Why is it hard for black females to succeed in corporate?

Published by mpume on

From the beginning of their careers, black women have to learn about the environment they are in and learn to navigate that space, in order to succeed. Research spans workplace issues such as gender, diversity, bias, and discrimination. Black professional women face the dual challenge of belonging to two minority groups that are traditionally undervalued and underpaid in the workplace. Black women are forced to conquer dual challenges in the workplace as members of two minority groups. Women have been trying to break away from norms and standards set by society. They have been marching for equal rights and fighting for their rightful place in the world. Black women find themselves with the challenge of overcoming cultural, racial and gender differences, stereotypes as well as biases. While it might seem like the world is progressing and there’s a rising involvement of black females in the workplace, the reality is quite different. Black women continue to remain underrepresented at every level, starting from entry-level jobs to C-suite roles. On a larger scale, black women comprise a very small percentage of entry-level roles and more less for the C-Suite positions.

What black women are up against in the workplace.

Black females are underrepresented in leadership roles

Black women are underrepresented in the workplace for many reasons. One of the reasons is that for every 100 men promoted to managerial positions, there’s just about half of that figure of black women who have the opportunity to become managers. That means there are fewer black women to promote at every subsequent level, and the representation gap keeps getting bigger.

Black women get less support and access they need to advance

Black women in particular, tend to receive less support and encouragement from their managers. Compared to other races, black women are less likely to have managers showcase their work, advocate for new opportunities for them, or give them opportunities to manage people and projects. Employees who have consistent manager support have a better chance to be promoted, and they are also more likely to believe that they have an equal opportunity to advance.

Black women are less likely to interact with senior leaders

Unlike their non-black colleagues, black women have lesser opportunities to interact with senior leaders at work. This lack of access is mirrored in a lack of sponsorship, only a few numbers of black women feel they have the sponsorship they need to advance their career. It also means black women have a smaller opportunity to be included in important conversations about company priorities and strategy, and they have fewer opportunities to get noticed by people in leadership.

Black women face more day-to-day discrimination at work

Comments and actions that subtly demean or dismiss someone based on their gender, race, or other aspects of their identity—are a common experience for women at work. And since black women face both racism and sexism, they experience a wider range of prejudice than women overall. They also find themselves in a position where their judgment is questioned in their area of expertise and asked to provide additional evidence of their competence. Everything they do, is questioned, nothing is taken as is, which is also the same treatment their colleagues get.

These prejudices may seem insignificant when viewed as isolated incidents, but when they happen daily, as is the case often—their impact builds up and definitely takes a toll on a person. Whether they are intentional or unintentional, these insults and invalidations are a sign of disrespect to another human being. It then becomes such a mission for an employee to bring their best self to work when they are often underestimated and disrespected. Women who experience such ill-treatment are more times than often likely to think about leaving their job than those who don’t.

How employers can support black women in corporate.

Many employers don’t focus their efforts on gender and race collectively, they address these issues individually. As a result, black females who face a uniquely challenging combination of sexism and racism, are often overlooked.

Address problems specifically

Employers need to commit to addressing the specific barriers that are holding black women back. That starts with letting everyone know that the organisation will be prioritising black women’s advancement and explaining why. Not only is it the right and just thing to do, but it’s also good for business, research shows that businesses that have diversity are more innovative and profitable. Companies should also set representation targets for black women, track and share progress toward these goals, and reward success. Experts agree that clear goals, consistent measurement, and accountability are the building blocks for any organisational change.

Reducing bias when hiring

Hiring and promotions are the biggest levers for improving black women’s representation, which means companies need to do everything they can to remove bias from those decisions. This includes taking active steps to ensure that black women are in the promotion pipeline, such as providing them with better access to leadership training, mentorship and sponsorship, and high-profile assignments. They should be given equal opportunities just like the rest of their colleagues, decisions must be objective and based on one’s abilities and not their gender and skin colour. Should also establish clear and specific review criteria so reviewers are less likely to rely on their subjective feelings.

Create an inclusive workplace

Employers need to show black women that they are welcome, respected, and valued. An inclusive workplace is one in which black women, and all other employees with marginalised identities, feel a true sense of belonging, and this starts with ensuring that every employee feels safe. Companies need to make it clear that disrespectful behaviour won’t be tolerated, and employees need to feel empowered to speak up when they witness sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination. It’s also critical that companies take proactive steps to make black women feel welcome and valued.

How you can help yourself to succeed in the workplace as black female.

  • Maintain resilience in the face of challenge – Develop a sense of hardiness and resilience in the face of challenges.
  • Take risks and embrace all opportunities – Have an attitude that looks at every opportunity as a great opportunity.
  • Break barriers and develop confidence -Look for the opportunities in being different, as well as avoid the disadvantages, develop an eye that sees where you could take negative energy and turn it into motivation.
  • Stay true to your values in the face of adversity – Finding your authentic voice, how to lead authentically will resonate with you and make you successful.
  • Build social goodwill and foster conscious relationships – Have and leverage on key relationships that are within well as outside the organisation.


As black women, we have to take the responsibility ourselves by charting the path to success ourselves; building ourselves up, having a mindset that is resilient, healing and strengthening the core of who we are. Build the skills that will help you maneuver the workplace, find people who will help you along the way, and once you are up there open for the next generation; remember to lift other black women up, and pay it forward.  Cultivate a culture that has diversity and create values around love and care for one another. 


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