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More women are thriving at the workplace as they push to reach career goals, and everyone is benefiting from their efforts. As their presence allows companies to check obvious boxes in addressing diversity issues at face value, mixed-gendered teams are thriving in work environments practicing the inclusion of shared knowledge and experience during collaborative projects. Women often don’t get the proper shine they deserve and it shows.
But we all know no great team is complete without the wit and intellect of a woman.
Every year around award season the phrase “Oscars So White” starts to make its rounds on social media. It’s also applicable to higher leadership positions when examining race and gender gaps at the workplace. Take a look at a company’s organizational chart, for instance. The higher the rung on the corporate ladder, the less diversity is represented by the time one reaches the c-suite level. In a recent report by Fortune, women occupied only 74 seats at the CEO level at Fortune 500 companies, and even less when it’s spliced by race. So, what’s the hold-up?
Hitting a “glass ceiling” during the corporate climb is a real thing. It’s an old-school metaphor coined to describe an invisible, yet realistic barrier women and minorities encounter throughout their career trajectories. And while women may find value in that recognition, the impact on women of color is higher when the data is compared against their White counterparts. Yet, the adversity is not stopping them from breaking through for a seat at the table.
In 2020, Kamala Harris was historically elected Vice President of the United States, becoming the first Black American, South Asian American, and woman to ever occupy the prestigious seat. Her ability to remain fierce in her delivery and approach has made her a legend. Her animated expressions became meme fodder during Vice Presidental debates against former VP Mike Pence. Vice President Harris’ trailblazing accomplishments have carved a lane for women in politics to reach the Executive branch in future elections.
By the way, one of the hardest lines to ever grace our speakers came from a 5-year-old Blue Ivy Carter spitting a freestyle in her namesake: “Never seen a ceiling in my whole life.” It’s true. At that point, she’d probably never seen one to assess just how high that Knowles-Carter castle goes, however, her mindset is mighty futuristic and boss-like. Must be something in the genes.
Saying “No” is another high-key boss move. Buckling under pressure to appease co-workers is a gateway to pigeonholing women as the workplace’s people pleaser. The opposite, however, leaves room for a biased interpretation as one being “difficult” or “aggressive,” despite such strength being championed in corporate culture amongst men. At the same time, women are held to higher ethical standards than men. Some of the most successful Black women have put this into practice to their benefit.
Shonda Rhimes, for example, refused to entertain the disrespect from her previous employer, ABC. Famously, the network treated the Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal show creator as a second-class citizen. Eventually, she reached a breaking point after the conglomerate played her over Disneyland tickets, prompting her to sever her contract to focus on her lucrative, $100 million deal at Netflix.
Rhimes proved to be an undefeated rating magnet when Bridgerton hit the streaming service. She’s since increased her deal, making her one of the highest-paid show creators on the platform. She isn’t the only one cleaning up. Director Ava DuVernay also landed a nine-figure deal while Power showrunner Courtney Kemp secured an equally lucrative one with Netflix.
To quote another dope line, this time from Lil’ Kim, is “Money, Power & Respect what you need in life” or is success defined by a different set of factors? The truth is, it’s an individual sport with a finish line determined by the person facing the challenge. Success, aligned with your purpose, creates space for fulfillment and satisfaction.
Nikole Hannah-Jones shook the conservative tree when she published The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story in 2020, an award-winning effort that unapologetically examines 400 years of slavery in the United States. Her groundbreaking work has sparked a nation-wide movement at the legislation level to ban critical race theory in classrooms. Hannah-Jones, an accomplished Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative Journalist and educator, continues to champion her work with a children’s book and an upcoming docuseries on Hulu.
Disrupting the status quo and trailblazing new ground is arduous work, yet women have proven more than ready for the challenge. The best way to help usher progress is to support your fellow woman.
If you are in a position of power, support is found in allyship. The same goes for listening to women while trusting their ideas in collaborative spaces; not talking over them during meetings; paying them fair wages, promoting inclusion instead of supporting archaic structures; reporting discriminatory practices; joining Employee Resource Groups, and more. It takes everyone’s contribution to breaking down barriers that hold women back. It takes a village, y’all.