The “Problem” Woman of Colour in the Workplace


This tool depicts a common experience for women of colour (and especially Black women) working in the non-profit sector. The diagram, which was originally developed in the United States, really struck us. It spoke to many of the stories employees in the non-profit sector had told us about their own experiences; it also told the ‘story’ of much of the data we were reading from other research into racism in non-profit organisations…

I didn’t actually write that first paragraph, but I could have done. See www.coco-net.org

When I first saw this poster on LinkedIn, it was because someone tagged me in it. They felt I would appreciate seeing it. And I did.

I then decided to share it with some friends and colleagues on email and WhatsApp. The responses were: “Wow!”, “This is sooooo true”, “So very true”… So I shared with my connections on LinkedIn, and it’s proved to be the most successful post I have ever put up. Reshared, liked and commented on.

Why?

Because it deeply resonates. The universal aspect of seeing your experience laid bare and that others share in, is hugely powerful. It is also useful for others to see, there’s a clear pattern of behaviour in organisations with white leadership.

The fact it was created in the US, developed further by French Canadians and is impacting in Britain speaks to a global experience that has a core issue that a few hours Unconscious Bias training is not going to address.

Hundreds of years of oppression and powerful imaging and media messaging reinforcing that oppression, needs serious, effortful, time-resourced reframing.

I saw a comment yesterday: “Unconscious Bias is a sop to inaction. Unless we see the systemic nature of racism in [our public institutions] and tackle the system, there will be no change. Meanwhile people will continue to suffer”.

I sat in a room recently where I was clearly the most qualified – and experienced – person to talk about Diversity and Inclusion, whilst I was trying to make this very point about The “Problem” Woman of Colour in the Workplace” and was made to feel like I didn’t know what I was talking about because they had done some Unconscious Bias awareness training.

I know the effort, training and resource required to tackle this issue; can you tell me, how do we challenge the “sop” of Unconscious Bias awareness courses as the primary focus of organisations?