This is the latest story in a two-part series that discusses diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), how black women as a dual minority work in this space, and the challenges they face, especially in the corporate world.

“We must reject not only the stereotypes that hold us back, but also the stereotypes that we hold to ourselves,” said the late Shirley Chisholm, a former congresswoman who represented the 12th arrondissement of Congress in New York. Her statement remains relevant today in all walks of life, especially while working as a black woman.

Black women are a double minority, and the space of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has more than enough love to give to employees as companies and corporations lead these conversations and make everyone feel included, especially in the post-George Floyd era. which has influenced DEI’s build-up efforts at the local and national levels.

More than a moment

Angela Tompkins, vice president and chief executive officer for diversity at Consumers Energy, said their Jackson-based company believes their DEI is not a moment, but a “movement.”

“We are excited about everything we learn together on our DE&I journey,” Tompkins said in a statement to the Michigan Chronicle. “We are also inspired by a vision of the future in which everyone’s ideas and contributions are felt, valued and celebrated.”

However, despite DEI’s best intentions, black women in the workplace still face challenges, including discriminatory practices regarding how they wear their hair, which led to the Crown Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair ).

The Crown Law is a law that prohibits discrimination against hair on the basis of race – denial of employment and educational opportunities because of the texture of the hair or protective hairstyles such as braids, curls, curls or bow ties. The Crown Act website says that black women are 30 percent more likely to learn about workplace policies, which are a form of micro-aggression.

First introduced in California in January 2019, the Crown Act was signed on July 3 of the same year.

Aside from natural hair, some black women and men have even learned to project a certain tone in the workplace (known as code switching) to appear more professional, especially when working with other groups of people.

Ashanti Bland, vice president of the Southfield Public Schools Board of Education, told the Michigan Chronicle earlier that she switches code if she finds herself in a more professional environment to adapt her communication style and / or vernacular and “to best match the tone of the discussion” audience.

“In meetings with team members on the corporate side, I tended to speak with more monotonous inflection, using less slang and perhaps voicing my words. [were] it is more definite and clear, ”she said. “Honestly, I’ve seen how many professionals, both POC and non-POC, men, women and CEOs, have so adapted their speeches and communication styles depending on their environment.”

Going to work as a complete, authentic self as a woman, with a black woman, is not always easy for an employee who lacks cultural support, even with diversity initiatives.

Missing a sign?

In addition to DEI initiatives, which contain several responsibilities, such as childcare, have forced many black mothers to face difficult decisions regarding staying at work while caring for children, especially during a pandemic.

According to Washington, a nonprofit sociological and political organization in Brookings, black women have lost more jobs amid the pandemic because black mothers are more likely to raise children in school districts with plans to resume work only online.

The organization also noted that black mothers are likely to be less able to have a partner to share childcare responsibilities, take a break from work, work from home, or outsource childcare.

Minda Hearts, founder and CEO of The Memo LLC, said in the article that diversity efforts are “unacceptable”.

“It is not enough for companies to have diversity initiatives for women, when in general most of these initiatives tend to help one group of women, who are usually white,” Hart said. “I believe that the way we increase racial diversity provides our managers with the tools to manage a diverse workforce,” she says. “It’s not just about having a certain number of colored women in the department, but how is the company investing in increasing their mobility?”

Harts, who removed herself from corporate America more than a year ago to focus solely on her company, says that if corporate America does not step up its diversity efforts for black women, then the number of black women’s talents could be greatly reduced in the future.

“Many [Black women] quit their jobs in nonprofits and corporate organizations because they are not as successful as their counterparts, ”she said, adding that black women are also becoming the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs among women who grew up in more than 600 interest between 1997 and 2017 and an even higher percentage after the pandemic. “We keep the highest number of degrees and yet, we are still not represented in the highest management positions, in boardrooms and in research positions. From my research, it follows that this mass exodus occurs because we can no longer be invisible in the workplace and manage micro-aggression and bias. If management doesn’t fix its leaky pipeline, I’m afraid there won’t be many of us at these tables in the future. ”

Tompkins said Consumers wants its employees to “see, hear and feel” the presence and influence of DE&I in all elements of their Consumers Energy experience.

“From hiring to retirement and each intermediate stage, we are cultivating happier, more engaged employees who are more likely to stay and pursue their careers with Consumers Energy,” she said. “This is the essence of our bold, uncompromising stance for a diverse, inclusive workplace where everyone’s ideas and contributions are felt and valued, and everyone feels a sense of belonging.”

Tompkins added that the company plans to go beyond superficial measures, such as minority and gender representation in management, to a 360-degree metric of employee experience.

“Our long-term goal is to measure the presence and impact of DE&I throughout an employee’s life cycle, from hiring to retirement,” Tompkins said. “We are committed to a future in which every employee will own DE&I for the benefit of themselves and to support others and our company as a whole. While we will continue to make significant progress in introducing DE&I into our culture, we recognize that there will always be something to work on – and that we are still not satisfied. ”

LaNaisha Gan, recruitment and diversity partnership manager at HARMAN International (headquartered in Stamford, Cancans), told the Michigan Chronicle that she saw some progress that black women have made in corporate America despite obstacles .

“We had a different perception, and in the past I have to remember what hairstyle (I) wore,” she said, adding that “switching code and” walking on an eggshell “is not perceived as an ‘evil black woman.’ “It’s something she always remembered while working.”

Gan said all DEI efforts have supported important elements of inclusiveness, but its “still needs to be improved”.

Gann added that while many black women are successful and leading companies as CEOs and in the C-Suite, there is still a glass ceiling that is “a little thicker” for some black women who want to switch from a single participant to executive leadership. sometimes.

CBS 2021 News the report notes that wSigns make up 8.2 percent of Fortune 500 executives and 1.2 percent of colored women.

Gunn said that in her own experience and comparing notes with friends, colleagues and black peers in different fields, she found that similar stumbling blocks arise.

“We’re very, very smart, and we understand the battlefield we’re on,” she said. “That’s why I see that we are tearing off this double ceiling and making progress.”

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