Is this what it takes?

Is this what it takes?

Reflecting on the former VC of UCT Prof Phakeng’s experience in this article on Sunday World : Phakeng: I wanted to end my life. The mental health impact and suicidal thoughts is symbolic of the experiences of many Black women in similar positions.

When she said she would present reports and no one would say anything reminded me of my experience when I was working in Cape Town. How I was told that there was a gathering where it was decided to freeze me out of meetings and to respond to my emails with the word noted. I was so heartbroken I resigned with a few day’s notice

Reflecting on my experience then with the benefit of hindsight and the work I do coaching Black women. There are a few things I would do differently. I would:• not have been as naive as I was to the situational facts - the politics of my appointment and it’s impact to the current ecosystem • not assumed that my hard work would be enough. • analysed the role players and identified possible alliances to intentionally make and how to focus my influence • done my work with integrity and mindfulness of the politics of each move I make • created support systems around me that included a coach, a mentor and a consistent self care routine. • mindful of periodically assessing when I have done enough and it is time to leave.

The truth is that the system was not created to fit Black women. It is as difficult to advance to these positions as it is to navigate them once we have them, that is why retention of these women is difficult. No they are not job-hopping because they are ‘in fashion’ as some may say. The mental health impact of the current untransformed corporate cultures is unsustainable for anyone and for Black women in particular.

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Published by Hlatswayobusisiwe

MBA (Henley), Career Coach and Founder Black Women in the workplace

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