Why do women of color need advocates in the workplace?
Malcolm X said it best: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”
Other women of color have similar experiences. We are double minorities – of color and women.
We are not victims. We are survivors and thrivers. However, the fact remains that despite all of our many qualities, strengths and talents, we are disrespected, unprotected and neglected in the workplace.
I am going to share five ways that YOU can advocate for women of color in the workplace. There are many more ways. However, I will focus on five ways. To remember the five ways, please remember this word: GRACE.
- Give them the benefit of the doubt
- Respect, acknowledge and leverage their candor, courage, loyalty, strength and talents
- Afford them the same opportunities that you would give a White person and/or a male
- Care privately AND publicly
- Expose instances of racism and sexism
- Give them the benefit of the doubt. When you hear complaints about women of color, ask the complainer what HE or SHE did. Most women of color do not start disagreements, but they will certainly end them. Also, give them the benefit of the doubt and ask them what happened. Chances are the woman of color did what White people and men do all of the time – expressed her opinion.
- Respect, acknowledge and leverage their candor, courage, loyalty, strength and talents. Women of color are some of the most brilliant and talented people in the world. If you respect, acknowledge and leverage their talents, you will have a loyal supporter for life. When others betray and turn against you, they will not. They will not always agree with you, but they will remain loyal. They have the fortitude to remain in the kitchen and withstand the heat when others are running for the door.
- Afford them the same opportunities that you would give a White person and/or a male. The next time you are considering a White person or male for an opportunity simply because you share the same demographics, consider giving that same opportunity to a woman of color. She is not asking for anything that she does not deserve Remember that not every White person and male deserve the opportunities they have been afforded. Do not have double standards for women of color.
- Care privately AND publicly. If you privately tell a woman of color that you support her, be prepared to shout that same level of support from the rooftops. Others will be less likely to target her if they know that you support her. Be authentic in that private and public support. Women of color tend to despise inauthenticity, and they can spot a phony a mile away.
- Expose instances of racism and sexism. It’s not enough to declare that you are anti-racist or anti-misogynistic. Women of color need you to expose those ills and get rid of the racists and misogynists – especially if you are in positions of leadership. Racists and misogynists are bad for business. You should get rid of bad people who can negatively impact your culture and bottom line.