Reflecting on Leadership and Success for Black Women on International Woman Day 2022

Disclaimer. My views are my own and do not represent the views of my humanitarian employers past, present, or future. I value neutrality in a humanitarian setting. I also cherish the freedom of thoughts and speech of all citizens.

Can We Have it All?

The world of work is incredibly competitive, and getting black leaders in the C-suite, senior leadership role in the corporate or humanitarian setting is a more significant challenge for black women. Race matters and many black women are mired in middle management.

Studying Fortune 500 companies, we can see that reaching the senior leadership role is an uphill struggle for both men and women. In 2021 there are only three black men and two black women. Since 1955, only 19 black people are getting to the top of Corporate American 500 companies. Looking at the broader picture and going beyond the 500 companies, it is essential to determine the key factors which enable black women to succeed in the corporate world. What are the qualities which help black women senior management in any given company and industry? And the number may be similar in Humanitarian, relief, International NGOs settings. But I just wanted to write about the world of work in general.

Research shows that beyond education, there are essential personal qualities that are common to high performers. While I could write about the personnel quality which clarity, energy, productivity, influence, a positive mindset, etc., which are essential qualities of a high achiever, or I could dwell on the component of leadership and management such as the vision, the charisma, the energy, the momentum, and the drive to succeed are all essential to become a top leader in one arena. There is one essential virtue, the quality, which has been developing through centuries of hardship and is instrumental in developing and ensuring black women’s success in leadership.

RESILIENCE

What is Resilience?

Resilience refers to how well you can deal with and bounce back from the difficulties of life. It is the capacity to endure hardship and flourish despite life’s setbacks. In its vast majority, the black community suffered for centuries of hardship from slavery to segregation. Women who are the backbone of the community have developed an incredible level of resilience. Some people equate resilience with mental toughness, but demonstrating resilience includes working through emotional pain and suffering. Most black women are survivors of racial discrimination and racism. They often deal with their share micro-aggression, bias, prejudice and still maintain sane mental health, composure and are able to bounce back.

It is learned skills gained in childhood and learned throughout life. It does not mean that every black woman has developed a high level of resilience, but it means that those who do, they are better equipped with the ability to face adversity and bounce back at a higher speed than others.

These Key skills are components of resilience.

Emotional Intelligence

They become adept at reading the organisations’ dramas and understanding people, translating their needs, effectively translating requirements, and overseeing all issues through completion. Even if women have high-level EQ, it does not mean that they are not hurt or harmed by unconscious bias by the dominant group. However, they have learned to cope and overcome the part hurt and harm done to them.

Authentic and Genuine Leadership

Say No To No Racism. Serious Black Muslim Woman In Hijab Showing Cross Hands Gesture, Demonstrating Denial Sign, Rejecting Something Unwanted, Posing Over Light Studio Background, Copy Space

For black women, it is essential to be authentic and genuine and walk the talks. It also means having the courage to call the bias and to genuinely believe in a world free of bias. As IWD2022 states: We genuinely imagine a gender-equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias. Believing in equality mean that we celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness against bias and we take action for equality.

Tackling discrimination and racism is not done in one day. There will be setbacks. But it requires idealism and a real commitment. As much as some people are committed to maintaining the status quo, we must devote our time to tackling racism, discrimination and inequality.

Adaptability to Change.

Black women become great leaders in the areas of change as they have learned to manage change skilfully. They have great agility and responsiveness to the challenges that life brings.

A Connection with the Community

Often, their non-black, mainstream world does not always understand the black community and is a black community member. Black women can connect them to the community, bringing a whole group of customers, friends, donors, well-wishers.

An excellent education, a strong work-ethic and key competencies in their industry can propel black women’s careers. Black women can benefit from developing and leveraging emotional intelligence, authenticity, and adaptability. These key competencies can boost the career of black women to the top.  

But in the end, it is about also making sure that people we connect with this global respect our communities, but will they respect this global community, if they do not respect black women. The way, they treat us could be the way, they treat our communities. So first, we are connectors, but we must be mindful that we help establish meaningful connections and healthy respectful relationships.

Black Women: Can we have it All?

While we discuss the corporate world paradigm and the quality needed to succeed in a leadership role, can women find joy and happiness in their private life, combining friendship, love, family, a healthy spiritual life, and leadership success?

This is a question asked for a long time, and black films have provided us with some excellent examples of balancing work and family:

  1. A famous show in the eighties portrayed a black family, with black woman who is the mother of several children, the matriarch of the show, and central member of the family. She was working as a lawyer; she valued the importance of maintaining a successful career and strong household simultaneously.
  2.  In the 2020, Black-ish shows an upper-middle-class African American family led by Andre ‘Dre’ Johnson (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross). The show revolves around the family’s lives, success, and juggling several personal and socio-political issues. Rainbow Johnson is an anaesthesiologist and mother of Zoey, Junior, Diane, Jack and DeVonte Johnson. She is successful, funny, selfless, and kind.

Black entertainment has therefore advocated since the eighties to nowadays with Black-ish for successful black women balancing career-and personal life balance.

  • Finding the Perfect Balance?

 It does require excellent time management and prioritisation.

It is essential to have complete control over your schedule because women who want to have a career and a family can make it work. Time management is a top skill.

Commitment and Consistency

Learn to lean in and not lean back when you start a family. Perseverance and consistency are primordial and do not desert the top role when the babies are born. Instead, black women should find new ways of caring for and raising children. They need a supportive partnership.  It does require a robust support system and a cooperative husband.

The fight for equality can start at home, if the women must carry the burden of house chores, raising the children. They must discuss inequality if it starts at home and strive to find the right balance.

While relying on round, the clock nannies can be daunting, black women must take time to nurture the children and care for them and love their partners. It is not easy, it is challenging, but then no one says life is easy and having it all will be easy. It requires time, dedication, and above all, commitment.

It is only possible by taking control of one’s schedule. A total commitment is needed. Effective schedule management is the only way that successful black women can balance their career and a family, and they can successfully make it work.

To conclude, it is challenging for black women (as for all women) to find work and life balance. It is a challenge not only because of their career, but they also have to battle racism, discrimination in the often non-supportive environments, deal with micro-aggression, bias, prejudice, a junior, middle or senior employee. So IWD2022 is a time to remind all that there is still a lot to do to achieve equality. It is not because an organisation hires few senior black people or women in their workforce that they have won the battle against inequalities. But it is through demonstrated daily support to those employees as they face the daily struggle due to race discrimination and bias. If the organisation leaves them to fight the battle alone, they have failed. No one should be left on their own to fight racism and gender discrimination. Organisations should victims centred approach to tackle bias.

IWD2022 sees a number of MISSIONS to help forge a gender-equal world. There are listed below for all of us to remember what is essential:

  • A gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
  • A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.
  • Break the bias
  • Celebrating women’s achievements and increasing visibility, while calling out inequality, is key.
  • Build workplaces where women thrive
  • ​Elevate visibility of women creatives
  • Improve equality for women in tech
  • Forge women’s empowerment worldwide
  • Celebrate the women forging change
  • Celebrate the women forging change
  • Empower women’s choices in health
Young black woman with braids wearing casual winter sweater rejection expression crossing arms doing negative sign, angry face

Disclaimer. My views are my own and do not represent the views of my humanitarian employers past, present, or future. I value neutrality in a humanitarian setting. I also cherish the freedom of thoughts and speech of all citizens.

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