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How To Be An Ally For Black Women In The Workplace…

On 2/22/22, Holly Corbett wrote and published an article in Forbes Magazine in which I was honored to be interviewed and contribute my perspective on allyship and Black Women. Please check out the article to see the other comments I made, along with some information from other dynamic Black Women.

Since the article was released, many Black women hit me up to share their alignment to the article through relatability, understanding, feeling seen/heard, and now having new language to use when they advocate for themselves in the workplace.

Below is a section of the article that really stood out to me. Highlighted are my current thoughts.

Help Black women feel seen and safe. “From the position of allyship, this can be achieved by acknowledging what I state and how I state it, while not wanting me to mince my words or use semantics that another person is more comfortable with; by not skipping over me during team meetings or allowing another person to repeat my words and giving them credit as if it's the first time the statements have been said;

So many times, I’ve seen (and experienced) Black women saying something during a meeting and it being dismissed, only for a non-Black colleague to say the same thing (maybe using a few different words or different intonations) and it being praised, highlighted, and set into the “next steps” or work plan. So here’s what can be done next time this happens:

Ally- “Thank you Bob for understanding ___’s (Black woman) perspective, interpreting it correctly, and giving us an additional way to see it. I’d like to highlight that ____ (Black Woman) said something similar a few minutes ago. And, while we might not have heard or accepted her at that moment, I am glad that we get to acknowledge her contribution right now.

“By allowing my lived experience to be held with the same reverence as textbook research;

While it’s true that published research may be valid and reliable, so are lived experiences. I can go down a rabbit hole on the relevance of qualitative research and/or quantitative research but I have to check my word count (😊) but the point that I am making here is, just because a Black woman’s lived experiences are not documented in an article, textbook, and PowerPoint presentation, doesn’t make it less important, valid, or reliable. So while many people are asking for article citations and textbook references, it’ll be important for allies to promote the lived experience of Black women because most of our experiences are undocumented (due to a cultural preference in the art/skill of storytelling versus answering factor analysis statement stems) and for many years, many people didn’t care to hear or tell our stories so the “research” we carry includes the historical and individualized knowledge from our elders, ancestors, and wise council. So here's what you, as an ally, can do:

“Samantha, I appreciate the details, research, and information that you are bringing forth through this article and book. I think it’s important that we get some additional information from a qualitative or lived experience too. I believe ______ (Black Woman) shared her perspective in the last meeting and I’d like to hear more about her thoughts and ideas, especially as we create a more diverse and inclusive way to look at and plan around this topic. (Be sure to check in with the Black woman before the meeting to make sure she is open to talking and sharing).

..and by respecting my chronological time and work boundaries,”

Well, I’m going to save the details of this one for another day because there’s an entire history lesson involved, along with the incorporation of neuroscience. But, in short my dear ally, here is what you can do/say:

“Malcolm, I know you mentioned it’s really important for _____ (Black Woman) to get this email today/attend this meeting tomorrow/or finish this project on Friday. However, as we acknowledge work/life balance and more importantly, historical and cultural factors in the workplace, I am advocating for us to wait and allow ____(Black Woman) to take her time off/address this during normal work hours/set her date of completion so she can feel respected in our workplace while also showing up as the best version of herself, which benefits us too because that’s when she’s more creative, innovative, and ready to rock out!”

And the article continues with,

…says Dr. LaNail R. Plummer, founder and CEO of Onyx Therapy Group. “It is through these simple behaviors—ones that do not allow additional research, changes in understanding, or workforce efforts—that I will feel that I am valued in the workplace. In other words, many of the changes that are necessary can be rooted in behavioral and character shifts, not just systemic change and response. Allyship allows me to be me—not a version of me you want me to be or wish I would be.”

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