The missing black women

24th August 2017

Black women in the workplace, where are we?

This week Naomi Campbell, called out fashion bible Vogue UK in this photo below that shows that under their previous Editor, Alexandra Shulman they had no black editorial staff.

This picture does not just demonstrate the absence of black women in the fashion world but in many other sectors too.

Out of the only six female CEO’s in the FTSE 100 none of them are black.

Black women in the US get paid 67 cents to every dollar a white man makes compared to the 80 cents to every dollar that white women make.

The STEM (Science, technology, engineering and maths) industry has only 17% of all jobs held by women and at companies such as Apple, Facebook and Googleblack and Latino employees combined represent only 3%-5% of employees & the numbers have not budged in three years-I don’t even want to go there to disclose how many of these are black and Latino women.

The Parker Review in 2016 revealed that non-whites held just 6% of Non Executive Director roles in FTSE 100 businesses and 53 firms do not have a single non-white executive on their board

Even when black women start their own businesses, we are still missing when it comes to financing and venture capital. The Project Diane research revealed that in venture capital deals from 2012 to 2014; only 0.2% (24 of 10,238 deals) went to black female founders.

In researching the state of black women in tech, #ProjectDiane examined over 60,000 start-ups and identified just 88 led by black women

On average, black female-led start-ups raise just $36,000 of outside funding, according to the report. There are only 11 start-ups founded by black women that have raised more than $1 million in VC funding.These statistics are US based but the picture is pretty much identical in the UK if not worse!

As someone who is solutions based, I have been thinking, what can be done to change this?

I am not one for positive discrimination as such but look at Edward Enniful, who has just been made the new Editor of Vogue UK, (and the first non white) he hasn’t even released his first issue yet but already he has placed black women in key editorial roles such as Naomi Campbell, model and activist Adwoa Aboah as contributing editors and make-up artist, Pat McGrath, was named beauty editor-at large. If you are a black person in a powerful role, then I feel you should make a conscious effort to give talented and well-equipped black women an opportunity they are simply not getting in the workplace.

I am not suggesting that if you are a black senior executive to start hiring all your black mates into influential positions but if you have the ability to hire, then diversity should be a priority for you and this is the occasion when you must at least try to give black women an opportunity if you can.

If you can’t offer paid opportunities then become a mentor! My focus for Girls Talk London is to massively expand our mentoring initiatives in sectors that include Insurance, financial services and the music industry as well as the STEM sector.

If you work in these sectors where there is an appalling lack of black women in the workplace and in senior roles then you must mentor, as this is a powerful way of ensuring that black women coming through the pipeline are encouraged, informed and understand how they need to navigate the corporate world as a black woman. What we have seen in sectors such as STEM and law is that these women become discouraged and leave the sector all together.

Despite hundreds of millions of pounds and dollars invested over a decade plus in diversity initiatives black women are still missing in the workplace. So obviously something is not working. We need to get rid of tick boxing programmes and begin to start actively identifying black women in the future talent pipelines, preparing them, up skilling them, giving them opportunities, supporting their development and retaining them!

There is a massive global movement around getting more women leading and entering male dominated sectors but we are forgetting one important group: black women. We are getting left behind and shut out.

The current narrative around women in the workplace ignores black women.

We need to do more work around the stereotypes that often surround black women and block the integration and progression of them in the workplace such as the angry black woman, aggressive vs. assertive, questions around our qualifications and if we can do our role and our appearance.

We need to be able to speak openly about our experiences without having the ‘pulling the race card’ comment every time we begin to discuss our narrative and experiences. It quite frankly puts women off from speaking up.

Take for example, this week, when it was revealed that England Striker, Eniola Aluko,was dropped from the women’s England football team after speaking out about racism in the sport. It is not just in football where this happens.

Black women need to be able to speak about their experiences, without prejudice or consequence so that businesses are able to learn and make the necessary changes, unless businesses actually don’t want things to change?

Businesses need to start actively listening and the keyword is ACTIVE and to start to seriously address this issue and make moves, because the worst thing that could ever happen for black women in the workplace is for things to stay the same.