Black women leadership in our nation is significant for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most important reason is the fact that our country is experiencing an unprecedented amount of unrest and uncertainty and we need bold leadership that can withstand cruelty the world has to offer. We need a win. A win that would bring us all together, rather than tear us apart. One that forges toward a new America.
The truth is when people look at us, they don’t see a leader. Instead they see someone unqualified and incapable of leading, despite the fact that Black women hold the most degrees of higher education in the U.S. In addition, the number of black women entrepreneurs has grown to 164% in the last decade, the fastest of any racial group in America.
An America that is inclusive and diverse. Black women need a win. We need a voice. We are tired of the stigma that has held us back for so long. For years we have been denied opportunities in leadership roles simply because we are black women. The truth is when people look at us, they don’t see a leader. Instead they see someone unqualified and incapable of leading, despite the fact that Black women hold the most degrees of higher education in the U.S. In addition, the number of black women entrepreneurs has grown to 164% in the last decade, the fastest of any racial group in America. But even that is not good enough. So, we travel miles to leadership seminars, participate in leadership programs, and immerse ourselves in literature on how to be a good leader hoping to gain the respect we so rightfully deserve. But that is still not good enough. So, we get the mentor they suggested and learn play the game of how to wear our hair, how to dress, how to talk, and how to keep a permanent smile. Again, that still is not good enough.
The biggest disappointment comes after we’ve finally been granted an interview to “keep us quiet” only to be rejected and told we’re just not the right fit. Of course not, because our confidence is viewed as an attitude and our assertiveness is viewed as anger. Millions of Black women have now discovered what I consider America’s best kept secret; we are not trusted. It’s not that we are not qualified or the right fit, the truth is America does not trust us. No matter how well educated, well-spoken and humble we are, they still don’t trust us. No matter how articulate we may be and how well we perform in the workplace, they still don’t trust us to lead. Well, we got news for America. We are leaders. Remember Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, Mary-Bethune McCloud, Madam C. Walker, and so many more? These Black women were phenomenal leaders who forged forward to make change despite the barriers they faced. There stories inspire us to never give up.
As I reflect on Black women leaders I think of my own mother who joined the workforce after having 13 children and still managed to get an education and remain a catalyst for her community. She made the biggest impact on me as a Black woman aspiring to be a leader. She told me something I will never forget, and that was I must out-perform everyone else and learn to play the game. I wish she was here at this very moment. I would say to her, we are done playing the game! Yes, we are extremely proud of this moment in history. But a much larger conversation needs to happen because there are so many of us still waiting patiently for the opportunity to serve in a leadership role. Still waiting to be trusted!