Black Track: September 2, 2022

Making Less, Doing More

The mid-point of the year has passed, the new school year has started, and the unofficial end of summer is near. The time has passed, and coming up September 21st is Black Women’s Pay Equity Day, the day that commemorates how many days Black women must work beyond the start of the new year to make what white men have made the year before. Black women make $.67 to every $1.00 a white man makes. In many workplaces, Black women are not only making less money, but they also have an additional workload because they are the only, or one of the few, Black women in the space.

Cultural taxation is a term coined by Amado Padilla to explain the additional workload that academics have put on marginalized groups to serve on diversity committees, mentor junior academics, and other diversity and equity activities. This additional work is most often unpaid and lacks recognition [1]. It exists for professional Black women in multiple fields. The McKinsey & Company “Women in the Workplace” 2021 report shared findings that Black women are twice as likely as white women to work to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workplace [2]. This additional workload, that is usually taken on without compensation, often has a negative impact on the overall success of Black women. Additionally Black women are more likely to be seen as troublemakers when engaging in diversity work; others may see them as uncommitted to their other responsibilities, and the work can often be dismissed as “caretaking” instead of work [3]. In addition, the task of trying to steer an established system toward racial equity without having authority or power can be disheartening and tiresome.

Carrying the additional burden takes a toll on Black women’s professional upward mobility. It also may have a negative impact mentally. The stress of being in the spotlight due to attempting to change the culture of a workplace is a big undertaking. Black women are being asked to answer difficult, complex, controversial questions that likely have been in place for decades. Inspiring a cultural change is a long-term process, and the effort that Black women exert may appear to be ineffective as change is not readily seen. This additional work leads to high levels of burnout [4].

The Executive Director of Re: Power, Karundi Williams wrote the blog, The Pain of Leading While Black, which addresses the difficulties that Black women face when leading while also trying to contribute to diversity, equity and inclusion work. However, there are some ways to use cultural taxation without sacrificing career advancement. One option is to negotiate a reduction in workload because of participation in diversity and equity committees or ask if you can attend a valuable professional conference in exchange of your volunteer time. Part of the negotiation is to select the involvement that is of most interest or that relates closest to the responsibilities of your current role. Then use the role to highlight your skills in consensus building, priority setting, plan development, or other things that build your professional reputation [1]. Be aware of self-care when it comes to doing the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Join OAAA, as we present Ebony Isis Booth’s, “Radical Self-Care is Community Care” event on September 21, 2022. Registration Available Now.