Navigating co-parenting as a single or newly separated/divorced parent may not initially seem like a workplace issue. Still, its ripple effects permeate every part of life—positive and negative—and can affect job performance. For some, a dysfunctional parental relationship can include constant arguing, refusing to communicate or unpredictable visitation, which can result in missed meetings, late arrivals, having to leave early, calling in at the last minute, court dates and being distracted with phone calls.
Alysha Price, founder of The Price Dynamic, a professional family coaching and engagement consulting firm, sees this behavior often with her clients, including single and co-parenting families, struggling to create a functional structure that allows each person to flourish. A product of a co-parenting single-parent household, Price found herself in a difficult co-parenting relationship and used what she learned to create a better environment for her son.
“In my process of parenting, I realized how much I was repeating things that I had grown up around, things that happened in my household. I realized how much I wanted to change some of those things and improve.”
When it comes to the effects of co-parenting on job performance, Price says many are unprepared for the toll it can take on their careers.
“You’re present, but you’re not mentally present. You’re spending a lot of work time contacting attorneys, navigating school and those types of transitions that happen.”
Price says that aligning what happens after school and who picks up or drops off the kids to their extracurricular activities can be stressful for parents trying to deal with their emotions from the relationship breakdown.
The stress can also fuel illnesses for the adults and their children, causing more missed days at work.
“You’re being somewhat of an executive assistant to your new family dynamic, and attendance is severely affected by illness. When your child is moving back and forth from one household to the next, things are affected, like their sleep and stability, which, of course, adds to their not being well.”
Marissa Johnson understands the effects of parental relationships on a family’s ecosystem. As a licensed clinical social worker, she works with adults and children to help them work through issues that impact every facet of their lives, including co-parenting, which can tremendously impact the workplace. When she found herself in a dysfunctional relationship while pregnant, she had to take stock and change course.
“I tried to keep the relationship going, and then when I was about seven months pregnant, I was just like, ‘nah, I’m not going to do this.’”
Johnson had a difficult co-parenting relationship when her daughter was born, which spurred her to start grad school so she could eventually find employment that paid enough to support a single-parent household. In the second year of grad school, she quit her job to focus on school alone and survived solely off student loans.
“When we were going through the courts, I was doing my internship in grad school. We had to do a practicum, and I remember I was so emotional because we had court the day before, and I had to explain to them why I couldn’t even get through a sentence.”
The stress took a toll on her mental health.
“It impacted how I was showing up in my classes and at work. I wasn’t able to give my full self.”
Johnson says her supervisor, a Black woman, also a single mom, helped her through the situation and didn’t make her feel embarrassed when she shared her situation.
Price explains that it is important for supervisors to be empathetic, but worrying about their employees with co-parenting issues can take a toll on the company. She developed “Family Meeting Cards” to help families make better decisions that can reduce the negative impact on their careers.
“We give our clients tools that put the onus back on the employee to deal with their family dynamics, but in the same sense, teach effective communication skills and skills to discern what is appropriate to share at work.”
TaShara Caldwell knows all too well how family dynamics can impact career paths. A paraprofessional completing her internship for her master’s, she has to give 600 hours of free labor on top of her current job, which has prolonged completing the requirements.
“It’s hard to do that when you’re trying to also work and work around someone’s schedule.”
She and her ex-husband, a firefighter with an unpredictable schedule, often barter and negotiate who will take off work when their child has a doctor’s appointment, is sick or has a school function. Caldwell says early in their separation, communication was rocky.
“We would get in these battles of who is going to take off work, kind of whose time is more valuable than the others.”
Caldwell looked to couples counseling, even though divorce was eminent, to figure out how to navigate their new dynamic.
“His schedule is going to be his schedule and I am going to be a mom forever, so even though we are not together, we share a Google Calendar.”
She says even with the shared calendar, when she has to take off work unplanned, it impacts her job even though it is common practice for moms to leave work to take care of their children.
“Schools automatically call mom, even though they have both numbers, they just call mom.”
Sometimes Caldwell’s supervisor will ask if her ex-husband can go instead, often followed by personal questions she does not want to answer.
“It’s frustrating because you don’t want to tell everybody your business.”
According to Price, when the co-parenting relationship begins affecting job performance, employees should keep their chats with managers “brief to minimum” while communicating their needs and leave out details that are not necessary to share. She recommends talking with human resources to ensure a documented paper trail.
When the parents cannot work together constructively, parallel parenting may be an option. This method allows each person to parent separately in all aspects of their child’s life, including doctor’s appointments, sports games and birthday parties. Text-only communication or using apps, such as Talking Parent, may stop parents from disruptive, negative communication yet allow them to keep abreast of schedules that include work trips, conferences or shift changes.
Johnson says text-only communication worked the best for her and her co-parent. Their relationship and her career improved when she took her emotions out of the situation and focused on herself.
“It’s very possible for you to have everything you want career-wise and still be a good mother. When things like this happen that set us back, like having to co-parent with people who aren’t easy to co-parent with, you start to develop these beliefs that it’s not possible or it’s too hard. You can’t do it.”
Investor, advisor and board member of The Harvard Business School Club of New York, Tamara Bowens, is an expert in sales, branding and partnership marketing. Her current board appointment was announced in August 2023, and while it’s not her first time serving on a board, she feels it expands her reach and allows her voice to be heard.
“That’s something I’ve always tried to do is be true to who I am, no matter what room I am in, and if I know that I’ve been true to myself, then I know that I have a real seat at the table and I can make a real impact.”
Sulamain Rahman, CEO at DiverseForce in Philadelphia and board member of Lendistry, is a board matchmaker. His program, DiverseForce On Boards, prepares high-potential middle to senior-level leaders of color to expand their capabilities through a board training and matching program. He says just having Black women on boards isn’t the solution, but making sure those appointed are there to move the needle.
“The reality is, it’s not really about just having Black and brown faces in high places, but how do we make sure our presence is felt in those spaces? Unfortunately, many people don’t sign up to be civil rights leaders, if you will, when they’re on boards.”
As a Black woman, Bowens is given the opportunity to share her vast business experience and unique perspectives on issues that may go unnoticed without representation.
“There have been times when there has been a discussion about things that are ‘culturally difficult’, is a way I would put it. But then I have to be the one in the room to raise my hand and go, ‘oh, but yeah, I understand your point of view, but let me just tell you how people who look like me feel’.”
Miquel Purvis McMoore, of Minneapolis, serves on various non-profits and a Life Advisory Board position for Wise Inc., a corporate board. She is also CEO of KP Companies, an executive search firm in Minneapolis that recruits to fill board seats. She sees more boards actively looking for Black women to serve as leaders and says Black women who want to be on boards should prepare themselves early.
“Depending on where you are in your career would determine how you should prepare yourself for board readiness. I think the skills you gain, obviously, on your job, your organizational skills, project management skills and specialty skills, such as accounting or legal.”
Rahman wants upcoming leaders to understand that their diversity is invaluable, but they also need expertise, confidence and broad experiences to be effective company leaders.
“The CEO is going to that board, reporting to that board, and is providing oversight as well as strategic advice on how to take that organization to the next level.”
Rahman encourages those interested in filling board seats to start with non-profit organizations to gain experience. Some of those positions are paid, but most board members start with volunteer boards.
According to McMoore, networking and letting folks know you are interested in bringing your skills to companies is another important way to be placed on the shortlist.
Los Angeles-based travel creator, Dr. N’Dea Irvin-Choy changed her career path from biochemical engineer to full-time content creator six months before receiving her graduate degree. She packed up her belongings, moved to L.A. and wrote her thesis there while figuring out how she was going to turn content creation into her career and lifestyle. Like many others, she is figuring out her travel plans for the winter and shared four top travel destinations for Black women for 2023-2024.
The 27th Annual MLK Ski Weekend returns to Blue Mountain Resort in The Blue Mountains of Ontario, Canada, to celebrate the MLK holiday weekend. For those who enjoy or want to learn how to ski or snowboard, there are packages and lessons available. If you prefer to skip the slopes, there are spa options, a comedy show, happy hours, pool parties and themed activities. You can even sip hot chocolate or grab a beer while watching the NFL playoffs!
2. Geneva, Switzerland
Another cold climate destination to put on your calendar this winter is Geneva, Switzerland. It is heaven for Chocolate lovers, as Swiss Chocolate is coveted all over the world. There are chocolate-tasting tours and opportunities to submerse yourself in chocolate culture. There are day trips to Mount Blanc, the highest peak in the Swiss Alps and the Swiss Riviera. If you prefer to travel with a group, The Travel Divas have a trip coming up Nov. 30-Dec. 8 with a package that includes an evening cruise with dinner on Lake Geneva, a gala, brunches and guided tours, such as a culinary day trip or an inside look at prestigious Swiss watchmaking.
3. Accra, Ghana
Last but not least, is making the pilgrimage to Accra, Ghana for “Detty December”, a time of holiday celebration for the entire month of December and into the New Year, when Accra is filled with art, music, entertainment and thousands of brothers and sisters from across the diaspora. Ghana has first-class accommodations, beautiful beaches and cultural emersion like no other. For those interested in learning about history, a guided day tour up the coast to Elmina Castle offers a first-hand look at the slave dungeons and walks you through the journey to the Americas and the Caribbean. If you enjoy the party scene, there are day parties and night parties that last until the daylight. Ghana is one of the best, most fascinating places to be in December!
While it may be winter, a few prefer warm destinations. If that’s more your style this winter, look no further than Curacao, a Dutch Caribbean Island known for its white sand beaches and distinguished marine life. There are underwater walking tours, opportunities to swim with sea turtles, ATV adventures and good old-fashioned lounging on the beach with a cold drink and vibes.
Finding ways to entertain yourself and give your mind a break from the obstacles of life can become a stressful task with all of the options – from social media to the hundreds of TV apps available. Never fear, we have three ways for you to escape and lose yourself in someone else’s drama for a change. Enjoy!
1. Book: Leap of Faith by Pam Kelly
MEET. DATE. LOVE. MARRIAGE.
THE TYPICAL ORDER OF RELATIONSHIPS.
UNTIL ROBERT MEETS PATRICIA.
Robert McKnight was a forensic accountant with a secret life that he could only share with immediate family. Tired of serial dating, he was ready for love, marriage, and family.
Patricia Harris wrote about love and happily ever after but had not fully experienced it herself. Recently divorced, she was resigned to a quiet life of work and writing until her heart could heal. Then came Robert McKnight.
A chance meeting at his birthday dinner generated Panther Heat–mutual hot, steamy attraction, plus stimulating conversation, a marriage proposal, and a wedding ceremony, all on the same night. When real life set in, she starts to wonder if ‘happily ever after’ was possible after all.
Available wherever books are sold and can be ordered at your local library.
For more information about the book and the author, and read several book reviews from Amazon, scan the QR code.
Where to watch: NETFLIX
After a bad breakup, passionate stylist Mavis Beaumont seizes the opportunity to start over in life and love while finding happiness on her own terms.
3. Kizilcik Serbeti (Cranberry Sorbet)
Where to watch: Yoturkish.app
Two families, one modern and the other traditional have different perspectives on life. They come together for the sake of their children who are in love, but uniting the two worldviews causes conflict, drama and questions about religion and love. Can love conquer all?
This series was very controversial in Turkey and has captured audiences around the world. Lucky for us, English subtitles are available.
Masking is a mental health term that describes ways to hide, suppress or camouflage symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the workplace, it refers to fitting into the cultural environment to maintain your job and relationships without anyone knowing what is going on inside. For Black women, masking happens often, and long term, it can spike the stress hormone cortisol leading to mental and physical health issues.
“We’re so into mask-wearing that we don’t pay attention to what our internal sensor, our intuition, our common sense is telling us,” says Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett, director of the Program for Research on Anxiety Disorders in African Americans (PRADAA) at Kent State University in Ohio.
Neal-Barnett says dreading going into the workplace could indicate one is struggling with anxiety or depression. “If you’re out in the parking lot willing yourself to go into the building, okay, that’s a sign that something is wrong not only in the workplace, but you want to take stock of your anxiety, depression and PTSD.”
“Anxiety can show up as agitation, irritability, hostility and anger, which can feed into the ‘angry Black woman’ stereotypes we often try to avoid.”
Symptoms of anxiety disorders can present differently in Black women. “Anxiety can show up as agitation, irritability, hostility and anger, which can feed into the ‘angry Black woman’ stereotypes we often try to avoid,” says Dr. Shaakira Haywood Stewart, a psychologist in New York.
Seeing anger in Black women can illicit negative labels from others. “We’re quick to say, ‘she’s crazy,’ but not necessarily recognizing the number of boundaries that person has had crossed, and the resentment that can build up from years of neglect or emotional trauma,” says Dr. Afiya Mbilishaka, head of psychology at the University of the District of Columbia, hairstylist and founder of PsychoHairapy.
While many avoid being angry because of the stereotypes and labels, embracing that emotion can be a healthy choice. “Getting angry is better than internalizing it,” says Neal-Barnett. “Because what happens when you internalize it? It’s all your fault. But racism, which is what you’re experiencing, is not your fault.”
Another symptom is being in a perpetual state of fatigue. “Exhaustion can be a silent killer,” warns Haywood Stewart. “You’ll hear from patients, ‘I’m so tired,’ and they think it’s because of working a lot, but it can lead to hypertension, pre-diabetes and fibroids.” Haywood Stewart cautions against preoccupation with trauma, which can manifest through repetitive discussions about the traumatic events, persistent flashbacks and recurring dreams of the incidents. It is important to find an outlet and someone to talk to about the issues that are causing mental anguish.
“Getting angry is better than internalizing it.”
For many Black women, the initial person who notices something is wrong may be an unlikely source. “Probably the first person who’s going to tell you something is wrong is your hairdresser,” says Neal-Barnett. They often hear about the issues in-depth, and see you regularly enough to be aware of mental and physical changes. For this very reason, she has a licensed hair professional on her research team because she says they are vital in diagnosing mental health issues. “You may sit in the chair and hear, ‘Girl, what is going on?’ because our hair tells a story about what we are going through.”
At that point, Neal-Barnett emphasizes the importance of seeking mental health assistance, making an appointment with your physical doctor and seeking legal advice—which may be difficult for some as they worry about the stigma associated with complaining and their job security. “For many women, they feel if they are not working, then what happens to the family in terms of keeping a roof over people’s heads.” She recommends using accrued Personal Time Off (PTO) for self-care and talking to your doctor about whether using resources, such as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), are options.
When asked if the workplace is safe for Black women, Haywood Stewart answered emphatically, “No, it’s not.”
The workplace can be a harmful environment, and it is easy for Black women to become complacent and accept marginalization when it has become commonplace. “Some of the things happening to us in the workplace are traumatic and harmful,” says Haywood Stewart. “We’ve become used to being harmed because it happens over and over again.”
When your symptoms begin affecting personal relationships outside of work, that’s a sign that you need to seek help. “When the people you love start avoiding your calls, you find friendships and romantic relationships deteriorating; it’s time to get help,” says Haywood Stewart.
Neal-Barnett highlights that although workplace-induced stress can feel isolating, talking to others about these experiences is important. “You are not alone, and you are not the only one.” She says that it happens every day in corporate America and academia, which has adopted a corporate model. She explains that Black women may need to venture outside of their comfort zones if they want to see changes in their lives. “I know it feels embarrassing, and you feel shame, but if you can set aside that feeling for one minute and tell someone else who is Black, you are going to find hope and a plan to move forward.”
The hard truth is Black women earn less than white men in every state and won’t nationally reach pay equity with white men until 2144. Ariane Hegewisch for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research writes that Black women were paid 63.7 cents for every dollar earned by white men nationwide. This wage disparity costs Black women about $1,891 per month, $22,692 per year and $907,680 over a 40-year career.
Black women across the nation aren’t asking for a handout; they are asking for opportunities that commiserate with their qualifications, safe work environments and equal pay for equal work.
Washington, D.C., has the worst wage disparity, with Black women earning 45 cents. Mississippi and Texas are not far behind at 55 cents for every dollar a white man pockets. This wage theft is a stunning reality against the backdrop of Black women’s status as the most educated demographic making up 68 percent of associates degrees, 66 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 71 percent of master’s degrees between 2018 and 2019, according to the National Center For Education Statistics (NCES)
Only 11 percent of Black women are considered financially healthy, with 59 percent reporting unmanageable debt.
Adia Harvey Wingfield, professor of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis, found that while women as a whole are advancing in the workplace, Black women are not. Black women experience motherhood penalties, gender discrimination, stifled leadership opportunities, sexual harassment and occupational segregation in the workplace at a higher rate. They are also less likely to have advocates or mentors to help them advance within the company or industry. Wingfield cited that some of these roadblocks are due to white executives’ unfamiliarity and discomfort with Black women, who are excluded from teams and on important projects. This means Black women are paying an emotional tax to work in organizations that don’t place the same value on their contributions as other demographics.
“So Black women grapple with a catch-22. If they don’t speak out, they remain invisible and easily passed over for stretch assignments, high-visibility projects and promotions. If they cry foul, they get tagged as a liability to be wary of, an angry Black woman who might levy a lawsuit on her employer, rather than as an asset to cultivate and prize for her complementary networks and market insights,” writes Melinda Marshall and Tai Wingfield in Ambition in Black + White.
Many companies refuse to acknowledge that affirmative action and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs that specifically target improving the work experience for women are disproportionally benefitting white women. Unless they also turn their attention to race, these actions will not change the financial status of Black women. “You’re either seen as a woman or seen as Black, but you’re never seen as both,” says Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett, director of the Program for Research on Anxiety Disorders in African Americans (PRADAA) at Kent State University in Ohio.
Hiring practices that often segregate Black women into low-income positions within companies and organizations are also affecting Black women’s financial health. “CNAs in terms of healthcare workers, or childcare, are essential jobs, but often have low wages and poor benefits,” says Dr. Michelle Wilson, director of Evaluation and Learning at the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. She says funneling Black women into lower-wage service jobs is intentional and historical. “That is really a holdover from slavery, the oldest public workforce system in the country.” She believes that changing workplace inequality requires unpacking its past drivers.
“You’re either seen as a woman or seen as Black, but you’re never seen as both.”
How does discrimination affect Black wealth?
Only 11 percent of Black women are considered financially healthy, with 59 percent reporting unmanageable debt, according to a study at the Financial Health Network. National Partnership for Women and Families’ Black Women and the Wage Gap study found the median wage for Black women is $36,303 per year compared to $57,005 for white (non-Hispanic) men. On par with white men, Black women are key breadwinners for their families, with nearly 80 percent of Black households relying on Black women for financial support. Counting for the wage gap, this translates to nearly four million families, with almost 1.2 million (30 percent) living below the poverty level.
According to Black Women and the Wage Gap, if the pay disparity were eliminated, on average, Black women working full-time all year round would have enough money for more than two years of childcare, more than two additional years of tuition fees for a four-year college or university and the full cost of a two-year community college. They would also have 130 more weeks of food for the family, one year of mortgage and utilities, 19 more months of rent and enough money to pay off the average student loan debt in under two years.
How can Black women protect themselves from wage theft?
When looking for a new job or career change, Black women should research Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) scores, which are important to many public companies and their shareholders. ESG commitments that include pay transparency and equity policies can significantly affect a company’s value. During the interview, ask how ESG factors into their workplace decisions. Some investors are pressuring CEOs to balance company performance, which can be affected by employees’ beliefs that they are paid fairly. Companies that have greater transparency about pay gaps can increase their ESG scores.
Another question to ask during the interview stage or while employed is whether they routinely perform equity audits that take race, gender and other factors into consideration. “The company should routinely look at pay across all departments and levels and account for education and cost of living to ensure pay transparency and equity,” says Wilson. Payscale’s The State of Pay Equity in 2023 report found that when asked, companies did not know their gender pay gap (41 percent) or their racial pay gap (47 percent). When asked if there would be an effort to address wage theft in their companies, 27 percent said “no.”
Asking about company policies to combat pay compression is another way to determine an employer’s commitment to eliminating the wage gap. When starting salaries for external hires exceed current employees’ pay, this can have a negative long-term effect on pay disparities.
Wilson says employers asking employees to perform duties outside their contract without paying for the expertise is a red flag. For example, asking an employee to conduct workshops for free when they typically pay an outside speaker for the same task can affect pay inequity. Or, if they did not initially provide pay for bilingual abilities and then ask the employee to translate, it may be time to renegotiate the employment contract.
“There is always room to push further in the equity space,” says Wilson.
While the pay gap remains, Black women and their families will continue to suffer. There are companies with pay transparency scales, but many experts believe that until there is full pay transparency and a desire for companies to stop engaging in wage theft, many Black families will continue down the road of poverty.
According to Tamiko White, fashion entrepreneur and media personality, a strong blazer, accessories, tailored shirt, sweatsuit and boyfriend jeans are items that every Black woman should have in her work wardrobe. She believes that when emotions are out-of-wack, work is piling up or a nosey co-worker is minding your business and not her own, figuring out what to wear can feel daunting.
White sees fashion as a form of storytelling and representation of personal style and self-awareness. She recommends viewing fashion as a sentence. “Your clothes are the words; the accessories are the comma, exclamation point and the parenthesis.”
She shares her thoughts on must-have items that can get you through the nonsense with finesse.
Blazing a trail with a solid blazer
When you are going through it, you begin to question everything, which means you don’t have the answers to your challenges. As a solution, White says to first look to a blazer, which shows confidence whether it is denim, has accentuated shoulders, oversized or fitted. It’s a versatile piece that works in the office, via video conference and with various tops and bottoms. When you want to show strength even when you aren’t feeling so strong, starting with a blazer can make the outfit without causing too much stress on the mind.
“When there’s a thing, that’s a thing, that’s a thing, I grab a blazer.”
Punctuate with accessories
If you want to draw others’ eyes away from your side eye or make someone smile, focus on choosing a fabulous accessory. “Accessories make people happy,” she says. “I love a great blouse, but there’s something about a beautiful necklace or a stunning pair of earrings.” Choosing an accessory that makes you feel good about yourself or has sentimental value can give your confidence a boost.
While traditional jewelry, such as earrings, necklaces, and bracelets, maybe the first items that come to mind when you think about accessories, shoes, glasses, nails, hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, ankle bracelets, and even a handkerchief on a handbag are a part of this group. Even though it may seem that everyone wears the same hair, nail polish and carries the same bags, don’t fret because no one will wear it like you. “How you wear your accessories is very telling for people because ten women can have the same bag, but if they rock it differently, it’s unique,” she says. “It’s all about color, layers, and personalization.”
Getting personal with your clothing and figuring out what makes you look “put together” can help you choose the right item with minimal effort. A fitted cardigan and a V-neck t-shirt are great for layering a look, but the tailored shirt is a core piece for a timeless wardrobe.
“I know it sounds really basic, but a tailored shirt can be white, navy, blue or striped, and it can help you look clean and polished.”
Sweatsuits as armor
An item that can help us feel protected and comforted is the sweatsuit. Because it is a set, there is no need to worry about finding a top or a bottom because it’s a ready-made outfit that you can put on and go. Gone are the days when sweatsuits are for the gym or a weekend excursion with the kids; they are now considered a suitable fashion choice for many work settings. White suggests choosing fun, bold accessories and pairing the sets with the “wrong shoes,” such as stilettos, ballet flats, loafers and boots. She says the versatility of sweatsuits is the variety of fabrics, from cashmere to French terry, linen and silk blends.
Boyfriend Jeans in the clutch
When all else fails, White says to choose boyfriend jeans paired with flats, boots or sneakers, as the possibilities are endless with this wardrobe staple. They can also be glammed up with an embellished blazer, camisole, stilettos, statement jewelry or a hat. Some women may find the boyfriend jean fit a little engulfing, especially after wearing fitted jeans for many years. Copping the right boyfriend jean that compliments your shape and height is important. She suggests using bold belts and rolling up the pant legs to finish the look.
White says to find basic work pieces that help to pull together an effortless look. Consider brands such as Veronica Beard, Cos, Zara, Max Mara Studio, Tibi and Norma Kamali. “You want neutrals, so it doesn’t feel overpowering in the workplace but still feels elevated and designed.”
Chronic phycological stress can lead to trauma in the body, hair and skin. Black women report higher levels of psychological stress than white women due to their intersectionality between race and gender. In addition, they face unique social issues, such as discrimination, finances, safety and family, which are all considered top stressors for Black women according to the Qualitative Assessment of Gender- and Race-Related Stress Among Black Women.
Over an extended period, stress can limit the body’s ability to adapt, causing damage to the central nervous system, cognition and learning, immune system functions, cardiovascular and endocrine systems and the gastrointestinal tract. There are signs Black women should look for in their bodies if they are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety.
“Weight gain, skin breakouts, palpitations and breaking out in a sweat are pretty consistent signs among patients, especially women,” says Dr. Robin Moore, DO, a primary care physician in Houston specializing in women’s health.
Moore says that Black women have to do better about finding ways to minimize stress in their lives, including being more vocal about their needs and learning to set boundaries.
“We have to learn to say ‘no’ to things that don’t serve us.”
Workplace stress is a common complaint among Black women in her practice. “Black women especially have to wear many hats, they are overwhelmed and can never show weakness,” she says. “It can produce an unrealistic and unsustainable reality leading to burnout and anxiety.”
She adds that racism and discrimination in the workplace can affect physical health because it causes Black women to apply added pressure to be the best just to receive the same as others.
Moore says stress can lead to severe health issues like diabetes, heart disease, ulcers, stroke and inflammation. Thus, it is important Black women insist their doctors check their heart, thyroid, cortisol and blood sugar levels, iron and electrolytes.
Stephanie Serlin recommends her clients wash their face 30-60 times per month. Serlin, an esthetician and owner of So Hum Skin in Houston, says that a good skincare routine is a relaxation tool that can relieve stress while also combatting breakouts.
“I believe in the phrase, ‘Black don’t crack,’ but when we are facing trauma, we need to do more than rely on our genes.”
Serlin says that congestion (pimples) can appear both underneath and above the skin’s surface, along with skin inflammation and puffy eyes resulting from anxiety disorders. The inflammation is caused by high cortisol levels—a sign of stress.
“A good skincare routine can be a way to decompress from the day, take a moment for yourself and relax.”
Getting a professional facial regularly with extractions and an enzyme peel can help get the skin back on track. If unable to visit an esthetician, home facials can be purchased and used with caution. “I am not big on suggesting home remedies because a lot of times when people want to pop their pimples, the pressure of their hands causes more damage to the skin.”
Steaming the face by placing it over a bucket of hot water and wrapping your face in a hot towel are ways to open the pores at home. Serlin also suggests Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay to detoxify the skin and Jan Marini products for a regular skin regime. She says it’s crucial to spot-test new products on the hand before applying all over the face to ensure no allergic or adverse reaction.
Hair loss, breakage, shedding, oily or flaky scalp, and brittle texture may be signs your hair is telling you that you are depressed, or your stress levels are too high. Tecovia LaShe’ sees it every day with clients who come into her shop for braids and other protective hairstyles. LaShe’, stylist and owner of Crowned by She’ Hair Salon in Houston, says that her clients are often unaware of their stress levels until they sit in her chair.
“I spend a lot of time consulting with my clients about the symptoms of depression and anxiety showing up in their hair.”
“They are often surprised how their hair is communicating that something is wrong,” she says.
She says many of her clients can leave hair issues untreated for long periods because they focus on coping and surviving. “Clients confide in me about their life issues, including workplace trauma and how much pressure they face in difficult work environments.” She adds that protective styles that cover the damaged areas are popular because so many Black women are dealing with the same issues.
LaShe’ helps her clients customize healthy hair regiments that may include special shampoos, conditioners, masks and oils. She may also suggest clients look to meditation, exercise, a change in diet or seek help from a mental health professional when she learns their struggles with mental health are not being treated.
“I listen and empathize because I am a Black woman, and I know how difficult life can be for us,” she says. “My role is to help them leave the shop looking better and feeling better than when they arrived.”
The rise in racist activity showcased by white women in public spaces across the nation has caused an awakening in the role white women play in Black women’s oppression. In many of these incidents, white women—referred to as Karens—assault, hurl racist slurs, physically restrain, question, and taunt Black women while calling the police, further endangering the lives of the people they harass. When these white women are fired from their jobs for this behavior, others have come to their rescue, stating that losing their jobs should not be a consequence of their dangerous public outbursts. Many fail to realize that these dangerous behaviors hide in plain sight at work to the detriment of Black women’s careers and mental health. Moreover, they affect how Black women patients, customers, and business partners are treated.
“Our data tells us that Black women are having their worst experiences when they report to white women”
In light of these incidents, Black women are speaking more openly about how white women negatively impact their workplace experiences, derail their careers, and harass them in the office.
“I’ve dealt with many Karens in my career,” says Dr. Michelle Wilson, director of Evaluation and Learning at the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. Black women cite white women as a major cause of workplace discrimination and harassment, which leads to anxiety, depression, job loss, and a mass exodus from corporate America, non-profit organizations, and academia.
“Our data tells us that Black women are having their worst experiences when they report to white women,” says Cierra Gross, founder of Caged Bird HR. She says it is ironic that white women benefit most from affirmative action, “yet they are perpetuating the most harm in the workplace.” This harm affects Black women’s ability to advance in the workplace and earn the wages they deserve.
Companies that advance gender as their diversity focus often miss the unique intersectionality of race and gender that affect Black women. This places white women at the forefront to benefit from these programs while Black women remain invisible. When white women receive power in the workplace as a result of these programs, it does not often translate to better opportunities for Black women, including overall culture improvement, job titles, positions, responsibilities, and wages.
Françoise Burgess writes in The White Woman: The Black Woman’s Nemesis that “Black women have accused white women of being duplicitous; while they proclaim sisterhood in theory, they are unable to overcome their racial prejudices in practice.”
Overall, although women are advancing in the workplace, white women continue to move up the corporate ladder while Black women remain at the bottom while being gaslit to “Lean In”, be more social and take on difficult tasks for lower pay. Many corporations believe that by advancing white women, Black women will also benefit, but that is not the case.
Author Vivian Gordon says, “Seldom attention is given to the extent to which white women benefit from the oppression of Black women.” She explains, “white women are saying to the white male power structure: Move over. We want to be part of the power structure. Black women are saying: ‘The structure is wrong.’”
In the LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company’s 2022 Women in the Workplace Report, only 44 percent of Black women reported feeling comfortable disagreeing with coworkers, whereas 57 percent of white women felt free to challenge or have differing views. This can translate into Black women not voicing their professional opinions or concerns about mistreatment for fear of retribution or white women’s tears.
“There is nothing more dangerous to a white woman than a competent Black woman”
A TikTok trend in 2022 showed white women’s collective ability to cry on command. This terrified many Black women who have been the victim of this weaponization. Black women are labeled aggressive, unprofessional and mean when white women cry unprovoked during professional communication exchanges. Luvvie Ajayi calls it the “weary weaponizing of white women’s tears.” Where they claim to feel personally “attacked” and “targeted” when questioned, given feedback or held accountable for their actions. Crying or playing the victim as a tactic allows others to focus on the white woman’s perceived trauma with sympathy instead of the actual trauma she may have inflicted on the Black woman, rendering them invisible yet again.
Writer Zora Neal-Hurston believed the modern relationship between Black and white women is patterned after the relationships on the plantation, where the white women used their power and white fragility to their advantage. “Thus, from the beginning, the seeds of resentment between Black and white women were sown…”
Slavery was the birth of this complicated relationship. Just as Black women can pass on trauma from that era, it is no surprise that white women may continue generational behavior patterns, whether intentional or unconscious.
Despite the early relationship formed during slavery, Black women do not feel unequal to or jealous of white women. “[Black women don’t have] envy for their accomplishments,” writes Toni Morrison. She goes on to argue that Black women also have no sympathy for white women’s perceived oppression.
On the contrary, Black women feel some white women are jealous and afraid of their power and abilities in the workplace. “There is nothing more dangerous to a white woman than a competent Black woman,” says Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett, director of the Program for Research on Anxiety Disorders in African Americans (PRADAA) at Kent State University in Ohio.
Gross says it is difficult to change this problem when Human Resources is a white woman-dominated field. In 2020, Data USA reported 76.8 percent of human resources managers were white, with 64.1 percent white women. Human resources is the department whose purpose is to create and enforce workplace policies. Bias and racism are dangerous in this area of the company. If Black women see white women as a threat to their careers, it could be a significant factor in why the issues seem exacerbated in the workplace with Black women feeling unheard and unsupported.
“Seldom attention is given to the extent to which white women benefit from the oppression of Black women”
In the book, Ambition in Black + White, Melinda Marshall and Tai Wingfield agree that Black women and their unique struggles are invisible in the workplace. Yet, their research found that, unlike their white counterparts, Black women are 25 percent more likely to have both near-term (50 percent vs. 40 percent) and long-term (40 percent vs. 32 percent) career goals and are more confident that they are qualified to succeed (43 percent vs. 30 percent) in a position of power.
Marshall and Wingfield also write that Black women are three times as likely as white women to aspire to a powerful position with a prestigious title, as they are often inspired by the matriarchs of their families who prevailed as breadwinners and showed their power and ingenuity without access to the higher levels of opportunities. This data does not correlate with the positions Black women hold or the perceptions that they lack initiative.
How do we fix this?
Racism in the workplace is not Black women’s issue. It is a white issue and something that has to be addressed if businesses want to continue to benefit from Black women’s undoubted contributions. At the same time, the responsibility for building a professional relationship between white women and Black women lies with white women who hold more power in the workplace; and who continue to choose whiteness over gender solidarity, as illustrated in the last two presidential elections.
There are Black women who are doing the work to bring these issues to light, from authors and activists to academics. Neal-Barnett teaches a course called The Psychology of Black Women, which has a waiting list. She says when white students come out of the course, they are blown away at how Black women experience and navigate the world. “Many of them are like, ‘We didn’t know.’ She says they never talk about Black women, so they are ill-equipped when they get into the workplace. “They have limited to no insight into what it means to be Black and a female. They don’t know, but they should hear enough cases after a while.”
Black women rocking bold colors should be the name of a coffee book, and we know the photos would be stunning. Throughout history, Black women have embraced vibrant hues, cultivating patterns and complicated textures – telling stories through color.
“If a person is drawn to colors that are bolder, it shows more confidence and someone you can trust,” says Amy Wax, color expert and creator of the Color911 App.
Our staff at Notable wanted to dig a little deeper and examine what our color choices say about us and how we can use color to our advantage in the workplace.
“Color communicates, color shifts, color participates,” says Michelle Lewis, color psychology expert. “I believe it was created to support us. Our hormones run off it; our sleep cycle runs off of it. Our mood, in a lot of ways, runs off it.”
From years of studying color, Lewis believes it should be embraced and used as a tool and an ally. “I think it is boundariless in terms of what we can do to bring it into our situation.”
Whatever you are experiencing, Wax believes that color is a part of everything we do, starting with when we get dressed for work. “It is such a subliminal part of who we are,” she says. For example, she says wearing or seeing all white looks well-organized, pure and fresh. It’s giving Lisa Raye or Mother of the Church.
On the other hand, Lewis says there are other colors, like grey, which can mute personality over time. “That’s what can lead to depression, disconnectivity and feeling ‘blah’ at work,” says Lewis. She says the problem is that most people are in a grey work environment, and then they go to work every day wearing Black and wonder why they’re miserable.
We have been conditioned to wear Black at work for interviews or big meetings, and while it can be seen as unassuming, Lewis says it can have the opposite effect. “It’s what’s become a cultural norm in a work environment,” she says. “But you’re not going to stand out at all.”
Lewis says there are eight primary communication colors that are behaviorally, culturally and scientifically part of our language and how we communicate.
Both experts agree that Blue conveys trustworthiness, reliability, honesty and loyalty. If you are having a tough time at work, feeling harassed or overwhelmed, shades of blue are solid choices. “Deeper blues bring down blood pressure and heart rate,” says Lewis. “All they’re going to know is that they feel more trusting and calmer when they are around you.”
It is also a smart color to wear if you are looking to get hired or promoted.
It can be associated with balance and family. Not a typical work choice color for most people, it could have one of two effects on others, according to Lewis. “They are just going to avoid you because they are uncomfortable, and the color is saying cautionary traffic cone, or they’ll want to sit down on your couch, spend time with you and be your best friend.”
Want to convey confidence, then consider red, with caution. Outside of holiday cheer, in the office, red can be seen as aggressive and cause overstimulation for those sharing office space. You may want to avoid this color if you are struggling with being bullied or harassed in the workplace.
Purple is driven and connection-based and can be a good color for building workplace relationships, camaraderie and collaboration.
Yellow is the most peak sensitivity in terms of what the eye can experience. It can keep you awake, energized and focused on your future. It can help you and others around you feel a little more joyful. On the flip side, it can also be overstimulating, especially with someone who is neurodivergent.
When you think of softness and femininity, pink is the first color to come to mind. It can make you feel comfortable when worn as clothing. However, as décor, it may cause you to retreat and not be as social or communicative. Studies have shown it to increase the desire to eat desserts.
Magenta is very bold, revolutionary and stimulating. Think T-Mobile outpacing AT&T in sales. It is not a color to avoid, but you should wear it with caution in the workplace as it is connected with a few politically charged campaigns, such as the “Rock Against Reagan.”
Green is balancing and is the most neutral to our eyes when perceiving color. It can affect heart rate and is helpful if you need stability in your office. An interesting fact about green is that it will bring you up when you feel down and vice versa, so use it carefully.