By Girl Tyler
They say it’s “lonely at the top.” This takes on a new meaning for Black women. After all the blood, sweat, and tears you shed to arrive at your destination as the only or first Black woman, you’ll likely have a difficult time finding another person who can relate to even a fraction of what you’ve experienced. Hello, isolation. Don't wait until you arrive. You have the power to change things at the ground level. When you finally get in the room, don’t be afraid to change the decor. Here’s to more Black women being in the room, all 2022!
“Lift as you climb” is an expression that simply means supporting others as you climb the proverbial ladder to success. You can positively alter the pipeline by taking actionable steps to help other women along your way. The next time you are on the staircase headed to a new level of success, reach back and pull another woman up with you. The cost? Free. It doesn’t cost a dime to boost women in your circles, even strangers. Here is a simple guide to amplifying other Black women in professional spaces.
Say Her Name
We always talk about being in the room, but what happens when you get a seat at the table? Advocate for other qualified Black women to join you. There are plenty of reasons why women are not promoted as quickly as men and why only a few Black women occupy highly coveted positions in the C-suite. Besides blatant racism and gender bias, the suits making the decisions are likely swimming in a talent pool that doesn't include Black women. Make suggestions. Reach out to your contacts to see if they're seeking a position or know someone who is qualified to fill the open role at your company. You may have little to no influence on hiring, but still, you can mention the names of women who can support your company’s initiatives. Are you a project manager who needs to outsource a task? Recommend a talented Black woman for the job. Looking for a spokesperson to discuss issues impacting minority communities? Refer a Black organizer to speak about the problem and how their organization can provide solutions. When you notice a lack of representation, gently push back, and recommend Black women to get the job done. Word of mouth is the oldest form of advertising.
Be Transparent in Salary Talks
Salary discussions are always uncomfortable, even when you’re advocating for yourself. How much is too much? Did I lowball myself? What is the budget for this position? What if they reject my offer? So many questions swirl around in your head. You grow more confident about your worth and value as you accept new job offers. Sometimes it’s hard to put a price tag on talent. While some people advise against parading your salary, discussing ballpark figures for previous positions you’ve held along with any insight you may have to negotiate a fair amount will set the next woman miles ahead. The gender wage gap is no secret, and the stats are even worse for Black women. According to the U.S. Census, Black women on average earned 63% of a white man's median annual earnings in 2019. In 2021, Black Women's Equal Pay Day concluded that in the previous year, it took a Black woman 579 days to make the salary a white man made in 365 days. In other words, a Black woman had to work an extra 214 days to earn as much as a white man, and even then, she'd be behind. We can’t close the wage gap if we don’t acknowledge the wage gap exists.
Giving back feels good. Remember the times you cried in the car before going to work or felt defeated after a meeting? A young woman out there needs to hear your testimony. Aside from sharing wisdom learned from challenging situations, there are mutually beneficial perks to mentorship. Working with a mentee can enhance your leadership and communication skills while providing you an opportunity to pick up new skills from someone who is a bit greener. You'll always run into a new phrase or technique that will encourage you to seek more information, ultimately sharpening your expertise.
Exert Your +1 Power
As you maneuver professional circles, you gain access to new areas. There are plenty of neat perks that come with an invitation to closed events. If your invitation comes with a plus one, leave your partner or spouse behind for the evening and bring along a friend who you are confident can benefit from this networking opportunity.
Be the Plug
Sometimes we are only an introduction away from the next pitch meeting, new client or sales goal, that seems unattainable. You may hold the key to someone’s breakthrough without realizing it. Listen intently to the women around you. What are their problem areas? Ask about their goals. You may know someone who can change the entire trajectory of their life and career. Connect the dots for them. First, ask both parties if they’re interested in making the connection, then send a short email or text to initiate the introduction. The rest is up to them. You'll feel a sense of satisfaction in making this small gesture, and what you put out into the universe will find its way back to you. People always remember who had their back!