As Women's History Month winds down, it's crucial to remain focused on the ultimate goal: true equality for all women every month of the year.
At Bleeker, we’re in business to normalize the top-to-bottom representation of historically marginalized talent in the workplace, and there is much work left to do. The pandemic highlighted our current systems' fragility and disparate effect on women in the workplace. According to the National Women’s Law Center, the US economy is still down a net 2.1 million jobs since February 2020, with women down over 1.4 million net jobs since February 2020, comprising more than two in three net job losers since the start of the pandemic.
But today, we’d like to go beyond thinking about working women as a monolith and appreciate their diverse experiences.
The role of intersectionality in the workplace
Kimberlé Crenshaw originally coined the term ‘intersectionality’ to counter bias and violence against Black women, describing it as “a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.” In other words, people can have more than one identity – such as race, gender, class, or sexuality – and those identities intersect to create unique experiences.
Recruiting: In 2020, many members of our community were experiencing the same acute sense of professional dissatisfaction as folks across the country. Working for companies that shared their values, appreciated their gifts, and advanced their careers was no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have. In response to this need, Bleeker launched our recruiting practice. We intend to make it easier for Black professionals to identify the right open roles at the companies that best fit their career trajectory; getting them where they want to go, how they want to get there.
There’s a massive opportunity for transformation by improving the workplace experience for women of color, who comprise the largest majority of women globally and are projected to become the largest demographic in the female workforce in the United States. Meanwhile, between entry-level and C-suite positions, women of color drop off by more than 75%, accounting for only 4% of C-suite leaders — a number that hasn’t moved significantly in the past three years.
In the words of award-winning inclusion strategist and speaker Ruchika Tulshyan, “For far too long, diversity and inclusion, especially corporate diversity efforts, have centered around women—by which they mean White women.”
While all women are more likely than men to face professional microaggressions, women of color experience them at a higher rate. These experiences can take a heavy toll, with those who regularly experience microaggressions being twice as likely to report feeling negatively about their job and almost three times as likely to say they’ve struggled to concentrate at work in the past few months due to stress, burnout, and the pressure to conform to white standards of professionalism.
How can we create a more diverse, equal, and inclusive workplace?
Despite the recent spotlight on DEI and the understanding that allyship from privileged colleagues can make a big difference in women of color’s experiences, there hasn’t been much improvement. While more than three-quarters of white employees consider themselves allies to women of color at work, less than half are taking authentic actions such as actively confronting discrimination, stepping up as sponsors, or advocating new opportunities. To be an effective ally, we can’t just advocate for the rights of one underrepresented group, such as women. We need to offer tailored support that takes intersectionality into account and provides power, resources, or positions to women of color.
The experience of being a “woman in the workplace” isn’t monolithic, and it’s important to consider all the aspects of identity when we celebrate specific months like Women’s History Month, Black History Month, and Pride Month.