Women. Gender. Diversity. #MeToo Movement. Many companies are in a frenzy and working to address diversity issues with regards to women. The harassment issues are popping up everywhere and there is belief we have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to these issues. There are so many issues for women in business. You can almost ask where do we start? Harassment. Wages. Leave. Opportunity. Advancement. All have had a whiplash effect for women. What’s interesting from my perspective is the degree of these issues that women of color face. Women of Color are treated much more harshly when it comes to these issues. While harassment is one of the issues, it should be noted that we have a differing opinion of where the harassment is coming from. I believe this conversation is just the beginning of what needs to be put on the table for discussion.
The aforementioned issues impact all women. From a basic level, women who are not of color are earning 78 cents to the male dollar, while women who are of color are in the 63 cents to the male dollar. Much of the diversity language now focuses on gender, but the topic of race when it comes to women is still very much silent and sensitive. Let’s be open about this. Race is at play in business and women of color are “targets” for disproportionality and micro aggression. Discussing race is so uncomfortable for some people to have, but my goodness, it is so necessary. Folks are squirming to have this dialogue with us, but this conversation is so necessary so that there is an awareness of the issues women of color face.
On March 1, The Bright Group launched the Women of Color in Leadership series. And we had that conversation. Between us. Among us. With all women in the room. We were intentional about discussing what is happening to women of color at many junctures in corporate America. Our panel consisted of three prestigious, successful women of color, all of whom described similar experiences they have had with respect to harassment. But wait till you hear what they had to say. There were some consistent themes that came out of this conversation. Here are the three themes that I noted:
Unanimously, the women including myself have been strongly supported by white men in our careers. We have had great support and advocacy and have received opportunity because of their support. We are not dismissing the #metoo movement, but we wanted to note that our support is coming from white men. Where our challenges have come from, have been other women.
Women have played an active role in deliberate sabotage or harming of us in our careers and we all had stories to share about what we have experienced at the wrath of another woman. We discussed the mean girl behavior that exists and is rampant in companies. This discussion wasn’t singled to just one race of women. This behavior is coming from all races of women. There were very strong feelings that white women are harming women of color tremendously. Women in the same demographics are harming each other too because, as was discussed, the opportunities are so scarce and folks of color know “there is only going to be one”, has caused this vicious behavior of women towards each other.
Women support does, in fact, happen and when that support happens, there is such a strong lift. Women who have helped each other, even as sacrifice is often needed, have been rewarding. Women who stand together and lift each other become an unstoppable force. We believe this is needed to accelerate progress for all women. We believe the micro aggressions need to be revealed and addressed in corporate America. We believe women must get beyond “me” and focus on “we” in every equation!
A good illustration of this, for those of you who watch Scandal, was the decision Olivia Pope made to not “sell out” Mellie and take her down when she could have. That story line was so powerful to me because when you recognize how difficult it is for opportunity, we have to learn to be selfless and egoless in this process of acceleration. Olivia knew what it took for Mellie to get to where she was, as President. If she had followed that aggression, it would be countless years before another woman saw that level again. When women can learn to do this, we are unstoppable! There is always going to be someone smarter, prettier, etc. and so the more comfortable we get in our own skins, the better opportunity there is for all of us. This is NOT a zero sum game! There is enough to go around ladies!
I believe this journey requires that we heal within our self. I believe that we must all have honest dialogue with our self in the mirror to see what we reflect in the world and to each other. That saying “I am not what you think I am. You are what you think I am” is the perfect quote that we need to absorb into our souls.
I am available for coaching for any women needing help. And for businesses that need my assistance, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the movement!