Far too often Black Women are placed in uncomfortable situations in their professional and career environments that make them feel that they are less than their actual potential. This can be quite lonely as a minority in your profession.
Also, the ease at which a Black Woman can pinpoint instances where they were not valued equally to their other counterparts of different races is something that should be discussed.
So, here I am, discussing it.
Many Black Women are brought up in an environment where they are not encouraged to be leaders or strong women in their communities. In my personal experience, the further I went to the top of the corporate ladder, the less black people I saw, until finally... I was the only BLACK PERSON in my department.
Needless-to-say, as a Black Woman that did not see herself as anything but a leader, I had a major reality check, that's known as the dreaded “glass ceiling”. The “glass ceiling” is a term that refers to an unofficially acknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women, even more so, members of a minority group.
In Canada the “glass ceiling” affects Black Women uniquely because oftentimes they are either first or second-generation immigrants and are unaware of the steps needed to succeed, or culturally they are not taught to view themselves as leaders.
Here are three issues affecting Black Women’s ability to assume leadership roles in their community, workplace, or entrepreneurial endeavours:
Finding A Mentor And Sponsor In Their Workplace
In the corporate world, women often require a mentor and/or a sponsor to break through the “glass ceiling”. A mentor is similar to a coach that can help you set realistic goals that are achievable in order to be seen as a leader in your company.
Normally, you must function at the level of the position that you want to acquire before you will be considered for this position and for colleagues to see you as capable of being affective after your promotion.
A sponsor is similar to a mentor, however; a mentor can be within or outside your company, whereas a sponsor has to be within your company. In summary, a sponsor is someone in upper-level management that will advocate for raises, projects, and promotions on your behalf. Being that there are so few Black Women in leadership roles, it is difficult to find mentorship from a Black Women that can identify with what you need to work on to progress to the next level.
Additionally, according to an article published in the Harvard Business Review by Maura Cheeks, “How Black Women Describe Navigating Race and Gender in the Workplace”, it can be challenging to relate to your colleagues and employers as a Black Woman and this can make it challenging to have a sponsor that sincerely cares about you succeeding in your company.
2. Having Limited Financial Resources To Start A Business
Black Women in Canada are part of two marginalized groups: 1. Women, and 2. Members of the Black community. As such, Black Women usually do not have the financial means readily available to start their own businesses.
Black Women do not normally stem from historically wealthy families so they may be intimidated by their limited financial literacy and finding funding options. Also, Minority women often face even greater hardships, and the chance to qualify for traditional sources of funding may be incredibly limited.
Black Women entrepreneurs face the general struggles of any entrepreneur and potential racism, discrimination, and unique financial hardships, according to this Black Enterprise article - "The Struggle For Black Women Entrepreneurs Continues"
3. Not Having Community Support
Black Women don't often get adequate support from their own communities. Most black communities may not have the financial resources to support black women in their business pursuits. With that in mind, they often have to rely on reaching out to members of other communities for support, because of this, they are met with additional barriers due to racial stereotypes and other negative perceptions.
On top of limited financial resources, Black Women in business are also affected by limited marketing exposure and have a hard time getting awareness about their business out to the masses. Not having cultural support can affect Black Women’s progression both in their careers and in their businesses.
If a Black woman comes from a primarily patriarchal culture, it may be frowned upon for her to have a business or be a leader in her profession, especially if they experience spousal opposition towards their goals.
The Silver Lining
you can be the leader you want to be
BCW in Action is the hub that will help to empower, develop, inspire and give you the confidence you need to walk as the motivated and determined leader you were meant to be.
Connect with women that look like you and are in the positions you are aspiring to be in. We have the resources to help you succeed. BCW in Action is the supportive community you need to work on building out your dreams.
In BCW you'll see that YOU are not alone.
Written by: Hope Maitwe
Director Outreach, Program Coordination