7 Ways Black Women Can Combat Workplace Discrimination

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For black women in the workplace surviving can be an uphill battle, but thriving is something altogether different. This article, "Black Women's Dilemma: Be Real or Be Ignored,"  in the journal for Women in Higher Education examines how black women administrators in higher education are susceptible to age old stereotypes about black women. 

Though many of us are familiar with images of our womanhood that many hold in their minds, we may have less understanding about how to overcome these obstacles. Sandra Miles offers these tips on breaking down racial barriers and building a rapport with coworkers and superiors.

She's writing to women who wish to advance their careers in higher ed administration, but they can certainly apply to women in all fields.

 • Be more personal and personable. Be genuine in a positive way you’re comfortable with. Don’t complain about being tired or busy or underpaid; save that for your real friends. You want to be a person that people want to be around. You can do this without changing your work habits or core personality traits.
• Get to know your colleagues. “How was your weekend?” “Great, how was yours?” Until you know each other, you don’t know whom you can trust and they don’t know whether they can trust you. Miles attended regular meetings where the conversation before it revolved around getting drunk. She finally joined the banter, saying, “Look, I draw the line on moonshine.” After that remark, others felt that they could trust her.
• Attend gatherings at co-workers’ homes when invited. A white woman repeatedly invited Miles to come have wine on her porch. When she finally did, the woman was delighted and started inviting others to come meet her.
• Have gatherings at your home and invite co-workers. Be willing to take the initiative. If you wait to be asked, you may wait a long time.
 • Invite key players to lunch to talk business. Work in casual personal conversation about home, family or other interests. Choose a tone and topics that paint you as personable rather than overwhelmed.
 • Look for sponsors. These are different from mentors, who encourage you. Sponsors advocate for you whether you are there or not. A sponsor talks you up to others and defends you when others bad-mouth you. “Have at least one white male in your corner,” she said. When she gets pushback from faculty, she goes to lunch with her male faculty friends. “If they’re married, we go in threes.”
• Stop assuming hard work will get you noticed. If you want to get promoted, you need to be the one getting noticed, for the right reasons.
[Women in Higher Education]

What do you think of the advice?


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