All Articles Tagged "women and career"
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg causes a firestorm of debate with new book/campaign Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, in which she prods women to be more aggressive in business. In a blog post for The Washington Post, Mary C. Curtis asks “Do black women need lessons on ‘leaning in’?”
Sandberg claims that women are not successful in business, in large part, because they don’t play like the big boys. Some working women were offended by the theory, saying that it is easy for Sandberg to pass judgment as she had many helping hands on her way up the ladder. Other detractors say no matter how hard women fight for corporate rank, most will still hit a ceiling. It isn’t women who need to change, the argument goes, but the corporate culture.
And now many black female executives are giving their opinion. African-American women in the workplace most often face different obstacles. “[B]lack women have long been in the work force, facing different and difficult obstacles. Sandberg warns that being assertive, a positive quality in a man, can be judged as ‘too aggressive’ behavior in a women. For black women, the line between leaning in and being perceived as stereotypically pushy is awfully thin. The rewards may be less and the risks far greater,” writes Curtis.
Many feminists too are weighing in on the “lean in” discussion. And some are not upset, but rather, inspired by it. Gloria Steinem, notes Curtis, says Lean In “addresses internalized oppression, opposes the external barriers that create it, and urges women to support each other to fight both.” Her view is that critics “are making a deep if inadvertent point: Only in women is success viewed as a barrier to giving advice.”
But as Curtis points out the feminists movement over time has excluded black women. “When the feminist icon weighs in, it’s a reminder that the women’s movement, too, has long been accused of catering to elite circles and leaving others out,” she writes. But adds that many black women have been involved in the “lean in” conversation.
“It’s a conversation I’ve taken part in, reminding movement leaders of their debt to civil rights progress and occasional failure to acknowledge the added burdens working-class women and women of color face. The matter of ‘choice’ — the ultimate goal — isn’t always theirs to make,” she says.
What do you think about the “lean in” concept?
Over the last few years there has been a continuous backlash against the notion of a Strong Black Woman (SBW). A number of blog posts, articles and books calling for the death of the Strong Black Woman. Most of it has been in response to the media putting black women under a microscope pointing out our so-called issues. If we have not been scrutinized about our inability to get married, keep savings beyond five dollars, and other lifestyle choices, then we are ostracized for being loud, obnoxious and overall drama queens.
Even though the media had contributed to the objectification of the black woman and her strength, the real hostile response has come from within the black community itself. Both men and women believe that the trademark of a SBW is nothing more than a well-crafted myth—that as long as black women keep up this false notion of strength, we somehow cosign on all the abuse, ingratitude, exploitation, and under-appreciation we receive from the rest of society.
But why should black women have to denounce their attribute of strength just to fight against oppression or to reject unfair attacks and characterizations to her individuality?
When people generally think of strength, they tend to think of physical strength and strong personalities, which is typically attributed to men. However, strength can also mean being mentally and emotionally strong too. Yet, regardless of the definition, being strong doesn’t make a woman any less feminine.
Can black women be bitter at times? Sure, but who in the black community isn’t bitter at times? During the days of slavery, the black woman had to work long and hard in the fields alongside her black brothers, or play the “mammy” to white kids or be the “massa’s” sex toy. After slavery, she, just like black men, had to bury her pain in order to take care of the home and children—mostly by herself. In various civil rights and black pride movements, she had to totally disregard her own needs for the greater good of the community. Even today, she has to balance the demands placed on her between pursuing her education, building her career and taking care of her family. Ultimately, it’s the SBW that must sacrifice her own needs and desires to fulfill the needs of other individuals.
Though there is a great emotional and physical cost to being a SBW, we also have a great ability to move on and forward, despite all the setbacks and challenges. Do black women need a support system and to set boundaries from time to time? Sure, but I also don’t think we need to reject displaying our strength. Like any other woman on the planet, black women should understand that her strength is also the embodiment of femininity. It’s not the term (Strong Black Woman) that needs to change, but how we further subjugate the experience of black women that should be modified.
The Oxygen reality series “Running Russell Simmons” may be over for the moment, but the reverberating effects for young women of color are no doubt still being felt. Like many, I watched several episodes of the craziness of the interns, glamour of the Hamptons and fast-paced blur of Russell’s remarkable life. It seemed light entertainment accompanied by relatively solid hip hop beats as the show transitions from one scene to another. Fun.
Or is it?
As the weeks went on, I began to be a bit more concerned about the way in which the series was being sold to its viewers. Upon first glance, it’s all about these “powerful” women running this meditating mogul’s life. But if we stop and think a minute, just how powerful are these young women who are either corking roof leaks to stressing about securing outfits for notables with a pout?
Unfortunately, none of them will probably earn anywhere near what their dear boss does. And by seeing women, though very stylish and socially conscious, in subordinate roles or by watching them compete against each other, as women sometimes already notoriously do, leads me to question: is the show simply reinforcing stereotypes from which many Gen Y females want to break free?
I thought maybe I was just being too sensitive about such televised female images so I decided to check out the comments on top Black sites to see what was up. While many thoughts are related to the various celebrity appearances on the show, I was actually fairly surprised to find more than a couple that were pretty strong. For example, “cheap, bottom of the gutter entertainment” (in response to an intern crotch-flashing scene) or “Russel [albeit missing that last "l"] you’ve been out of the light and appear to be a respectful man why now in this stage in your life be connected with women who appear to be ‘Trash’ and connected with your name. At this stage in your life it’s reaching. Pull back; you don’t need the reality shows nor the filth that’s connected with them, besides you have daughters what will they think of you once you have long left this earth? Integrity is everything.”
I certainly wouldn’t go that far, but I would say that there is probably a real opportunity being missed in not simply providing either additional positive images within the show or on additional shows. What the network and producers seem to be missing is that many female viewers are simply gazing right over the supposed “power girls” and instead zeroing right in on Russell. They are seeing a lifestyle that they want to seize for themselves, and it doesn’t include lassoing interns. Case in point? An episode crept up where Russell prepares to make an in-store appearance at a local Kay Jewelers. A young, hazelnut brown face finds her way to the front with unbridled energy to lean over the velvet ropes and shout-out, “I want to be just like you!!”
Really? That’s great and who wouldn’t, but just how might she accomplish this when there are hardly any televised Black female role models with that same swag, lifestyle, celebrity, and earnings as Russell Simmons? And therein lies the rub. Because Gen Yers, the most diverse U.S. generation ever and the generation which out-indexes in digital media frequency and whose females are earning more higher education degrees than males, simply want a piece of the real game now.
What this generation, those faced with the lowest job opportunities in decades, wants to know is how do you make those Oprah-like and Russell-like deals and make it to the end of the rainbow, not how to assist such icons.
So how to begin a better balance of power? Well, here’s 4 tips to early moguldom I wish I knew from the jump as a young girl:
1) Start networking even while you’re in high school if you can. Relationship capital is everything. It’s not just about the grades but lining up people early on who will be champions for you and open doors. Studies show males have an easier time attracting such support because men feel more comfortable with other males. So, push, if you have to.
2) Become really great at self-promo. A women’s magazine recently noted that women are many more times apt to shrug off achievements than men. Be your own best cheerleader; think Donald Trump, think Diddy
3) Just say no, apparently (and I’m far from hatin’ but more so admiring) this is what the boys do. Look around. How many male assistants do you see in the work force? Find out what they are doing to leap over that track and use that strategy
4) Guys look out for solid girls. If you see a female really doing her thing; talk her up to others, partner with her, collaborate.
It’s time for a new era, one which is more balanced in gender, with new ideas from women. There’s room for everyone and room for all images, not just the expected ones.
Lauren DeLisa Coleman is a writer, host and thought-leader specializing in the diverse segment of the Gen Y demo, tech and its convergence with socio-economic concerns. She is also the CEO and founder of Punch Media Group, an edgy digital media and entertainment company which develops pop culture experience and branding strategy across digital platforms. Follow her @mediaempress