Gender & race bias & black women in the workplace

Unconscious Bias is a natural part of being human. If we had to think everything through, everything would take so much time and we would probably not get anything done. So the mind stores patterns or categories for us to match things we see so we can quickly come to conclusions and make decisions. Although bias can express itself as racism and sexism, it is not always the cause. In this case then white people or men are not the problem nor the enemy but their actions which are as a result of their unconscious bias.

Malcolm Gladwell in one of his books, possibly Blink talks about a test that he took and studied that seeks to demonstrate unconscious bias. He was suprised at his own unconscious bias against people of color even though his own mother is a person of color. We all hold bias sometimes against people like ourselves. This may explain why some women who are in positions of leadership do not extend a hand of support to women below.

How do black women experience bias in workplaces? By the assumed lack of competence because they don’t ‘speak well’. Assumed junior status by people who have not been introduced to them. The emphasis on their qualifications when they are introduced, almost as a form of an explanation of why people like them are where they are.

Women are also suffer bias against expressing anger, black women in particular are seen to fulfil the stereotype of the angry black woman when they express their anger. Expressing an injustice is often seen as aggression and keeping quite is often seen as a sign of weakness or lack of assertiveness and therefore not having what it takes to be a leader. They find themselves having to walk a tightrope that’s undefined and very easy to get wrong.

Black women are dealing with bias and navigating office politics every day. The myth of merit and hard work is simply too simplistic and doesn’t not always hold true.

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