At Legally Bold, we are running the #complimentablackwoman challenge for the entire month of February. Naturally, as a career coach, my participation in the challenge got me thinking about black women and careers.
Here are some statistics to consider.
Black women, on average work more hours, than white women and men, though we are paid far less. Black women with advanced degrees (i.e., lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc.) make almost $7 per hour less than white men with a bachelor’s degree. In fact, black women with advanced degrees only make about $11 more per hour than white men with high school diplomas. By comparison, white men with advanced degrees make almost $28 more per hour than white men with high school diplomas. That’s more than double.
And money is only part of the problem. As a marginalized group, black women also have to contend with oppression on many other fronts. First, it’s systemic in that laws, policies, and normative practices are all designed to marginalize black people. Oppression at work also occurs by imposition in that unwanted labels, roles, and conditions are inflicted on black women These labels are needlessly painful and detract from our physical and psychological well-being.
Then there is oppression by deprivation in that black women are denied desired roles, professional growth opportunities, and working conditions. Interpersonal oppression between individual coworkers via microaggressive communications and behaviors. And finally, the motherload of internalized oppression. This occurs when a marginalized group that is denied the opportunity to confront the source of their oppression, direct that anger inwardly and other members of their group.
Dealing with all of this is enough to make anyone want to scream. Yet, against this backdrop, black women still have to earn a living. So how can we do it? How do we create a career earns a living and lessens the harm to our well-being?
In other words, how can Black women find a job that doesn’t suck in 2022?
Though I don’t have all the answers. I have some tangible, actionable tips that can certainly help.
Tip #1 – Challenge Your Mindset
Often when I ask black women about their dream careers, I get one of two responses.
Number #1: “I’d like this XYZ role I don’t really want but that pays 5-15% more and has a fancier title.” OR
Number #2: “I’m not sure what I want for my dream career, but I’m willing to keep my options open.”
I call bull to both of these responses because when I probe a little deeper I find out the truth. They know the career they want but they don’t believe that they can get it.
To get the life you want, you have to believe it is achievable even if no one else does. When you do, you start to plan for that destiny. You align your actions toward the goal. And even if you don’t get there, you often discover a career that’s even better than what you imagined.
Basically you can play to lose with your life. Success requires that you play full out to win no matter the circumstances. If you do that and remember not to equate your worthiness with success or failure (both are inevitable if you’re in the game), you’ll be surprised by the body of work you create.
Tip #2 Create The Job You Want
Given all the oppression we face in the workplace, to get the dream career you desire you must create it whether you work for an employer or for yourself. This isn’t about starting over or getting another degree. This is about looking at your skills, experience, and desires and figuring out how you can use them to further your career in a way that best serves you. Do you want to ditch your law job to head up a Diversity and Inclusion office for a firm? If your current firm doesn’t have a DEI office, give yourself that title today. Then go about creating that office there. The phrase, “speak it into existence” is a maxim in black culture for a reason. You have the power to make it happen.
Tip # 3 Rethink Your Finances
One of the most common reasons people stay in jobs that no longer serve them is the fear of losing their salary. Often, that fear is based on drama, not data. Yes, black women make less and have more demands on their dollar than other groups, but that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice our well-being for others. If you rethink your financial picture now in a way that prioritizes your career happiness, you’ll reap the benefits of that financial decision in the long run.
Tip #4: Get Vulnerable
We lie to ourselves all the time. We tell ourselves that we won’t overindulge in sweets or keep dating that partner that disappoints us. However, as soon as the munchkins are out and our phone lights up with our partner’s number, all bets are off. The same thing happens in our careers. We want and deserve more, but when things get hectic all bets are off. We prioritize other people’s deadlines and emergencies over what’s most important for us. Suddenly that time we set aside to rewrite our resume is gone and we’re too tired to search for new opportunities.
This is where vulnerability comes in. We need to admit that we need support and ask for help. No one cultivates the career they want in a vacuum. People find mentors, hire coaches, resume writers, and other service providers for a reason. We all need help in holding the space for our goals and dreams. When we admit we need support and then go about getting it, the world opens up and our dreams look more like actionable goals instead of fantasies.
By putting these tips into action, you’ll be well on your way to finding a job that doesn’t suck in 2022.