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What does it mean to create a truly supportive, equity-centered, and inclusive culture in the workplace—one where all individuals, and particularly Black women, thrive? Black Women Thriving, a new study of Black women in the workplace from Every Level Leadership, provides insights and recommendations for just that.
Led by Erika Hines, a diversity, equity, and inclusion expert, Every Level Leadership conducted a study of more than 1,400 Black cisgender and transgender women and gender-expansive professionals. Survey questions and small focus groups examined job-related factors like promotion, compensation, access to opportunities, workplace satisfaction, burnout, belonging, and connectedness and trust with work colleagues.
Among the resulting report’s recommendations: opportunities for childcare and flexible working hours are structural factors that promote thriving for Black women. In addition, organizations can take steps to create a climate where Black women can share perspectives honestly, while, at the same time, providing access to professional development opportunities, mentorship, and pathways to leadership within their organizations.
For this issue of the newsletter, Meera Chary, a Bridgespan partner and head of Bridgespan’s Leadership Accelerator program, spoke with Hines about the report.
Meera Chary: Can you talk a little bit about what led you to conceptualize this research in this way?
Ericka Hines: My passion and interest are based on both my lived experience of being a Black woman and being a DEI practitioner—but this concept was also based on this intellectual question that I had around, "If you have the title and you have the money, but you're still unhappy, what's missing?" That question, the question of what was missing, was one I wanted to explore.
The other thing that led me to it was a very common observation I heard from so many Black women: "I feel like all I'm doing at work is surviving.” I don't know what that is. I want to actually ask the inverse of that question and say, “What would thriving look like in the workplace for Black women?"
I love that—the different elements of both your own personal and professional identity feeding into this research, and this intellectual question that felt answerable. I also appreciate this idea that if we look at Black women in our world, in our society, they are thriving in their lives, and there's so much joy and beauty and brilliance in Black women, and it's not translating to work. What does that disconnect mean to you?
I think the current response to “how can I thrive at work” is that I have this reservoir. I have to get all my thriving outside of work, and then I have to hope that little barrel of thriving gets me through the week. Then on the weekend I can go back to my barrel, fill it up, and use that to navigate through each day.
We're very conditioned to do that. But the disconnect, I think, is built upon the fact that we don't actually know what thriving looks like.
The factors we use to thrive outside of work actually shouldn't be the same factors that we're using to thrive inside work, and we shouldn't have to empty this well to make it through the workweek.
Read the full article about supporting Black women in the workplace by Meera Chary at The Bridgespan Group.