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The Magic and Mundane of Being a Black Woman In The Workplace (Preview) By Shonda Smith

Written by Shonda Smith, this is a preview of the upcoming full article feature in the upcoming Summer 2022 edition of the Geaux Queen Magazine. To read this full article, subscribe to our digital/print magazine.

These five words – Black Women In The Workplace – speak volumes. There’s a magic and rhythm to these words that evoke the shared head-nod or eye-roll – or better yet, that knowing smile of shared experience, struggle, and hard-fought victory. There’s also a heaviness associated with the thought of Black women in the workplace, a proverbial weight we often carry whether we are in the non-profit, for-profit, or self-employed arenas.

Recently, I joined Riley's Way Foundation, a national nonprofit that empowers young changemakers to take action and transform their communities by leaning on the values of kindness, empathy, inclusivity, and youth leadership. I joined the organization as its first-ever Communications Director,

Before Riley’s Way, I worked for several small and large mission-driven organizations. And regardless of where I was, my role as a Black woman in the workplace would inevitably come into play. How could it not? In a country stolen from Indigenous people and built on the backs of Africans who were taken from their own homelands and forced into slavery, there’s an ingrained trauma passed down from generation to generation. That trauma doesn’t just go away when we enter office doors, connect via Zoom meetings, or pass by corporate cubicles. It finds itself in the workplace, in ways both obvious and insidious.

In the opening sentence of the article, How corporate America’s diversity initiatives continue to fail Black women, author Courtney Connley writes, “Being a woman in corporate America comes with its fair share of challenges, often facing gender discrimination and bias in the workplace. But, if you’re a Black woman, or woman of color, these gender-based challenges are often compounded by obstacles of racism, making it even harder to navigate your way to the top.”

The trauma is there when battling with whether we as Black women can bring our full selves to work. Will our natural hair have to be defended, explained, or nonconsensually touched? Will we have to navigate being the "first" or "only" in our roles? Will we have to bear the tried-and-true journey of working twice as hard, for half the pay?

More than likely, if you are a Black woman, you’ve grappled with these questions yourself or know someone in your circle who has. I’ve always tried to be unapologetic and embracing about all that my being a Black woman entails, but standing up to the ever-pervasive system of white privilege rooted in this country’s history of systemic racism can be just plain exhausting.

------Full article will be featured in the summer edition of The Geaux Queen Magazine.

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