accepted and respected, is the more effective path to meaningful change. We should not feel pressured to bend ourselves to fit the role we are expected to fill; rather, workplaces themselves must be reshaped to make space for Black women.
We deserve the right to bring our whole selves to the work that we do. This means having the courage to speak up, voice one’s concerns, and ask for help without fear of judgment. Finding your voice—and having the space to speak up and be heard—is essential to having self-respect, agency, and power in any work setting. I am lucky enough to work in an environment where my identity as a Black woman is not overlooked or ignored but valued. Not feeling like I have to put on a performance when I walk into the office leaves room for real career development and growth.
In recent months, we have witnessed many Black professionals speak out about the ways in which they have been shortchanged, micro-aggressed, or even targeted by racial violence in the workplace. Unwilling to suppress emotions related to the systemic and ongoing racial injustice in this country any longer, many confident voices have opted to confront these issues in their professional environments, thereby promoting real conversations regarding the impact of race in their workplace and the nation at large. I am committed to this ongoing effort and believe that those of us who find ourselves in prominent roles are in the best position to lead this critical change.