The Dangers of Expecting Black Women to Over Perform at Work
Originally posted by The Resident Sis
The Associated Press
To make it personal, I watched my mother, a former cosmetologist, Boss Up in the 1990s by opening a hair salon so she’d own her time, clientele, and rules. It’s not lost on me the shoulders I stand on, thus making it impossible for me to escape exercising good work ethic and making my own money.
In layman’s terms, the rules for success-seeking women are simple: work hard, work long, don’t stop until it’s done, then do more. And this is something I’ve internalized, often to my detriment.
With our increasing technological advances, it is still a privilege for women to have jobs that offer livable wages, decent benefits, and a modicum of fulfillment. So many companies have gotten it right when it comes to affording those things, as well as cultivating quality work environments. For the many who haven’t quite reached this, their women workers suffer.
In a 2019 report, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research discovered that “nearly one in five women (18.2 percent) and nearly one in three men (31.8 percent) usually work more than 40 hours per week.” The study further finds that “the practice of overwork in many professional and managerial positions reduces women’s access to the highest paid jobs because of the imbalance in family care responsibilities.” So, women outwork men at work, at home, and aren’t adequately compensated in time or financially? Got it!
What about mothers, like Sarah Breedlove or myself, who just want to make ends meet to support their children? Research shows that “Black mothers spend more time than other mothers in paid work, and have done so throughout the last four decades, and before.” But this isn’t new. “In 1977, Black women worked over 200 hours, around five weeks, more per year than White or Hispanic mothers. By 2017, Black mothers were still on average working over 104 hours more than Hispanic mothers, 89 hours more than White mothers, and 52 hours more than Asian mothers.”
If these results were somehow represented in a gif on social media, I’d be one of the countless unhappy working millennial women in the comments typing, “Girl, same!” Media brand On the Dot surveyed 100 female millennials to understand the myriad reasons why they might be unhappy or unfulfilled at work. Their results, though not surprising, but extremely polarizing, revealed that 40% of women don’t make enough money, while 19% of women don’t like their boss, employees, or their work culture. Just 27% reported that they love their jobs.
With numbers like these, why does society constantly push Black women, whether at work or home, to go above and beyond? What part of the game is this? And most importantly, how do we change it?
For one, it’s past time for corporations to pay women workers a competitive living wage that does not need to be supplemented by a second or third income. I don’t mean women shouldn’t have multiple streams of income. I mean women should be able to live off their primary source of income and choose to secure additional means if/when necessary.
Women without children should not be expected to work longer hours or for less pay. These women deserve the same amount of access and pay as their male counterparts, and working mothers. Them not having children doesn’t mean their nonworking lives are frivolous or nonessential.
Women with children (or those who take care of others) should not be expected to work during the family time they’ve selected. They should be adequately paid and offered benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and proper paid time off for childbirth, or other family emergencies.
Regardless of their familial status, women deserve specific time off for their mental health and vacation. A lump sum of disproportioned “time” is ineffective and becomes stressful for women who experience extenuating life circumstances.
When women are intentionally supported, their families and communities thrive, which ultimately drives our economy. These women are often healthier and enjoy a better quality of life. Specifically, women who are happy at work tend to work with their whole heart and mind, and attract like-minded individuals as customers, clients, or prospective employees for their employers.
To constantly insinuate that women should “go above and beyond” — working past normal business hours, for little to no additional pay, while casually teaching employers that this should be standard — is dangerous. So dangerous that well intentioned workers might channel their feelings of anger and resentment into multimillion dollar corporations that inspire us all for centuries to come.
Hegewisch, Ariane, Lacarte, Valerie. “Gender Inequality, Work Hours, and the Future of Work.” iwpr.org. 14 Nov. 2019.
Sharma, Sheena. “Why Female Millennials Are Unhappy at Work.” OntheDotWoman.com. 14 Aug. 2019.
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