Author - Lecturer - Strategic Communications Adviser

How to Be a Better Colleague to Black Women in 2022

Black women experience the world of work very differently from others. Many of us were advised as youth that we have to work twice as hard to be perceived as half as skilled. We come into workplaces questioning whether we will be accepted and whether the work environment will be safe, inclusive, and welcoming. We question whether we’ll be accepted if we show up as our full selves. We wonder whether advocating for what we deserve will be counted against us. Will we come off as “just another Angry Black woman”?

Each time we show up for ourselves, we wonder whether the workplaces we inhabit will be hospitable. And when we are super skilled, we sometimes wonder whether our colleagues, will view us as threats. Will we go from “office pet to office threat” as Erika Stallings put it.

The daily calculations Black women make to survive and thrive at work are underappreciated by many. And yet, each day offers an opportunity. Each year brings with it hopes that this one will be better than the last. If you’ve ever wondered how to be a better colleague to Black women, here are four areas for you to consider.

  1. Your Support of Black Women Starts with Your Internal Anti-Racism Work. You cannot give to others what you do not first possess within yourself. The people who have been most helpful to me are people who have done their own anti-racism work, often separate and apart from their relationship with me. They are people who have thought critically about race and people who understand, accept, and own their privilege. They are committed to lifelong learning and open to feedback. The key is to start with yourself and commit to be the best version of yourself possible.
  2. Decenter Yourself. When you meet a Black woman at work, be willing to decenter yourself. Your experience and your path has likely been fundamentally different from that of your Black colleague. Even if you had similar upbringings, belong to the same religious group, or live in the same neighborhood, you experience life differently. People react to you based on your whiteness, not just your ability or personality. People react to Black women based on intersecting oppressions of race, gender, sexuality, class, etc. As you engage with Black women, be willing to consider that it is not all about you and that what is normative for you is not necessarily so for non-white women. Be open to hearing uncomfortable truths, and be OK with sitting in discomfort if your perspective is not centered at all times. Also, if you meet Black women who are reluctant to immediately form a deep relationship, be OK with that. Give Black women space to do what they believe is in their best psychological, professional, and personal interest.
  3. Do Not Assume. I am sharing what has worked for me, but it is important that non-Black women ask the Black women with whom they work and are in relationship how they may better support those women. Understand that what works in one professional environment or with one personality type may not work for all settings and all people. So rather than showing up and assuming you know, simply ask. When I say ask, I mean ask colleagues what you can do at work to support their leadership. I do not mean placing the burden of becoming anti-racism or learning about racism on your Black colleagues. That is your work to do, and the sooner you own that fact, the sooner you’ll be able to build genuine relationships.
  4. Be Aware of Your Power and Privilege. One of the ways you can support Black women is to be aware of your power and privilege. Few things are as irritating than the oft used platitude, ‘we’re all in this together.’ Understand that while all a propos des medicaments ameliorant les performances women may deal with sexism, sexual harassment and gender-based violence, Black women experience intersecting oppressions that create added layers of stress.

This is messy, and you will certainly make mistakes. That is OK. Keep trying and stick with it.


Jennifer R. Farmer is a writer, trainer and entrepreneur. She is the author of “First and Only: A Black Woman’s Guide to Thriving at Work and in Life” and “Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide.” Follow her on Twitter/IG @pr_whisperer or on Facebook via @prwhisperer.



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  • By Jennifer Farmer Blog
  • December 2, 2021