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Invest in BLACK women, accelerate OUR change

Why the most important project this year should be YOU.


Ahead of International Women’s Day (IWD) I’ve been catching up with some of my female friends. For many of them, they are at a professional and personal cross-roads. The question of ‘what do I do next’ is the reoccurring topic of discussion - no matter what stage of life they are at.


To all of them, I’ve been saying emphatically that the most important project you should be working on in 2024 is YOU. This year as Black women, we should  truly invest in ourselves. But businesses and organisations need to do the same to accelerate our change. Give us the time, the commitment and resources afforded to other colleagues.


Why is the investment in Black women so important right now? The presence and voice of Black women has never been more felt. We are here and we are seen. These kick-ass Black female CEOs, Trustees, Producers, Managers, Entrepreneurs, Oscar, BAFTA, Grammy nominees, Community Leaders and Athletes are taking advantage of the change in societal attitudes and creating their own opportunities to shine.


But reports show that only 6% of FTSE100 CEOs are women. Over two million women are paid less than the real living wage in the UK. We might be seeing more Black women, but we aren’t seeing nearly enough. Black women have far less access to professional opportunities, especially senior positions. We are the exception rather than the norm.

By listening to their journeys, you understand that their success was in spite of discrimination, racism and inequity. It was their determination and desire to write their own story that got them to where they are, rather than following the story that was written for them.

 

Black women mean business

In the US, Black women are the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs, with nearly 2.7 million businesses nationwide. However, most Black female entrepreneurs are self-funded due to barriers in accessing capital. I’m not ashamed to say I tried and failed to set up a business, many years ago, but learned a lot about myself in the process. With a recent report showing that 1 in 5 UK women were thinking about starting a business, is 2024 the year you should be starting yours?


So how should you start investing in yourself? Five things to consider:

  1. Prioritise your wellbeing: Without good health and wellbeing, we can’t even maintain who we are let alone accelerate. Black women are at the forefront of health inequities with Black Maternal health reports showing we are 4 times more likely to die in childbirth in the UK. We continue to face systematic racial bias and discrimination in the healthcare system. We all have an Auntie or family friend who had a stroke or heart attack, apparently out of nowhere. A report by the CMHA post pandemic found that Black employees were more likely to have experienced family bereavement or personal trauma but less like to disclose anxiety or mental stress at work. Employers and businesses need to do much more to support Black women in the workplace with their mental health and wellbeing. In the meantime, find ways to de-stress, stop and recharge - whether it’s a long walk, spa day or extra hour of sleep.

2. Set 1-year goals: Covid-19 made us value the here and now and challenge the relic of the 5-year plan. Focussing on the short term can help push us forward and force the change. So, ditch the indecision and procrastination and seriously ask yourself ‘where do you want to be by next year?’


3. Focus on your L&D: Whether it’s your organisational L&D programme or industry conferences and free online courses, getting a mentor or coach, listening to a TED Talk, joining a membership or network or learning from the journey of other Black women. Do it your way - but expand your mind muscle.


4. Reignite your creativity: It might be DIY, baking, gardening or pottery but think about what activities awaken or stimulate your creative spirit. Recently, mine was spontaneously going to a Jazz recital in Southwark featuring music from Chaka Khan - just to feed my soul.


5. Outsourcing household demands: If you’re in the position to afford it, getting a cleaner every fortnight could just be the best thing you do. Women hold a disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care and domestic work, carrying out, on average, 60% more unpaid work than men per week. Cultural and societal barriers for Black women remain about outsourcing housework. But years ago as a newly single mum with a child at primary school, the opportunity to spend quality time with my son in the park, cinema or at a friend’s house was more important than cleaning the bathroom or kitchen for two hours on Saturday.



 

This IWD be inspired and be ignited and focus on the best investment you will ever make – you.

 

 

 

 

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