I left the floor around 8:40 pm, shirt and face smeared with grease. My arms, legs, back hurting. Skirt twisted. My shoes didn't have enough arch support. They were intern shoes: SAP, excel, charts, logistics. Mr. Waspy had left me hours ago to haul (heavy) materials to the line by myself, "Ok, you can finish the rest of this girl." I'm not lazy, so I finished. I had done hard labor.
In manufacturing, everybody pulls their weight. So I decided to suck it up, until my 2nd shift fork-lifting friends questioned me "What you doing still here shortie?". My direct manager heard though the grape vine. The next day he questioned me in a low voice, "(Mr. Wasp) didn't have you out on the floor, did he? What time did you leave here last night?" I didn't say anything. "I'll talk to him- this won't happen again. I'm sorry this happened to you"
At lunch, I saw my old Que friend, but I didn't tell him what happened. I didn't want to let him down. He thought I was the future. Perhaps he thought I had the courage to say "No" to injustice. Perhaps he thought I wouldn't be faced with same methods from the 70's. Do not throw away lessons of the past.
That night I realized, I was a girl who thought injustice died in the 70's. When in fact, Injustice was alive and I was the future. #LeanInKeisha
My first industry mentor was an old Que (ΩΨΦ) that had been with the company for.... ever, retired military. He referred to me as "little sister" and took me out to lunch. He was so happy to see the company hiring black girls for logistics. Mentor-Que told me stories filled with invaluable information that I won't be able to decipher for years.
On this particular day, over lunch, his story described the special on-boarding process just for the new African-American hires in the 70's. The newly hired college graduates, even with STEM degrees, first had to prove their work ethic by doing hard labor (well below their pay grade). A black engineer would work along side the associates (without HS diplomas) for nearly a year before he saw an office. Many gave up and left. Oppose to their white counterparts, who were able to prove themselves in the capacity in which they were hired. Some may suggest that this practice crippled the careers of many black STEM professionals in the manufacturing industry for decades; but those days were long gone. I was the future.
About 2 weeks later, a waspy logistics manager on the team took me out to the manufacturing floor around 4:30 pm. I had always avoided him and his contempt, but my need to please betrayed me. "You ready to do some hard labor?", he asked. I responded yes, since I usually left at 5 pm anyway and I was already accustom to rolling around large metrics charts. Best case scenario, I'd make a new friend and get to brag tomorrow to the other interns about my special assignment.
Honestly, the 'Lean In, Keisha' campaign is my response to racial prejudice in America. We are women empowerment with an purpose! The specific purpose being: inspiring professional development and optimizing the opportunities of young black women to advance in higher education and corporate America. The black woman must advance to a higher ranking in Corporate America (and America in general) in order to help herself, her family, and her people. By elevating ourselves to higher management positions in different industries: employment, supplier diversification, and racial prejudices will all improve. Though professional development, self- confidence, and race/gender relations, I believe that we can progress! We are black feminist, obtaining the skill set, resources and leadership positions required in order to create a socioeconomic state in which our people may prosper.
If (white) women have a glass ceiling that distances them from equal wages and top positions, then black women have a concrete ceiling to break. We know that black women are smart enough to do it, according to The 2012 US census Bureau 50.46% of AA women aged 18-24 were enrolled in college. That's the highest percentage of any race/gender group in the nation. Yet, even with the advanced degrees, Silicon Valley & Fortune 500 CEO list both have less than %1 African American Female representation. Only 5.3% of African American women are in professional management position.
Why are the percentages so low? Racial Discrimination is not the only cause for low percentages of African Americans in higher management positions.
"Your natural instinct is to cluster with those more like yourself. It's not willful intent to keep someone out," he said. "Whatever you call it -- the good-old-boy network, whatever, it's just human behavior and diversity requires pro-active intervention. It's not a natural thing yet." -Don Thompson, CEO of McDonalds.
Welp, here's to pro-active intervention! Black girls are getting degrees, but there's still a huge achievement gap. It is not uncommon for a black women with advance education and experience to work for a white man with lesser credentials. Even thought, the Washington Post covered a new study concluded that Among professional women, African Americans are most likely to want top executive jobs.
So we have a lot of young educated black girls with masters who accept level 1 jobs outside of their field and rarely are promoted. Let's change that. If you want to support the movement, this is the place to be. Programs like Lean In Keisha, The Empowerment Movement and Black Girls Code are the answer! How can you help? Take the Lean In Keisha Pledge!
"What I'm looking for is some kind of leadership to come out of this to say, 'This is what we want. This is what has to change, and these are the steps that we need to take to make these changes, and this is what we're willing to do to get it.' " - Oprah Winfrey
Glad you are here! The overall theme of this blog is the professional empowerment of young African American Women in higher education and corporate America. Come here to find real experiences on internships, , nervous interviews, sexual harassment, supportive-ish boyfriends, your mothers expectations, entrepreneurship, how to get yourmale peers to respect you, raunchy office attire and ultimately how to 'Lean In' as a African- American Woman.
My inspiration for this blog are black girls everywhere that sit on the sidelines, hesitant to go after what she wants.
What differentiates my blog from others is my point of view. I am young black & gifted. My parents are not STEM field professionals. I have had several corporate internships & a lot of professional exposure in college. I am not perfect by any measure, however, you're more likely to get a honest & relatable account for me.
Every women has a different experience & opinions, this is mine.
Now what does it mean to 'Lean In as Women of Color'? I'll take a page from Daria Burke, CEO and founder of Black MBA Women to start us off.