Being a Black Woman in Corporate America

I recently attended an accounting conference where the keynote speaker was Ms. Kimberly-Ellison Taylor. Ms. Taylor was named the first African-American chairperson of the AICPA, a very prestigious title. I watched how laughter turned to tears of joy for the crowd as they understood the historical significance of this event.  Blacks used to be seen as less than and now here were are, not only working in prestigious institutions but leading in them as well. It began to remind me of my own career journey.

I am a black woman in corporate America.  Yes, BLACK. As if being a woman is not already enough, I had to be “dipped in chocolate, bronzed in elegance, enabled with grace, toasted with beauty – yes a black woman!” (Dr. Yosef A.A. Ben-Jochannan)

I started my career in corporate America in Fall 2011 and I’ve learned several things that I want to share with other minorities as they begin their own journeys— three of which I’ve listed below.

The stereotype of a black woman precedes me.

In society, women as a whole are considered to be more emotional creatures. But being black on top of that? It’s like a double-edged sword.  Black women are often denoted in society as, well, let’s face it, “crazy.” Inside and outside of our race, we are stereotyped as being loud, boisterous, “ghetto,” etc.  So it’s no surprise that corporate America (sometimes) views us by the same token.

I remember getting upset with some last-minute instructions that my boss gave me a half hour before I was scheduled to leave.  Instead of verbally expressing my anger, I got silent as I tried to calm myself down so as NOT to have an attitude with her. Nonetheless, my boss told me that I had a bad attitude. However, that same boss went around, cursing about her superior (a partner) after the partner made her mad.  Yet she didn’t think she had an attitude?

How I Respond

I’ve learned that positivity is the key factor to ensure that stereotypes don’t precede me.  It’s unfortunate, but since people already see you as emotional (being a woman) and having an attitude (being black), you have to work twice as hard to display a positive image.  For me, this meant that I had to also learn to control my non-verbal reactions so that my mere silence wouldn’t be perceived as threatening.  Is it fair? No. Is it reality? Yes (though not in all situations).  We can’t do much to change corporate America’s preconceived notions but we can ensure that the stereotype stops with us.

My looks play more into my role than some of my non-African American counterparts.

Women are so objectified in society that it comes as no surprise that our looks play a huge role in our professional appearance by others.  But with black women, sometimes, this can be more challenging.

I am a black woman-all the way!  That means on some days I wear my natural hair, other days I opt for a sleek bun, and sometimes I will wear wigs/weaves.

There have been several occasions where my looks have come up in conversation with my non-black coworkers, specifically about my hair. One coworker asked me if she could touch my weave and if I took it off at night; one manager told me she liked my hair much better when I straightened it and my partner told me that I look so professional when I wear my hair in a sleek bun.  And to be honest, these comments greatly affected my confidence in the workplace. I had become insecure about rocking my natural hair for fear of not looking as professional as others.

How I Respond

As black people we are taught to suppress our emotions in order to be respected and not retaliated against.  However, in order to change some stereotypes, we can’t just ignore the ignorance of others – we have to educate them.  And that’s what I have chosen to do at my job.  Instead of being offended and upset, I now try to teach my coworkers the difference between black and non-black hair and why those differences are still acceptable AND are still professional.  We sometimes may be the only black women these people ever see so it is imperative that we do our part to minimize those stereotypes. I’ve had much success by educating my coworkers and I feel it’s created a more welcoming environment for me.

I have to work twice as hard for half the recognition and respect.

This isn’t just true of black women – this is true for most women. Women as a whole, oftentimes, have to work harder than their male counterparts in order to be measured by the same standards of success.  Being dipped in chocolate only means you have to work just that much harder.

No one likes to feel their work is not valued or they aren’t recognized for their successes but sometimes it’s easy to slip through the cracks.  There have been numerous times where credit for things that I’ve done was given to my coworkers and I just sat there and said nothing while my coworkers smiled brightly taking the credit as though they had done the thing all along.

How I Respond

One black partner at my firm told me this, “Videllia, while you’re out here playing checkers, your [non-black] coworkers are playing chess.”  Seeing the puzzled look on my face, he explained to me that I can’t be silent in my career. I’m going to have to actively take charge and make moves so that my skills and career successes are recognized.  I can’t just be basic; I had to learn how to be strategic, always thinking about my next move and that of my opponent (i.e. coworkers) so that I too can have a fighting chance at recognition within my company.

That was probably the best advice that I have ever received in my career. And look at me now.

I am a Manager in my firm at the age of 29.

I am actively involved in our firm’s hiring and recruiting efforts.

I am avidly using my intelligence to teach those in my firm who are ignorant to the black culture about the black culture. I don’t choose to get mad. I choose to educate.

I AM a black woman in corporate America.

~V.Davis

(This blog was first posted by Videllia as a blog contributor on fempotential.com on 12/6/16.)

#Black Lives Matter

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Here’s a quick post on how I feel about the latest events in our great country…

America-land of the free, home of the brave. We’re the country so many others want to flock to but for what?! I can’t even sleep peacefully anymore because I fear that someone I know, family or friend, will be the next “hashtag”. Whenever my mom calls me, I hold my breath, and often start any conversation that sounds like it’s going to be bad with “Mom, before you start, is everyone up there still alive?”  Literally, yesterday, my mom called me and was like are you sitting down? I felt my heart race as I gathered enough strength to ask her if my brothers, cousins and other family members were safe.  (Fortunately, it was just some bad news but was not bad news that related to death of any of my family.)

The fact that even my own mom calling me has me living in fear is such a sad life to live. Yes, I stay prayed up and pray for my brothers and cousins constantly but that doesn’t take away those feelings. In all of my 28 years of existence, these last few have taught me more about racism in America than I could ever read in a textbook. I’m so thankful for my ancestors fighting for our civil rights and liberties but who knew that we would still have to fight to continue to have them?

When this first started happening years ago, I must admit, I was desensitized.  It didn’t affect me personally so I felt sad for the moment and once the moment was over, I continued forward with my life. I mean, surely it was going to stop right?   There was no way justice wouldn’t prevail.  Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and the little black girl who was beat up by police right here in my home state of Texas – surely there was no way these cops would not be found guilty?  And now we add to the list Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile.  And these are just the incidents that I can recall – by far not the number of innocent lives that have been taken far too soon.  I know I say “innocent” and some people will bring up these individuals pasts or try to make them out to be these vicious human beings with a background that justifies the actions of these cowardly cops; however, if you are compliant with what a cop asks you to do, are unarmed, and are not dangerous, you are definitely INNOCENT.

With each new death of an innocent black person, I find that I’m outraged and saddened…gone is the desensitization that I once had. That is why I had to write this post. I don’t usually speak out about things like this, but this “ish” is out of control!! I sign petitions and support peaceful protests but something’s gotta give.  I’d love to live in the America my ancestors fought so hard for. The TRUE America. The America that so many other people from all over the world flock to live and prosper.  The America that is truly the land of the free.  The America that will finally recognize the equality of ALL human beings.  Hell, the America that will recognize that black people ARE indeed human beings.  And we deserve the same respect, justice and civil liberties granted to all of those around us.

Black Lives Matter. Why?  Because ALL LIVES (should) MATTER.

Point. Blank. Period.

My prayers to the families and friends of those once again victimized by police brutality. Justice needs to prevail…is it sad that I fear that it wont?

‪#‎AltonSterling‬ ‪#‎PhilandroCastile‬

-Videllia

I’m Back!!!!! Refreshed and Renewed!!!

Whew…I haven’t been on here in awhile.  I needed to take some time for myself.  You know, too often we get so caught up in life and doing this, that and the other that we never just make time to live.  That’s what’s happened to me.  I was so busy completing my “to-do” list that I wasn’t leaving.  I was:

-going to church

-volunteering at church

-volunteering in the community

-writing my blog once a week

-working on my book

-planning the family reunion

-planning our next girls trip

-and working 70+ hours a week!!!

I just found myself wearing too many hats that eventually it completely drained me!  So I decided to take a break. I took a break from volunteer activities, planning trips and even blogging once a week.  And you know what? These last 2 months off have been exactly what I’ve needed!  I have been able to rest and get my creative writing juices flowing again.  Most of all, I was able to LIVE.  And LIVE I did!!! (If I’m to be honest, I’ve probably lived just a little too much in these past few months lol).  However, during this time off, I’ve learned a lot more about myself, my relationship with Christ, my value/worth as a woman and I even went on some more fun dates to tell you all about (haha).  I’m excited to be back and get back to blogging so stay tuned…many fun, exciting and inspirational stories lie ahead…

Signing off (until next week)…

-V.Davis

I wonder…

  I wrote this post several months ago but was very hesitant about posting it.  It is very different from what I usually post but I think this needs to be said. So here goes…

Tramp. Slut. Bopper.  Breezy. Skank. Witch. Trick. Easy-Access. Dirty. Prostitute. One Night Stand.  Shawty. Emotional. Sensitive. Fake. Two-Faced. Drama Queen.  Materialistic.  Broad. Baby Mama.  Thirsty.  Bitter. Stuck-up. Main Chick. Side Chick (why can’t it just be the only chick?). Ugly. Fat. Wh-re. B*tch.

Hmm…

What if it were…

Beautiful. Queen. Woman of God.  Proverbs 31 Woman. Magnificent. Gorgeous. Intellectual. Smart. Ambitious. Goals-Driven. Sexy. Princess. Pure. Pretty.  Attractive. Intelligent………..WIFEY…..(yeah, you ladies gone ahead and think about that one-a side chick doesn’t become a wife-I’m just saying-but you’ll have to wait for my next blog about that side chick mentality…)

Okay, how about this?

Fool. Good for Nothing. Baby Daddy. Broke. Lame. Ain’t Good for Sh*t. Punk. Lazy. Stupid. Never Amount to Anything. Dog. Liar. Cheater. Pimp. Crackhead. Drug Dealer. Ugly. Fat.  Boring.

What if it were…

Handsome. Smart. Real Man. Genuine. Man of God.  Man after God’s own heart. Good person.  Nice. Kind. Smooth. A King. Sexy. Fine. Intelligent. Good-looking. Powerful.  Friend. Father (not baby daddy).

e98a737e00eeac6e983c86bf879dea4fYou see all of the above words are negative connotations that I have heard throughout my lifetime that are associated with both men and women.  I couldn’t even think of or list all the words that I’ve ever heard someone say about a woman or a man but the fact is these are things we say TO each other AND about each other. I’m sure we are all guilty of saying something like this to our friends about someone else (even if it’s meant as a joke).  I wonder how different the world would be if we started associating some of these negative images with more positive words, more words of affirmations…how different would our culture be?

Maybe that would mean fewer men behind bars. Or perhaps fewer women selling their bodies on the streets.  Or even fewer kids getting bullied at school.

Or what about fewer men killing their spouses.  Or fewer women being comfortable being a side chick.  Or even fewer kids dropping out of school.

Hmm…maybe it would mean fewer men on drugs.  Or fewer women settling for abusive relationships. Or fewer kids running away from home.

Still…what if it meant fewer hate crimes? Fewer deaths? What it meant life, love, liberty, joy, and happiness among our nation?

Wow. What difference a positive word could make huh?

The bible says “life and death lies in the power of our tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).  Dang. By that measure, I (and probably you) should have already been convicted of murder. GUILTY is what the judge would say.  Guilty of murder.  Yes, murder! I mean, we basically murder each other every day just through the words we say…

How different would the world be if we learned to lift each other up through our words, instead of tear each other down?

I wonder…

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-V.Davis

 

Happy Thanksgiving

 

 

One of my great girlfriends always says, “if we all traded problems with someone else, we’d be fighting to get our own back.  It could always be worse”.

And she is so right.

t1Fact:  One in every nine people on our planet go to bed hungry each night (http://www.fao.org/publications/sofi/en/)

Fact:  Nearly 1/2 of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty, that’s less than $1.25 a day. (https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-global-poverty)

Fact:  More than 1 billion people lack adequate access to clean drinking water and an estimated 400 million of these are children. Because unclean water yields illness, roughly 443 million school days are missed every year. ((https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-global-poverty)) Continue reading “Happy Thanksgiving”

Domestic Violence: Ray and Janay Rice

This will be an extremely short post. No need to rehash all the details of the story or the incident.  If you don’t know what’s going on, just do a quick Google search for Ray Rice.  I’m not here to combat the facts of the story or to bash Ray Rice (though I do not condone violence in any form).  However, I am voicing my opinion on the comments his wife made today.

I have to say this because it’s bothering me. Many of y’all are talking about the Ray Rice situation and what his wife said. First of all, you don’t know that situation or know his wife. Stop calling her stupid, dumb, etc. Victims of domestic violence do not feel stupid while being in that situation. And frankly, if you have never been a victim of domestic violence, you don’t know how it feels.   It’s not an easy process to get out of an abusive relationship. You have to build up strength and courage and change your mentality. It requires a lot of work!  Though I wasn’t physically abused, I suffered from an emotionally abusive relationship (which you can read here) . However, I’m the Valedictorian of my high school class, graduated with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, have my CPA license, and a whole lot of other accolades. Do you also think I am stupid? Maybe you do, but my God says differently.

For all of you out there who have so much to say about domestic violence and Ray and Janay Rice, I say this to you:  instead of talking about her, how about you start praying for her and learn to just shut up.

(Sorry, but I had to say it and keep it real.)

-V.Davis

 

© Videllia Davis – “I Am Me”. All Rights Reserved.