Black women deserve…need…belong in the room where it happens. I recently completed the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Work Place Certificate Program at University of South Florida and one of the speakers stated how people of color belong in the room where it happens. In the room where it happen is the room where decisions are made, outcomes are influenced and change happens. The speaker was referencing the “Hamilton” song “In The Room Where It Happens” sung by Leslie Odom, Jr. who plays Aaron Burr. Aaron Burr is describing how he was left out of important conversations and decisions during his time on the political stage.
Remind Yourself That You Belong There
This reference really made me think about black women in these spaces and how we influence outcomes with our audacity but it may not be the easiest situation to be in. Those rooms tend to be heavily dominated (depending on the organization of course) by white, hetero, cis-gendered men. But, in spite of that, black women need to be there! Regardless of how frustrating it might be to be in those spaces our presence is most definitely required. I definitely know people, black women especially, and women of color in general, who feel like it’s not worth it to be in those spaces. That feeling of otherness or that feeling of not being listened to can by quite unbearable to withstand. In those spaces, you are dealing with preconceived notions, discrimination, bias added with your (potentially) own feelings of discomfort. . not to say all but we know for sure, that is something that we do deal with in certain spaces.
When in those spaces, it so important and empowering to remind yourself that you belong there, we belong there and that we have to be in the room…the room where it happens. We have to be in the room where those decisions are made the decisions that impact culture, community products, whatever it might be, we need to be there. We have a right to.
We Still Need To Influence Decisions
Now, of course, Aaron Burr was a privileged white male and in general still had the option or opportunity to be in those rooms. As black women of the black diaspora, how often are we left out of those rooms or those decisions, or when we’re in those rooms, we have to contend with that sexism, racism, unconscious bias, microaggressions, microinsults, micro assaults etc etc…but we still need to influence decisions, we still need to be in those spaces, and we’ve been doing it we’ll continue to do it. But, I do think it’s important for Black women to feel empowered in those spaces, to feel empowered in those spaces where we are feeling perhaps othered or feeling like “ugh, not again”. another space where I’m the only black person, let alone black woman, let alone woman, right. All those things, we’d still deserve to be there. And we should feel empowered in those spaces, because we have a right to be. I truly believe, we have to insert ourselves into the machine in order to break it. We need to be in that room. That’s what’s going to change things. We’ve been doing it we’ll continue to do it. We’ll continue to fight through and we’ll continue to make change.
So here’s the thing, let’s not get it twisted. Many black women are in leadership roles or are key decision makers in various organizations or companies or just in roles where we influence and impact change. But sometimes in those spaces, we are hyper-aware, rightfully so, of the stereotypes, or how we might be perceived by others, right? Personally, I’ve been in spaces where I was not only the only black person, but I was the only woman. But end of the day, we still do what we need to do, and use our voices to affect change. Research shows that in the C suite in the CEO, offices, and those top leadership roles, they’re not many women, if any, let alone women of color, let in on black women in those rooms. They’ve only been four black women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies all for ever. Overall, only 20 black CEOs making up only what 1% of the CEOs of those fortune 500 companies. That’s nothing. I mean, it’s something right, because they’re doing the damn thing. And they’re in these organizations and leading them. But in comparison to our white counterparts. There’s no comparison. So it really just does remind you of who really is making those decisions, or who’s given directives to the departments that make those decisions. But there are also plenty of organizations and companies that many of us work in where we can see this as well, no matter how big or how small, it definitely speaks to privilege and how decisions are being made without our input.
So for the black girl who’s unsure of her place in that room, who is trying to get in that room, or who is doing the damn thing in those spaces, but experiencing uncertain moments, please know that we need you there, you still need to be in that room.