We had the honor of hosting author Minda Harts in Portland last week to highlight her new book entitled “The Memo: How Women of Color Can Secure Their Seat at the Table”. The dialogue at our event was engaging and impactful. Minda recently posted an article on LinkedIn that discusses the glass (or Opaque) ceiling for black women in Corporate America. Below is an excerpt for you to view, and click on the link at the bottom of the page for the complete article….
As a child, the adult figures in my life always told me the “sky’s the limit” or “reach for the stars.” I would stretch out my short arms and tiny hands above my head as I looked up and thought about my future. In times that I faced adversity, I would think about those phrases I often heard and remembered how I felt when I thought about my possibilities. Gender and race never crossed my mind as I reached for what was mine. The world was my oyster, and it was up for a fair game if you dared to try.
I entered adulthood, and those phrases no longer meant the same to me. Now there was a glass ceiling that stood in my way from reaching any stars, let alone sitting on cloud-9 in the sky.
In 1978, Marilyn Loden coined the term “the glass ceiling” at the Women’s Exposition in New York City. When she spoke to the gathered audience about an invisible barrier that women meet as they attempt to ascend in their careers, little did she know her expression would become part of an enduring legacy for women’s rights. Furthermore, Loden likely did not realize that her glass ceiling and her fight for women’s equality would look a lot different for women of color in 2019.
As I pursued a career in philanthropic consulting, I noticed that “ceiling” begin to grow opaque compared to my white women counterparts. I tried different strategies to progress in the workplace, each rendering invisible a piece of my authentic identity. I never wore my hair in a “natural” style, opting to wear it straight down or in a ponytail. (My grandmother once told me a story about being turned away from a job because of her hair.) And I decided to shorten my government name, Yassminda, because I wanted to make people in the workplace feel comfortable.
The more I tried to break that ceiling, though, the dimmer those stars shined. Perhaps they lost their luster because I realized that not all women experience the workplace in the same way. My glass ceiling looked a lot different as a black woman at work and I would face a different set of career challenges. There were odds stacked against me that no current business book on the shelves had prepared me for, nor did I have any mentors or sponsors that looked like me. I often felt isolated and alone during my climb up the ladder.