We have 99 problems and sexism is one of them. In honor Women’s History Month, we want to celebrate women trailblazers, who have been unbought and unbossed in their pursuits. Moreover, we want to acknowledge the barriers women still face in social, and professional spaces, and discuss how race, age, and socioeconomic status impact women’s daily interactions, and even their health.
Being a young African American female, in a predominately white male industry, offers great learning opportunities for everyone involved, including me, however it also creates room for marginalization of all of my identities simultaneously. Working in HR and having to deliver tough messages, adds another level of complexity because now I am a young African American female, telling privileged individuals “no”, or not be able to appease their desires, which is not what they are used to, especially from someone that looks like me.
In the last couple of months, I’ve experienced the most pervasive marginalization that I can remember, being silenced in meetings, and being held accountable for my white colleagues work product, and constantly being given “feedback” for incidents that I had no control over, while doing my job and someone else’s job . Once I realized what was occurring, I debated on saying something, because sometimes I get tired of having to always fight, but then I thought about the fact that I am positioned to actually say something. Moreover, I thought about the young women, and people of color who will come after me who should not have to work twice as hard, to be disrespected, and not compensated for their efforts.
I have learned, lived and worked in predominantly women run spaces for the majority of my life, something that I deeply appreciate for many reasons. However, it would be a lie to say that those spaces are perfect. And whether I am surrounded by men or women, it remains a sad reality that women of color are not positioned to thrive like their white counterparts.
I have had supervisors acknowledge me with “Hola!” at work, while they wave and say “Greetings!” or “Good morning!” to everyone else in the office. Strangers assume I don’t speak English and complain about Mexicans while I’m standing in the elevator with them. Men think it’s okay to call me stupid and shout at me over the phone, while also asking inappropriate and invasive questions about me in the same breath. People comfortably commit microaggressions on a daily basis, because they can do so while still smiling at me. Lately, I’ve been taking steps to position myself for future success, in ways that I feel truly respected and valued. In doing so, I was reminded (by empowering friends) of how much agency I actually possess, and my ability to tackle these issues head on.
As a White Latina, I also think about intersectionality, and how to own both my privileged and marginalized identities. I am often confronted with the fact that I appear racially ambiguous, which is frustrating, but also affords me an advantage that I cannot deny. I am a Latina that society more readily embraces because of my whiteness. Acknowledging this means that I have a responsibility to create pipelines for other women of color, and to support them in any way possible. We cannot collectively move forward unless we lift one another up along the way.
Trailblazers to Know:
- Tarana Burke
- Dolores Huerta
- Loretta Lynch
- Sonia Sotomayor
- Michelle Obama
- Gloria E. Anzaldúa
Where Do We Go from Here?
Speaking from experience, we know that it can be hard to advocate for yourself when you have financial and other responsibilities to consider. Here are some tips for folks dealing with issues of discrimination and marginalization:
- Don’t blame yourself
- Attempt to talk to those causing the discomfort to share what you are experiencing, and what your ideal situation is moving forward (we understand this is not always an option)
- Speak with your supervisor or someone position in a place of authority and share your concerns
- Loop in Human Resources, Diversity Inclusion Leader, internal Ethics or Bias Department
- Talk with affinity or Business Resource Groups if your organization has them
- Identify healthy outlets for yourself
- Exercise, Therapy, Religion
- Inform your primary care physician as discrimination can lead to stress that can spark and or exacerbate existing medical conditions
- Document your Interactions
- File complaints with
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- Your local or State Human Relations Commission
- Seek legal representation
Often times marginalization occurs due to lack of awareness, and accountability, however with the rise of of social movements like Me Too and Times Up, individuals and businesses are taking notice, and are attempting holding employees more accountable. There is still room for improvement, and there has to be a continuous, intersectional approach to these movements, being sure to take into account the role race, class, religion, and sexual identity and orientation has in this conversation. To allies: when you see your friends, or colleagues are being silenced and treated unfairly, you should speak up. This time it might be happening to someone else, but next time it could be your identity being marginalized.
Mental Health Resources:
4 Self-Care Resources for Days When the World is Terrible (an older article worth circling back to)
This month’s wine pairing is Penns Woods Winery’s Moscato Rose 2017. It was the Silver Medal Winner in the 2017 International Woman’s Wine Competition, and Penns Woods holds a special place in our hearts as the first winery we visited together. Tasting notes below!
This refreshingly sweet and slightly effervescent Moscato and Merlot blend possesses flavors of strawberry, peach, and grapefruit. This wine is smooth, sweet, and easy to drink.