Black professionals: The subpar experience of Corporate America
A week ago, I watched The Grapevine's relatable and inspiring Being Black in Corporate America episode, where Strategic producer Donovan Thompson said, "Corporate culture is not Black culture..." And as simple and obvious as this may sound, it spoke volumes to me. Companies often produce generic company values and standards that shape their organization, or "company fit." However, what are these company values based off of? White supremacy. Statistics have shown that Black representation is limited on all professional levels. Only 0.8% of all fortune 500 CEOs are Black. Black adults hold 3.2% of executive and senior-level managerial positions. In addition, only 8% of all working professionals are Black. (Source: Center for Talent Innovation) Does corporate America believe that they are inclusive of a population that makes up 13.4% of the US population with such statistics?
We have fallen into a custom of traditionalistic, subpar, and politically unconscious bias trainings that claims to promote equality, diversity, and a safe work environment effectively. Yet, the vivid demographic disparities have been ignored. Although Black professionals have the opportunity to earn income, experience, and potential networking connections, it is always at an expense. A corporate job may be viewed as a pathway towards more significant opportunities, however Black professionals have to deal with the recurring thought of whether we fit in, especially in such a homogeneous industry.
Black professionals have endured a certain level of prejudice and toxicity from the corporate world, like no other. We receive direct and indirect negative judgments from co-workers and higher authority. We’ve had our intelligence and capabilities questioned and demeaned. We’ve received inappropriate, microaggressive comments regarding our demeanor, fashion, and hairstyles. On top of the mental and emotional impacts of dealing with such an environment, we also have to worry about meetings, deadlines, and producing quality work. Also, let's not forget the bain of any professional existence, busy seasons. Which already consists of 60-70 hour work weeks and an increased chance of experiencing the job burnout effect. I don't know about you, but I don't have the time nor patience for ignorance, unwarranted negative attitudes, and inappropriate behavior. Especially when dealing with emotional and mental exhaustion, increased workload, deadlines, and pressure while attempting to maintain good physical health.
I appreciate the current civil uprising because we are holding people accountable for their actions or lack thereof. This is a perfect time to speak up, and demand actual change within the corporate world, such as lowering demographic disparities, equality in pay, reforming HR strategies, and providing more opportunities and resources for Black candidates. In addition, to my fellow Black professionals who resonate with what I have to say, continue to be you. Hold your head up high, persevere through adversity, and unapologetically display your Black excellence.
By Janelle J.