On this International Women’s Day, as we celebrate and uplift the many incredible contributions of women around the world, we must acknowledge the sad reality that, in many industries, women of color are still viewed as less credible than their white counterparts.
This continued bias is flabbergasting considering 30% of businesses in the U.S. are owned by women—with 14% of those women being African American women, according to the 2015 State Of Women-Owned Businesses Report. With the numbers like this, why are White people still surprised when Black women are successful?
Many blame mainstream media, social networking platforms, or even reality TV for the false representation of women of color. We’re rude, argumentative, ghetto, ratchet or any other falsities you’d like to add to the list of labels thrown at us. Perception becomes your reality when you don’t broaden your horizons. One of the ways women across the globe counteracted those stereotypes was to educate and offer true to life examples of what being a successful “looks like.” Most times this opportunity doesn’t present itself. As a former recruiter, I’ve witnessed hiring managers make assumptions about professionalism and work output based on an applicant’s name. Blacks are lazy and ghetto; Hispanics work harder, and blah, blah, blah. In case you’ve been living under a rock, laziness and underachieving have no color.
I like to call it “The Help Syndrome.” For hundreds of years, Black women were only considered for positions like cooks, maids, and babysitters. While each is a noble profession by today’s standards, women of color are mistaken for assistants far more than any other group of people. We’re the CNA versus attending surgeon, the cashier versus boutique owner, and secretary instead of CEO. Privilege creates the delusion that only Whites can hold high-paying positions such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, and the like. Privilege makes one believe that blonde hair and blue eyes are bona fide prerequisites for achieving noble success. Sounds crazy in 2016, right? Women of color have been making a way out of no way for hundreds of years despite being held back financially and academically. Girlfriend, anyone willing to put in the work, regardless of race or gender, can attain credentials and become whatever they so desire. If you’re still confused about what a successful Black woman “looks like,” try #BlackGirlMagic.
There is enough money out there for anyone willing to hustle. Instead of competing with each other, women could be vying to surpass yesterday’s performance. Sizing up the next woman’s success based on skin color, handbag label, or heel height is ridiculous. Fear makes the privileged white woman view minority success as a threat. One day they are minding their own business, reaping the benefits of their generational wealth and here we are having the nerve to catch up. Since the sole purpose of a bigot is to guarantee the oppression of anyone who doesn’t look, talk, or act like her, the fact that you’re able to crush every stereotype and take home the same six-figure salary she does is intimidating. For years systems have been strategically implemented to prevent women of color from securing homes, jobs, and loans yet so many refuse to acknowledge the privilege and racism behind it.
One day we’ll wake up, and racism won’t exist. Respect and common courtesy will be as essential as the air we breathe. Until then, don’t wait around for white acceptance. Be your best you and keep rocking it out so the world will take notice.
Ashley Watkins, Career Coach and Nationally Certified Résumé Writer with Write Step Resumes, LLC, provides high-quality résumé writing, interview preparation, and career coaching services to help job seekers get more interviews and job offers fast. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or via www.WriteStepResumes.com.