By: Ericka Smith
To the other black girl at work,
I’m not your competition. I’m not here to steal the spotlight or to become the new golden child at work. All I want to do is climb the corporate ladder and provide for my family.
I apologize if my presence troubles you and brings your insecurities to the forefront. That certainly wasn’t my intention, because I also question my skills and talents on a daily basis.
When I saw that there was another black woman in management, I beamed with excitement. But that excitement quickly sizzled once I realized that you were uninterested in getting to know me. Instead of a “Hey sis,” I was quickly stung by the queen bee syndrome. You know, the theory that refers to women in authoritative positions who are very critical and don’t support other women as they advance into senior-level roles.
It’s clear where the ungracious behavior is stemming from. Since childhood women have been taught there can only be one. For example, there’s only one Grand Supreme in pageants. There’s only one prom queen, and there’s only one queen bee.
The pursuit of being the best has increased competition and decreased the need to establish genuine relationships in the workplace. As a result, cattiness and sabotage have become a new form of communication.
I know our melanin doesn’t automatically make us besties, but it would be nice to have your support, because we have to fight battles that are much bigger than us. Like the fact that black women make 63 cents to every dollar our male counterparts earn. Or, the fact that we have to be extra careful when we voice our frustrations, so we won’t be labeled as an “angry black woman.”
It’s crucial that we band together now more than ever if we want to see more women of color in management and strengthen our networks.
According to a fact sheet by American Progress, a nonpartisan policy institute that’s dedicated to enriching the lives of Americans, women of color represented “16.5% of workers in S&P 500 companies” in 2015, but only 3.9 percent of those women held executive or senior-level positions.
As you can see, black women have to work ten times harder to climb the corporate ladder, so why make the climb harder by creating unnecessary tension?
In order to affect change, we have to learn how to put our petty feelings aside and synergize because when one of us makes it to the top, it will be easier to open doors for other women who look like us.
To the other black girl at work, I want to support you and help you in any way that I can. I want you to know that I understand your struggles, and that I’m in your corner.
I’m not your competition.