Feeds:
Posts
Comments

This post is a reaction to Black Enterprise’s recent article on the state of African American women’s apparent inability to get the corner office in corporate America. The resource is a study from the Executive Leadership Council and the Executive Leadership Foundation.

I suggest you read the article first before you read my post so that you can get a better sense of the content.

In not so subtle ways the findings don’t say anything that I didn’t already know – but what really annoys me is how these findings don’t provide any meaningful insight into how Black women can push through the corporate America log jam…if they so choose.

Find a White Guy

According to BE, Black women severely lack “strategic” relationships in their relationship arsenal. Such relationships are defined as connections with senior level officers most different from themselves. 

In other words, they don’t hang out with enough white men. BE tiptoes around the idea that Black women are probably not aligning themselves with enough of them (or anybody who matters) to make a difference in their career.

And, depending on where you are in the corporate food chain – you’re so far removed from them, your best bet is to hope they trip over you at the next all-staff meeting.

Get a Cheerleader

The first point was about finding a specific mentor. This second point is more about finding someone who can:

  • Give you feed back
  • Understand your strengths
  • Scream your holy praises right through the glass ceiling

Essentially, existing in a professional vacuum is not ideal. Duh. We get that. Do the white men get to wear cheerleading skirts?

Hire a house manager – or find a house husband

Aiming for a cushy senior level position may demand that your strong black motherhood  (or attempts at it) go out the window (I guess Michelle Obama is the only exception to this?).

I’m not sure what ELC means by this since college educated and professional Black women are already marrying and having children later in life (compared to their white counterparts). 

Avoid the secretary route at all costs

I’m cheating a little bit here because this “strategy” (and the next one) come from an interview Workforce Magazine did with Carl Brooks, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council. I couldn’t get the link for it, so here is a portion of the interview: 

WM:

Another problem for African American women is a misunderstanding of their capabilities. How do the jobs they hold influence that perception?

Brooks:

The advice in this research is that if you seek an operational position at the top level, you need to stay focused on that and not move so easily to staff or administrative positions in corporate America.

Your network already sucks

I’m sure Penelope Trunk would love this one. Brooks states that a Black woman’s network is highly social versus professionally strategic. Because this is so, Black women lack the options for opportunistic entry into valuable and professionally strategic relationships.

WM:

What is holding back African American women?

Brooks:

The networks for African American females were considered social than strategic. They know each other , they know the family makeup of each other, they socialize together. But they didn’t have the strategic ingredient that would allow them to advance and ask each other for support and endorsements. Without that, no one moves to senior levels in any corporation.

In short, your momma’s church friends, cousins, girlfriends at old jobs and your lunch buddy can’t do crap for you, jobwise that is.

Constructive Termination – Yes, your manager is trying to get you to quit

Socioeconomic Affirmative Action - More reasons for white males to sue their employers

Director of Human Interest - Saatchi & Saatchi’s job title for their HR guy, Seth Wolk

For fans of WireTap…or not – I suggest you take a look at the awesome opportunity below. You don’t need a journalism degree to apply – just a degree.

Who: Wiretap Magazine

What: Arts & Culture Journalism Fellowship

When: The deadline is May 1, 2009

Where: Anywhere you are – but if you are currently residing in San Francisco or New York, consider yourself lucky to have an office to report to

Why:

  • You get to have your work published (and paid for it!)
  • Sharpen your journalism chops and get JOURNALIST boot camp
  • Cover emerging arts, artists and art communities. So cool. Period

Good Luck!!!

Photo Credit: julsatmidnight @Flickr

Photo Credit: julsatmidnight @Flickr

Choosing industry over a certain type of job

If your career is important to you – you won’t fence yourself in by rigidly sticking to industries (advertising, marketing, finance, etc.).

Pay attention to the the type of job (and the skills it demands) and worry less about what industry it is in.

You show more flexibility and value when you can maintain relevance – no matter what the professional discipline.

A good example is someone who takes their skills and can apply them equally across the board –  Desiree Rogers.

The woman went from the Illinois Lottery to the gas company and then to insurance – now she plans the social and events calendar for the First Lady. 

Food for thought: Specialize in skills – not industry 

Use the online job hunt against itself

Online job seeking is like a bad joke. Monster and Careerbuilder aim to have you mindlessly apply to the glut of “open” positions with seductive lures that employers  will actually get your resume. All you have to do is wait for a phone call.

Puh-leez.

Use your network to get your resume in the hands of people who are hiring at these places. Online job hunting at best is a referencing tool.  You’d be more productive hunting down companies that are not “actively” recruiting  (read: the hidden job market).

Pitchfork Mob Mantra: Monster must DIE! Monster must DIE!  note: flaming torch optional

You’re not doing a non-job thing – like temping… or working for free

It may not be ideal, but temping can lead to larger opportunities – like (temporarily) keeping you financially afloat. Or, if you have time (and you do have time) – create projects that will develop a shift in your resume.

For instance, I’ve become the project lead for a new exhibit focusing on the drug addiction and treatment of women and children in Afghanistan (side note: I’ve never done anything like this before).

I will have to dust off my rusty research skills, find funding and develop advocacy connections. But, I’ll be creating a project from start to finish. And, I’ll be doing something I’ve always wanted to do: using artistic methods to raise political awareness and ignite action

New motto: Your resume is not just a piece of paper

Go virtual

You don’t need to be in an office to get work done (and be paid for it). Places like Elance provide opportunities for would-be workers to hone (and maintain) their skills in cyberspace. Jobs range from web and graphic design to freelance writing.

Anything goes – you can be a ghost blogger or virtual assistant.

Nudge: Cyberspace is your friend…really

Photo Credit: Inju @Flickr

Photo Credit: Inju @Flickr

You’ll do what comes naturally – or not

Folks who blog are folks who want to blog. Fellow bloggers, quit wasting your breath (or blog posts) on telling people they should blog for a better career.

They won’t do it and they’ll give you dumb excuses. And, if they do blog - it’s not because you advised them to. The blog-curious only need validation of what they will (inevitably) decide to do. 

Just like a writer will try to use any outlet to showcase her creativity or a marketer that wants to highlight his insights- people with ideas will already have pursued blogging.

They’re doing it now.

Which brings me to my next point.

More blogosphere for me

The blogosphere can function in a vacuum. There are all these seperate blobs of communities that crop up around bloggers (read: personalities). There’s lot of opinions on how to engage non-bloggersor get more folks to blog or get respect for blogging blah blah blah.

I say: stop.

Granted, there are a ba-jillion crappy blogs, but there are just as many good ones as well. Your relevancy to the blogging community isn’t going to instantaneously diminish because you didn’t get more people to blog.

It only diminishes when you aren’t able to share, develop and reconstruct ideas and connections. People who don’t know how to connect with that possibility have no business blogging.

I’m not telling you to rob a liquor store

Blogging is like a dirty word to some people. If you suggest it, they start gasping like you’re trying to convince them that prostitution is merely speed dating. These notions are fine when you’ve at least tried blogging (or speed dating). 

Non-bloggers only seem to concentrate on the irrelevancies of blogging, how it has nothing to do with them (or the “real world”) and insist on questioning it’s usefulness. But value and relevancy are not always one in the same.

They intersect at different points. And, I’d be more interested in engaging people who are trying to figure that out.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.