The number of women of color who own their own businesses rose by 8% last year. This increase is largely due to “poor treatment and the perception of being undervalued in the workplace,” according to a 2017 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. In fact, “a much greater gender and racial pay gap have led women of color to start businesses at a higher rate out of necessity and the need to survive,” the 2018 State of Women-Owned Business Report found. 

This is not surprising to me.

If I had to find one word to describe my journey of management and leadership as a black woman, I’d go with “lonely” ― not your typical sad lonely, but more of an alienated lonely. An “I’m literally the only person in the room with this hair texture and this skin color” lonely. An “I’m representing an entire race of people” lonely. How I am perceived matters.

Growing up, I watched the sitcom “Martin” religiously and admired the role that actor Tisha Campbell-Martin played as Gina, who worked as a top marketing executive. As clever and on point as that show was, what it didn’t portray was that, in real life, black female leaders are often one-of-one ― especially in meetings.

It’s really difficult to articulate how it feels to continually be the “only”in a meeting.

I’ve been a black “white-collar” professional since I graduated college in the mid-2000s. I remember the first day of my first real job. My boss walked me around the office and introduced me to my new team and the other employees. Everyone seemed really nice, but what I noticed after returning to my desk was that I hadn’t met a single minority in a leadership role. I knew I wouldn’t stay there long, and I was right. I was out the door and on to the next opportunity in under a year.

I moved into management early on in my career, and by the age of 24, I had staff reporting to me. I was the youngest middle manager at my company. That role opened me up to a bevy of opportunities, including global travel and board meetings — and that’s when it began. I was the “only.” I was not just the only woman, but 98% of the time, I was the only black woman. You know what I learned from those experiences? I learned that discrimination isn’t usually outright or blatant. In fact, it’s often very subtle.

I’ve had people enter conference rooms where I’m sitting, and when they see me, they say, “Maybe I’m in the wrong room,” as if to suggest that if I’m a part of the meeting, it must not be a leadership meeting.

Once, during a leadership retreat abroad, a chief executive pulled me to the side before the committee discussions began and said, “You know, you don’t need to talk during the retreat. You can just listen. Yeah, actively listen. No need for you to contribute.” Mind you, I was the person responsible for setting the strategic direction of the initiative. I was also the person solely responsible for the company’s recent massive growth. And yet, I thought, you don’t want me to talk?

When we’re the only person of our race at a certain level, we feel accomplished — but we also feel alone. It’s kind of like “yay me,” but at the same time, “why just me?”

Years of being the only black woman in the room made me feel visibly invisible. It didn’t matter that I broke sales and revenue records year after year, and it didn’t matter that my performance evaluations read “outstanding” across the board.

There is an unconscious bias that exists in business culture, whether people want to admit it or not. Companies can have all the diversity and inclusion trainings they want, but that doesn’t change the fact that black women (and men) are continually overlooked and discriminated against.

Companies need to realize that relatability is a real thing. Representation is a real thing. So when we’re the only person of our race at a certain level, we feel accomplished — but we also feel alone. It’s kind of like “yay me,” but at the same time, “why just me?”

People don’t really like to talk about race. But it’s there — hovering, always. I’ve sat in meetings where people dismissed my feedback or ideas as not being valuable or worthwhile, only to have someone of another race repeat the same messages or ideas five minutes later to ahas! and applause.

There’s a reason why black women are turning to entrepreneurship, and it’s not because we’re not qualified for management positions in the corporate world. It’s because we’re not seen.

What I’ve learned over the past 15 years is that mentors are vital. It can be a real challenge to go into a workplace day in and day out when you feel ignored or overlooked. Mentors are an invaluable support system for everyone, but especially for women and minorities. We need people to help us navigate our careers and help guide us as we continue to grow. There is a void of African Americans in leadership, and it can be very demoralizing to watch other people who do less advance quicker than we do.

I met my mentor, who was also a black female executive, at a professional development conference. She had turned an idea into a seven-figure business venture after walking away from corporate America five years prior. I’ll never forget the first thing she told me when we met for coffee.

“You will have to work 10 times harder than your white counterparts for recognition,” she said. “You will often question yourself and your worth. You will not receive the same pay. You will get frequent stares and looks. You will be disrespected, both blatantly and subtly. But never let it make you question yourself. Never. Go after every opportunity that presents itself. It will teach you resilience, and as a black woman, you’ll need that a lot.”

I now know to command my seat at the table. Even if they’re given a seat, women of color still need to command our place. Unfortunately, we have to do so diplomatically because minorities, specifically African Americans, are often viewed as hostile or aggressive when we speak up, whereas people of other races are seen as passionate and committed.

“There’s a reason why black women are turning to entrepreneurship, and it’s not because we’re not qualified for management positions in the corporate world. It’s because we’re not seen,” Keli Hammond writes.

I have also learned to create my own support system. Everyone needs allies they can trust, confide in and connect with on a personal level. Because black women are often unfairly stereotyped, it’s important for us to keep positive and supportive energy in our circles.

There’s no getting around the fact that race is going to be an underlying factor in business, and there are some very real barriers to advancement in traditional workforces for women of color. Thankfully, I discovered this early on, and with the help of my mentors, I learned how to advance despite the unfair challenges and stereotypes I’ve faced. Every morning, I remind myself of the most important lesson I’ve learned throughout my career: Although we may feel like others devalue our contributions, we must never devalue ourselves.

Keli Hammond is the author of “Craved: The Secret Sauce to Building a Highly-Successful, Standout Brand” and the CEO of B Classic Marketing & Communications. Learn more about her at KeliHammond.com.

Source: Huffpost

There are endless articles and even a book about how often men try to teach women things we already know. Despite being a raft and adventure guide in the outdoor industry for most of my 20s, I often get approached by men half my age trying to teach me how to do things like setting an anchor. It both infuriates and cracks me up that they assume I need to be taught because I’m a woman. Especially when I started climbing before they were even born.

But I’ve recently realized there’s an even more annoying kind of mansplainer. He’s not the “teacher” type, but rather a seemingly curious man who wants to be “taught.” I call him the Faux Student.REAL LIFE. REAL NEWS. REAL VOICES.Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.Become a founding member

Every woman knows this kind of dude. He’s the mansplainer in disguise. Instead of teaching you something you already know, he wants you to spend your time and emotional labor educating him, often on the finer points of feminism. Only, spoiler alert: These dudes aren’t here to learn jack shit.

I hit my breaking point a couple of months ago when I wrote a super-personal post on Facebook about how I don’t trust male doctors anymore. Well, Faux Student had questions about this. That is, after he pointed out that this is a HUMAN ISSUE (all caps!), not a feminist one. Why do I “have to make everything about sexism!!!!!!!!!!” he asked.

A friend of mine jumped in, posted links to this article to back me up and answered all his patronizing questions. She finally got sick of it and blocked him, but I spent a good 20 minutes tap-dancing around his fragile male ego trying to explain that women in the U.S. die all the time because male doctors don’t listen to us. I even gave a dissertation-level argument backed up with hard facts. But Faux Student wouldn’t drop it. He just didn’t understand, OK?  

“Dude, STOP,” I wrote. “I’m not explaining feminism to you.” The empathetic (sorry — codependent) part of me that gives people way too many chances finally said that if he was genuinely interested, I could send him links to articles that explain what I and all the women were talking about on my Facebook post.

The next day, he messaged me a sorry-not-sorry apology. But you know what he didn’t do?

Ask for any of those links.

Not a single one.

Because he doesn’t actually care about this issue. He never did.

Every woman knows this kind of dude. He’s the mansplainer in disguise. Instead of teaching you something you already know, he wants you to spend your time and emotional labor educating him.

I used to be willing to enlighten any man who asked me about feminism. But in recent years, I’ve learned a much healthier approach from being in Facebook writing groups with women of color.

Like clockwork, every week or so, an ignorant white lady will say something insensitive or blatantly racist. A woman of color will call her out, and the white lady will invariably play the “That wasn’t my intent but please teach me” card, which then requires long, thoughtful responses from the WOC. These women do so with more compassion and patience than the lady deserves. But white lady usually tries to shut them down with the same gaslighting techniques men use to shut women down. The lesson usually ends with the white lady crying her fragile white tears and calling the WOC bullies.

“I’m trying to understand!” she’ll say right before swearing she’s not racist. This despite the fact that all white people have racism to unlearn.

Over time, I’ve witnessed that a lot of the women of color who had been doing all this free labor stop responding with comments and instead just link to articles that explain the topic at hand. Some have gotten so fed up that they’ve started to list their PayPal account info in the comments. After all, they’re saving these white women hours by providing resources they could and should have researched their damn selves.  

Some women refuse to engage at all and instead just say, “Google it.”

I’ve since taken this wisdom into my life as a feminist, and boy, has it been a game-changer. Because honestly, I’m too exhausted to spend my time educating the Faux Student.

For decades now, I’ve been reading numerous articles online about women’s issues, taking feminism classes, talking about feminism with women and men, protesting sexism on the streets, watching TED Talks, and straight up living it. I recently spent my whole Saturday with 5,000 women protesting sexual assault here in France while my guy friends slept in and enjoyed a leisurely weekend. I rarely meet men who actively educate themselves about feminism, read books or articles by women, or watch our TV shows and movies. 

Think about all the things I could do if learning about feminism (and all forms of social injustice) didn’t consume so much of my time! It’s an endless, exhausting but necessary time suck for us. And that’s just the beginning of our firewall!

I rarely meet men who actively educate themselves about feminism, read books or articles by women, or watch our TV shows and movies.

Then there’s all the unpaid labor women do at home, all the efforts we make keeping ourselves safe, the money and time we spend trying to recover from small or big doses of trauma we’ve already experienced. It’s a full-time job just existing as a woman.

In fact, just the other day, a man followed me home from the gym and harassed me the entire way until I stopped at the wrong apartment building and pretended to be going home (more mental energy wasted trying to outsmart the bad guys!). Once I did get home, I was shaking and livid for a good two hours afterward and couldn’t get any work done. He reminded me of all the other men who’ve followed me, sexually assaulted or harassed me, or simply scared the living shit out of me.

See why we’re so tired, guys? And why we don’t have time to educate your asses?

I find it insulting when men who’ve put zero effort into learning about women’s rights, much less fighting for them, ask me to take even more of my time and energy to explain it to them.

These exhausting men have made me realize just how much emotional labor it requires for a marginalized group to educate people outside said group, making me appreciate all the more the many people of color who’ve taken the time and effort to educate me over the years. Like them, I am willing to teach men who are open and respectful enough to have these sometimes hard conversations (I mean, we’re fighting for men too, duh). But I’m too tired, busy, and honestly, have zero fucks left to give those who don’t.  

For the Faux Student, I now say “Google it.”

Unless they want to PayPal me. Then I’m totally game.

By: Melanie Hamlett