Rene Syler on Black Women in the Workplace


Why Don’t Black Women Support Each Other In The Workplace

by Rene Syler of Good Enough Mother

I was talking to a good friend the other day when she asked me something that really threw me for a loop. I guess I thought, having achieved the level of success she has in her corporate career, she was immune to this trend. Maybe I thought because she wasn’t in TV, these issues didn’t pertain to her. But it was clear to me how wrong I was when Tracy took a deep breath and asked me, “Why don’t black women support each other?” Oh dear.

Tracy is thin, attractive, whip smart and graduated from a big name school near the top of her class. Warm, inviting, generous to a fault, she never met someone she wasn’t willing to give a fair shake to. But the pain in her voice was evident when she detailed how most of the relationships she’s experienced with other African American women in the working world, had been adversarial. And, as much as I hate to admit it, I understand. I really, REALLY do.

I remember early in my career, coming into a TV station where there was a well established, older, African American woman on staff. I had heard so much about her and was very much looking forward to learning from her. She, however, wanted noting to do with me. The benign neglect would have been one thing; the truly heartbreaking aspect was when I’d catch her with a scowl on her face as she was looking in my direction or the times she gave cub reporters, mostly men and some white women, detailed instruction on how to get better but could only manage remarks to me through her clenched teeth. I finally gave up but never forgot that experience, which is why I go overboard to share what I know with anyone who asks.

When I told my work hubby, Richard about Tracy’s experiences and my own, he was aghast. As a gay man, working in media, he’s constantly telling me about the “Gay Mafia” who look out for each other, alerting each other of upcoming projects and in general supporting one another. And it’s not just gay men; it’s common with other ethnic groups as well. Even African American men support each other more or, at the very least, are not actively undermining those they work with.

Knowing the “what” doesn’t make the “why” any clearer, but if I had to guess the cause of this trend I would think it’s rooted in two things. The first is the “only room for one” phenomenon, the idea that whatever the field, it’s a zero sum game and another woman of color is competition.

The other factor, and I HATE to admit this, is that women are catty. I’m not perfect and have to say I’ve been guilty of this bad habit myself at times. It’s far easier to tear another woman down, leaving you the last one standing, than to link arms with her and work together to make a real difference.

But the big issue I have with this alarming trend is that it targets the wrong people for blame. Shouldn’t we as black women be working together to make sure someone who looks like us, in gender and hue, gets the corner office? Wouldn’t that help the effort to get more representation among the people who do the hiring? And wouldn’t it be great if we learned to celebrate each other’s successes, confident that what we give, we get and at some point someone would be doing the same for us?

Alas, based on information I found out recently, I’m not sure how close we are to actually achieving that utopia. In the meantime, I’ll continue to do what I always have, offer support to those who ask, unconcerned with the false thinking that it weakens my position. Because the truth is, working together strengthens us as a whole. United we can move mountains.

Okay so I’m curious, if you are a black woman, what’s been your experience with other black female co-workers? Do you feel in constant competition? Do you think this is a phenomenon that other women in the workplace experience? Why do you think that is? Fire away!

67 Weigh in!:
Anonymous said...

fortunately, i have yet to experience this. i work in science, so there are very few of us. but, the environments i have been in have been very supportive. the black women look out for each other in the same way as the "gay mafia" you mentioned. the only instance i can think of when one shut out another, it was because she personally didn't like her. but this rarely happened. actually, my hiring manager was a black woman, and she created and championed a position just for me.

we really have to get away from this "Why Black Women Don't/Aren't/Can't..." meme.

Anonymous said...

I'm a nurse, and since I work in a female dominated profession, I understand the comment about women being "catty". When I graduated from nursing school, I was paired with a black female nurse to precept me. Though she was a very knowledgeable and very competent nurse, that experience is till date (almost 7 years later), the worst treatment I've had from a preceptor because she seldom ever smiled at me or acknowledged that I did anything right. But I noted that she was kind or at least kinder to everyone else especially our few male, white coworkers. What I took from that experience is that I make every effort to be supportive of my fellow black nurses or other black female professionals that I work with. We are very few at my facility, and I get excited to see one of us and so I try my best not to drive her away with the wrong attitude. We need an attitude shift in the black female community. We will never be able to stand unless we commit to form more cohesive units professionally and otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, I agree with your last statement. I have been in the workforce for years and I don't find that as a group of women, black women are any different than the others. For some reason we like to call each other out about the issues while everyone else keeps it moving. I'm disappointed when ANY woman doesn't help another since I came up in corporate amongst the "good ol boy" network. Thankfully, they are a dying breed. ~Poeticlyspkng

HairPolitik said...

Rene, thank you so much for sharing your experience and posing this great question. Those of you that are familiar with my writing know that I love women that tell it how they see it. With that said, I have to disagree. I wouldn't call this a phenomenon, since my experience has been markedly different. I think it must depend on what environment or industry you work in. I have largely been a part of the Capitol Hill/Government/Non-Profit work environments of Washington DC. While black women are certainly still under-represented in positions of power here, I've found established black women more than willing to offer advice and even mentor me, after I've proven I'm worth their time. And, although folks might be quick to think it's less stressful or cut throat in those environments, think again. It's an environment in which, you're not just trying to take charge of the direction of your company or your career, but the future of hundreds of thousands of people, and our country as a whole-talk about power! Some people have even sought me out to help me. In some minor instances, I think we do ourselves a disservice by not communicating with people. Of course you're more seasoned and experienced than I am, so I'm sure you've tried what I'm about to suggest. But I wonder if you've ever tried taking the woman you mentioned in your story out to lunch and getting a feel for why she may or may not feel the way you think she does? Is there a way to form a social group or networking group amongst the black women in your company or circle? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I experienced vivid flashbacks when reading this post. My first "real job" out of college was in an HR department with 9 other black women. My Director was a black woman and would scowl at me behind my back (caught her one time when I whipped around unexepectedly) and she condescended to me constantly. It took me 2 years to get her to treat me with respect but when I gained it, I knew I could handle anything put in front of me. Eventually I left the company and found out later that she was demoted. I'm not sure why this happens but it doesn't in every circumstance so my suggestion to anyone in this situation would be to hunker down and do what you gotta do. In the long run, I have a much thicker skin and don't take things so personally. It could just be that our expectation is that other sista's will be as accepting as we would be to other young sistas but not every black woman is like us. I've seen both sides in my career and you really just can't call it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I have experienced this. It seems I felt it more from other black females-not all black females-just a few. I didn't get it then and I don't get it now. Scratching my head. I shrugged it off. I figured it was *their* problem and insecurity issues. It was kinda sad, though. However, I will say the majority of black females in my workplaces were cool.

Anonymous said...

I think many have experienced an initial wave of relief when another Black female joins the team. One may even say to herself, "ooh thank Jesus, I'm not (the only one) alone here anymore". Sometimes, that relief and openness fades as one observes the new employee trying to carve a niche for herself.

Many young people (Gen-X and Gen-Y) have no qualms about stating their career goals, and some have been bold enough to state "My goal is to have your job". This can be intimidating, but that's only one of the many difference between Baby Boomers and Gen X and Gen-Y.

Acknowleging a new employee's assertiveness and drive can be challenging. Instead of guiding and focusing the coworker's talents, some long term employees may feel threatened, and in turn, attempt to undermine the new employee in an attempt to preserve their own status and reputation.

I feel one of the reasons for this phenomenon of "Black women not supporting each other" is the need for "self preservation" versus "advancing the black female (as a group)in the workplace".

It takes a courageous person to let go and give the wheel to another. Fear of relinquishing is one of the more serious impediments to advancing up the ladder of success. For as long as your fist is closed tightly on the rung you have, you cannot grasp for the next higher rung.

J'Anns Boutique said...

Great feature, this is so true.

Moni said...

I agree with Sarah that we need to stop framing issues as "black women do this". If a non-black person wrote this article, we'd be outraged about how they are stereotyping us, etc. SOME black women don't support each other, some do, just like some white women don't support each other. In fact, the issue of some women in general (ie white women) not supporting each other is regularly discussed on "mainstream" professional women's sites.

I have worked in various industries (banking, insurance, law) in 2 different countries (both majority and minority black) and have never had any issues with black women being mean or catty or undermining me. I am aware that some people do experience this, but there are also plenty that don't. Imo, this is a case of a few bad apples spoiling the bunch.

Curly Film Chick said...

This is an interesting post. I just started my first "real" post college full time job and my supervisors are both black, one male and one female. It's a pretty diverse place and my black female supervisor seems rather pleasant. My previous position at an after school/community center with a woman of color boss was so rude and mean to all the females (mostly black and hispanic) but so much nicer to the males and it irritated me. I noticed through my experience however that male supervisors are the worse, they see little old me and think 'oh how cute' and I can't stand it. Not sure which is worse.

TiAnna Mae said...

Great article, Rene! Another factor to look at when dealing with social interaction between black females in the workplace is that oftentimes, when white people see black people "congregating" or having a closer relationship than they would have with their co-workers of other races, it makes them feel left out or as if the black people are some how conspiring to do something. Sometimes, to avoid the stares and everyone's theories about why black people are talking at work, we tend to shun each other. I had a black female manager and EVERY time I asked if she could allow me to make a special exception for a client in order to get a sale, the answer was always, "No, we're not allowed to do that." Although, when a white co-worker would generally ask her the same thing, the answer was mostly, "Yes." She was sweet as pie though. My theory is that she didn't want it to seem that she was playing favoritism with me because we were both black.

tiannamae.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

YEP, and to get treated BETTER by another race than your OWN is mind-blowing!!!! Experienced that in my environment (law firms), the black attorneys act like it was a crime to be friendly, social with a black secretaries YET the white attorneys (and secretaries) treated you very well. Interesting too, I guess they are blinded to the fact that others see this ignorance and must think poorly of that individual even though they think they're making brownie points (it's just a slave mentality--not wanting "massa" to think we support one another and they do even if they're adversaries especially if it's against us so who looks the fool)! Well, it's a shame and humiliation on them not me because they can continue to be ignorant, I move on and don't pay them ANY attention at all and continue to get praise and allocolades from those who matter and I suggest all of you should do the same!

Anonymous said...

wow I have been blessed not to experience this with any black females in the work place. I have had pushback from white females though. I don't think this is a black woman problem, I think this is a female problem. I work in the sciences and I am an avid ppl watcher and I have noticed that women of all races will go OUT OF THEIR WAY to help out men, ESPECIALLY white men, and won't even do half as much to help their fellow female compatriots. and I am in a 99% white environment. it is pretty funny actually. I don't know why they do it but thats how it is. I've been blessed that even though there are precious few black females where I'm at we all know each other and support and help each other professionally and personally and I'm really proud of that. I have been blessed not to have to deal with catty females except one time I spent some time in TN, East Knoxville to be specific. lord have mercy. LMAO. While most of it wasn't directed towards me it was kind of a rude awakening that ppl interact with each other in this way. I would say these things stem from insecurities in the person being catty so i never take those things personally i just chalk it up to u being intimidated by how comfortable I am in my own skin.

Kalena Michele said...

I have a story to share this is related to this topic in particular AND the topic of my natural hair:

My first retail job out of Howard U. was a barista at Starbucks. I worked at the one on campus as well as one out in Prince George's County in Maryland. I had been natural for 3 years already and mostly I wore my hair in a puff toward the top of my head while working. When I transferred to the Maryland store, the district manager, a black woman about 10 years my senior, immediately singled me out. I hadn't been there for two days when she pulled me to the side on day and told me that my hair was an issue. In fact, she put in my hands a hair net and said I had to wear it every time I worked. None of the other women or men, black or white, had to wear hair nets. When I asked her why, she told me that because my hair was natural she was concerned about my hair breaking and falling into people's drinks. After she left, I looked around at my coworkers. The other three black female baristas all had permed hair, not pulled back, and no hair nets. I became really angry and annoyed.

Two weeks later, I had been faithfully wearing the hair net. Then she comes in again, pulls me to the side, and asked me to wear a scarf underneath my hair net for "better protection". I then asked her flat out why she insisted these things of me and nobody else. She told me that my hair can potentially be offensive to the customers that frequent the store and also because natural hair has a tendency to fall out more than permed hair.

At this point, I was livid.

She started to leave, then she turned around and told me that I needed to also take my nose ring out because it looked too Bohemian.

I took off my apron and respectfully quit right then.

I have never, before or since, been so upset at another black woman in the workplace. Its a feeling that I cannot describe. I still wear my hair, mostly out or in a pulled back puff, and I have no issues in my current job, or any job I've had since then.

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with the above comment that this is not necessarily a "black woman" problem, rather a "woman" problem. Not all black women behave this way, but some do. I have had support and non-support from black women in the workplace. I have also had support and non-support from white women. In the end, we are all responsible for the energy we bring into the workplace. Instead of focussing on or worrying about how others are treating us, we should do our best to treat others with the respect, kindness and consideration that we expect.

Bitty Boss said...

In my experience, it has depended on the type of workplace. A few years ago when I worked for a non-profit where the atmosphere is relatively relaxed with another black woman, she was extremely friendly and helpful. We even went out to lunch a few times. In the most recent experience in an extremely conservative corporate environment, the only other black woman that worked there NEVER spoke to me. Even when I had clearly greeted her. Even through these experiences, I have and will not give up on being friendly with my sisters at work...as well as every one else I work with. It really just pays to be nice.

Anonymous said...

im black and i dont feel like i need to support other women just because they are black. im not one of those "we look the same so lets hangout and look out for one another" people. i never have been. if i hear about something i will tell people im friends with or people who i think deserve it. i have never understood the whole cliquing up thing just because you have the same skin color. other people do it. hell alot of people do, but that doesnt mean that i cant be a fair person regardless of what other people are doing. at the end of the day i have to stay true to myself. so if i see another black woman in the workplace im not going to "help" her just because she and i are both black. has nothing to do with supporting her or not supporting her. i need a reason better than race to have somebodys back.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous @ 10:53...your treatment at this workplace was disgusting and truly worthy of a lawsuit. If a supervisor was ever to single me out in this way, based on my natural hair, you I would have immediately booked a consultation with a human rights attorney.

StaceyMarie said...

I too, hate the "Black women are each others' worst enemies" mindset, but I've felt targeted by another Black woman more than once. While working at a bed and bath store in college, my supervisor had no patience with me and would talk to me like I had the intelligence of a gnat!

Later, as a 1st year special education teacher, one of my co-teachers (the Black one, not the white one) alerted the principal of even the tiniest mistake (i.e., literally being three minutes over my instruction time,etc.), but when I asked for help she constantly rebuffed me, despite me being newly certified through a career switcher program and her being a 13 year veteran. At one point she snapped "I don't have time to teach you AND the kids". To add insult to injury, the principal was a Black woman as well, and when I asked her for guidance and to provide the required mentoring and support for 1st year teachers, she always dismissed me unless it was something that could reflect poorly on her directly. She invited the SPED director(also a Black woman) to observe me and "provide feedback and constructive criticism" for my classroom and instructional management. She and the director actually cackled while I was teaching and then gave me an observation that was essentially 2 pages of "You SUCK!" The saddest thing was that when it came time for my annual evaluation, the white co-teacher gave me a glowing report with minor critiques and the Black teacher had nothing positive to say.

On a positive note, three Black women did help me. 2 teachers and an office staff member answered my questions or alerted me when the principal might be on the warpath.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Kalena!
That is just awful!! I can't even imagine the anger that you must have felt in that situation. In regards to the post, I would have to agree. I am in the military and happen to be in a white male dominated career field. I am the only black woman in my unit right now, and sometimes I wonder if I am viewed as this asexual, bigmomma type. Some of the men that I work with just all out IGNORE me! I have even had someone interupt my conversation in the hallway and start talking to the person I was talking to like I wasn't even there! My interactions with African American women at work are few and far between, but those times when I do work with them are awkward to say the least. I understand why though. As black women, sometimes we have to go out of our way to get taken seriously. It sucks, but that's how it is. I do LOVE seeing black women in the uniform, though. It makes me happy to know that I am not alone, and they are probably going through some of the same things that I am. I appreciate this topic being brought up. It's something that I have noticed too!

sosoulful0125 said...

Reading this article and seeing the many responses this trend of black women being so catty is awful. I have experienced both sides of the coin. I remember when I first started working in this health agency I was 23 years old so I had three things working against me: black female, and young. I can remember hearing people say they were not going to help teach me anything mainly black women, but I just used those experiences as motivation to work harder. My motto was "I can read and write if you don't teach me I will learn on my own". I can't lie it was hard I can remember even contemplating quitting but I thought God blessed me with this why should I give this up because some people are insecure with themselves. I worked twice as hard because I had a point to prove to those same women, letting my work speak for itself, and eventually they had to respect me because of the hard work I did for my patients.

I will never forget what one woman who is jamaican and hispanic decent who was very helpful at work told me "girlfriend they may not like you but if you work hard they will have to respect you" I live by that saying everyday.

I must say we as black women must unite and help each other. I look at this way one day you may have children and they may be placed in the same situation, so treat people like you want to be treated.

Anonymous said...

When I started my job 4 years ago and saw how many black women worked there, I was so excited! After being there for only a couple of weeks I noticed that the black women community wasn't welcoming. I was already labled as trying to get with one of their men (coworker whom I had one conversation with in a staff meeting), so I guess that turned them off to me for awhile. Things are fine now. We speak and are cordial, but we don't have the cohesiveness I was hoping for.

Anonymous said...

Also, if you already have the harmful notion that women are just inherently catty, I do not know why you would expect your fellow women to support you. Women ARE NOT more catty than men.

Anonymous said...

Since the beginning of time black women have been cutting each other down. I can remember being in elementary school and other black girls would want to fight me - JUST BECAUSE. I've had my own family members hate on me. To this day the majority of my close girlfriends are white and hispanic. I don't know what it is with black women but. Instead of welcoming the new sista at work they would rather sit around and talk about her. It has been that way for years and will always be that way

Anonymous said...

As much as I do not want to jump on this bandwagon, I must admit that I am currently experiencing this now. I work as a graduate teaching assistant at a predominately all-white University. My husband is military and we move around a lot so I pretty much feel comfortable no matter where I am at. This past year within our work environment, I have noticed that although all of the other professors both male and female are extremely nice and welcoming towards me. This is not the case with the only other minority professor in our department who is an older black lady. I also grew up in a predominately white neighborhood so I am not under the belief system that just because you are the same color that you have to become immediate friends but I must admit that her dismissive attitude towards me is quite obvious as compared to the welcoming attitude that I receive from the rest of the staff. Part of me believes that she is somewhat embarrassed of my natural hair and part of me feels that maybe it is because I am in a lower position than her. Who knows! Fortunately, I will be graduating this summer and will be hired on as a full instructor next fall so it will be interesting to see if her dispositions towards me will change.

Anonymous said...

I feel that these women who hold each other down at work, no matter the race, have miserable lives. That's the simplest way to put it. At work, this is the only power they have, to control someone's future, the only "power" they FEEL they have because they have no respect elsewhere (and no respect for themselves), they see something envious of another women, and therefore the hatred grows.

Anonymous said...

WOW! I felt like she was talking about my experiences. I was so proud when I started my first full time job at 21. I had high hopes of promoting but a Black supervisor told me "I will do everything I can to make sure you don't promote". Needless to say I was devestated. I was young, she was old, I had a college degree, she didn't. How ugly is that? Now you know God does not like ugly and she reaped the rewards of her ugliness. I left that job years later, and it should have been sooner and now work for another black woman who is the director over my division. Although there are quite a few of us in the office who are professionals/managers under her, she ignores and avoids us like a plague. She gravitates towards the hispanic workers constantly and when I say "gives" them promotions, yes she gives it to them. When black folk make a mistake she rants and raves for days if not weeks. If her hispanic favs make a mistake its called a "snafu" that we all can learn from and move on. I don't care how you look at it, it is just plain self hatred.

Angelique said...

When I started my career, I was an administrative assistant, working hard and working my way up. I'm now an office manager for a small company. A couple of years ago I was an executive assistant at a very prominent financial firm. There was definitely a chill in the air amongst myself, other African american support staff and the African american female staff with a "title". By that time I was a seasoned assistant, and was respected within my own field, and even respected by most of the other employees in general. However, these women felt that because I was someone's assistant, I was beneath them. So much so, that they wouldn't talk to me, ESPECIALLY around their colleagues of other color, roll their eyes as I walked by, and would even speak (in my opinion) louder about their accomplishments and what they had and their weekend in the Hamptons when I was around, nothing I was impressed with or financially incapable of doing myself (In fact, I made more than most of them, they didn't make crap unless they made partner). Still, they acted as if they were ashamed of me for some reason. I felt sad for these women really, no ill feeling, just a sense that somehow I threatened them or the perception of themselves they were trying desperately hard to have these other colleagues see The "I'm not like them" syndrome. These women in my mind felt that African American women HAVE to have prominent positions or else they're no better than ghetto trash, as if to them I was a n---, and they have to convince others (especially other races) that they're not at all like us, they're different. That's what saddens me about the whole situation. I felt discriminated against from my own race. As for me, I know me and where I was going, whether it was to make a career being an assistant or moving on, I was going to and am excelling in what I do. It just stung that I received a warmer reception from the other races than the female sex of my own.

Anonymous said...

I have to chime in here as I see this in the workplace CONSTANTLY!!! It is a shame but our black women are too consumed with the he said she said DRAMA! I work at a major telecommunications company. The black women that I work with are childish and like to take on too much drama at work. There is a time and a place for everything. I separated myself from the confusion and once I did I noticed all kinds of cattiness. Needless to say I was recently promoted and those same women were the first ones to talk smack about me and put me down. Even though I have always been cordial to these women and have always extended a helping hand. I have even experienced women who try to copy the way that I dress. If that is not crazy I don't know what is. Now that I have been promoted I try to stay away from all drama. It is a damn shame that we can not get along for the sake of getting along. There is always some underling hate that seems to surface. This is a damn shame. We are the only race that continues to beat up on one another. If its not black women in the work place its young black men in the streets. THE BLACK ON BLACK CRIME AND FOOLISHNESS needs to STOP!! We should be focused on helping on another build a foundation and future for our kids. We should be helping one another invest our monies so that we have an inheritance to leave for our kids. When will we come together? Not only in the workplace but as a whole.

Anonymous said...

It's simply self hatred in it's various forms. Black women who have swollowed whole the 'black is bad', 'black women are worthless' idea prevelant in sections of the black community, will naturally treat other black women like dirt.

It's time for black people to actively start taking charge of their own minds and consciously begin retraining their belief systems as a COMMUNITY. There's so much poison to be uprooted from generational ptsd (post traumatic slavery disorder) that in an ideal world every single African American should be assigned their own psychotherapist!

Niki said...

Kalena! I remember you, I went to HU too, didn't you do RTVF?
But I digress:)

*lesigh* we really know how to sock it to ourselves and to our own. I think this is one of the most insightful CurlyNikki features.

There seems to be a constant 'I need to prove I'm good enough even though I'm black' mindset , which often leads to treating your brethren and sistren with disregard, in hopes of 'the white man' (had to use the cliche, sorry) patting you on the head and saying 'you did good' ! Like someone said, we're convinced there's only room for one.

Honestly, the visual I get when I read things like this, is that there's a black person trying really hard to be the token negro at the head table, so that he/she can smile and nod and speak against his/her own people with the other non-black folk. Like they want to be 'the chosen one', to be seen as special, different - anything but what and who they are.

Those who introduced and fed the concept of 'slave' did their job exceptionally well, 'cause we're still there, at least in our heads, centuries later.

Anonymous said...

I've experienced this as well in the workplace and during an interview. Its unfortunate that some black women choose to mistreat and degrade another black women because they feel threatened or just a cold person.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I have experience this and you know it is interesting. One of my current co-workers that is black like me thought I was coming for her position, so she never would talk to me etc. It was even worst when she found out we were the same age (32) and I was married. She is Jamaican and I am black. One of our mutual friends in the office another Jamaican (we were split offices joined together) gave her an eye opener about our manager. See my manager was using my co-worker to do all of her work at the time. I tried to warn her that she should be doing less or a title change should happen, but she is so naive that she didn't want to here it from me (the competition). Needless to say, it took a while, but she finally got the picture that we are on the same team. She currenlty talks to me all the time and has even turned down the weave for natural hair like mine. Her whole mindset was competitive. I am in the Insurance Industry (tri-state), which is dominated by white men. It saddens me that we don't have not one black man in any of our offices and the few black women in the office are very catty. I believe we have become a nation of selfishness every man/woman for themselves. There are so many scandals in the workplace I could write a book. Hell I just might..

Another story, my friend in an investment firm in NYC got an email of a girl resigning and she put the her manager on blast to the whole US, Canada, and Puerto Rico. (Not recommended) Saying she only hiring Jamaicans because she is Jamaican. Maybe there is unity within cultures...(after thought)

Br33zyblu said...

I am happy to say that I haven't experienced this from treatment from black women in the workplace yet. I hope I never do. There aren't that many black faces period where I work and we are always happy to see each other when we do cross paths.
I have to agree with anonymous though about the unity within cultures though....

Anonymous said...

I agree that this phenomenon is not applicable to just black women. I feel lucky that this has not been my experience.

My best team experience ever was that with a group of black women...just us. A couple of these ladies are my best girlfriends to this day.

Our team remained in tact longer than any other, in addition to receiving accolades for our job performance.

We had very different personalities, but we respected each others differences and made it work. I know this is possible and I know there are other black women who've had similar experiences.

It's a shame we don't hear about these positive experiences more often. I am sick of hearing about all the "ills and issues" that somehow only WE own. It's crap.

K.Yancey said...

I generally get along with everyone that I work with and had not had this type of experience but once. I was serving as a supervisor over a team and this female and I fell under the same manager, she was a team lead, as well. Well, our contract was coming to an end and we all were in need of landing a new job. I had interviewed and received an offer letter for a new position. The company had just been awarded a contract and was in need of our type of work (IT) and there were plenty of positions to be had. I sent the information out to everyone on both teams, mine and hers. Well, instead of receiving a "thanks" (not that I was looking for it) she replied to ask me if I was receiving a referral bonus for this. I was hurt by that because that was the furthest thing from my mind and I wasn't even an employee of the company to request a referral bonus. I was simply trying to look out for the people that I have worked with for quite some time. She is much older than me, and I had the thought that maybe she experienced some female cattiness elsewhere which caused her to say that. But, what difference does it make? If someone is trying to look out for you, then take it for what it is instead of what you THINK it is because that's how you miss your blessings. The saddest thing to me was when I heard that she was unable to find work for over six months from a former coworker who had taken the information to obtain one of the positions that were offered.

Anonymous said...

I hate to do this but did she say her hubby was gay..? No i haven't experienced this issue in the workplace.

Anonymous said...

TO: May 25, 2011 11:00 AM
Anonymous said...
im black and i dont feel like i need to support other women just because they are black. im not one of

Well, I guess YOU are the problem we are talking about, thanks for showing us upfront your ignorance!

Sincerely,

You Need a Pimp Slap from Me

Anonymous said...

A few observations from a decade working in education:
Generally female coworkers are supportive emotionally but not professionally meaning that we're quick to circulate a get well card, buy a b-day cake or throw a shower but less organized and proactive when related to our collective professional development.
Women tend to want to be liked or feared. I've often encountered the witch who doesn't want to help anyone or the women who can't say no, then complain about the work, company or coworker.
Sometimes we aren't always positioned to be the best mentors. My mentors have been white women and men, by default. Even when there were women of color around they were often bogged down by their job/fam responsibilities that it's a challege to be intentional about sheparding someone else in the office.

Anonymous said...

Well said Niki!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

My pet peeve=

when people say things like "black women" yadda yadda yadda....or "black men" etc.

Don't get me wrong, I completely understand the point of this post... but the more I read the comments, I'm like...sheesh... this is one more thing to add to the long list of the problems society tries to pin on black women.


::sigh::

It bothers me because NOT ALL black women behave this way! Geez, don't you all see that WE are perpetuating the stereotypes that we are trying to end with our language.

When other people who are not black women come to this site and read "black women are sooo catty and we don't support each other..."

HOW CAN WE BLAME THEM FOR BELIEVING THAT BLACK WOMEN ARE CATTY. How can we get mad when people start treating us like us like catty women??

It isn't "black women." It is "some" black women.

Anonymous said...

This has never been my experience in the workplace and I hope not to know it in the future. This may be because I was in a supervisory role over most of the other black women I've worked with, I don't know. The only black woman that I worked with as an equal became a good friend to me. Maybe it depends on the industry culture and environment.

Anonymous said...

I was sad to see cattiness used to describe the behavior of black women who withhold support in professional environments. Even though individual women may be catty, the larger reason for this lack of support is a patriarchal system that does not recognize, respect, or reward African American women who work together to succeed. A black woman who knows this may be angry at the system that pits her against the good ol' boys, black men, white women, and even younger black women who face different challenges in the work place. Using cattiness as an excuse only supports the sexist and racist system that continues to hold black women back.

Anonymous said...

She said her "work hubby"- that probably means her best male friend at work. Lol!

Anonymous said...

I am a professional women in the DMV area who works for a state agency dealing with people who have several barriers I am a Social Worker. When I first went natural I wore a close cut fade now after two years it has grown out. I wore it braided for the longest but now being 8 1/2 months pregnant I wear it in a curly puff my white co workers says how nice it is howver the African American poeple in my office especially women give me the hardest time. Even one suggesting I visit her stylist on our lunch break so I could get my hair together. I have had the worst experiance working with Some black women my own supervisor said two women both cant shine not in the same office. Its like its a competition its sad.

Anonymous said...

I think that SOME black women (and people in general)are catty and self-serving because they want to be the "special one","the first", and/or "the only. I'm not sure why this trait appears to be more intense amongst us as compared to other groups. It may have something to do with the fact that some of us fall prey to the feelings of inadequacy, incompetence and unattractiveness that society labels us with. Therefore, when we achieve something extraordinary, we want to keep it for ourselves to make the sense of validation persist. Anyone who looks like us could serve as a threat to what we hold so dear.

That false validation, of course, is an illusion, for if one does not feel enough confidence in herself to help others (ALL others), not only are you not special, golden, or unique, you are not living your best life.

Lorian said...

I don't think the article is an instruction piece. It's not saying that this is ONLY happening amongst black women or that all black women need to be best friends. Nothing in the world is all-inclusive. The article does not make a hasty over-generalization. It's just talking about what the majority of the minority has experienced. Kind of like this: not all black women have super kinky hair, but those people with tightly coiled, kinky hair are likely of African descent. See how it works. This article is not all-inclusive. Just read it.

But it is true that the majority will treat their worst enemy better than a black person if their enemy's skin is the right color. It's just a reminder that even if you don't support your black co-worker or care for their personality, don't work against them! That is the phenomenon in all of this. We are one of the only races that will do this to each other. We have everyone else working against us. The majority is not going to hand us opportunities. We've had to shed, for many years, blood, sweat, and tears to get where we are today and we still have a long way ago, so we don't need to be our own road blocks!

From a GenXer

Jeannette said...

As a Black Woman, I've had good and bad experiences with all of my fellow co-workers. As far as my Black Female Co-workers, yes I've experienced some bad apples but there were more supportive Black Female Co-workers than unsupported ones. I focus on all the support, not the hate.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I feel from reading Rene's blog that she is a bitter woman b/c of her termination from The Early Morning show. That's what I take from her posts. She race baits way too much. However, with that being said, I wonder why Oprah doesn't promote more blacks? She have given, Phil, Oz, Ray, Berkus, Ling their own shows but only one black, Gayle, her own show. Surely, she can find some talented blacks to hst their own show. I don't even watch OWN b/c of this very reason. I have heard the new line-up includes; Fergie, O'Donnell, Julia Roberts all hosting their own shows but where are the blacks????? This is so troubling to me.
Trina~

Anonymous said...

I recently had that experience. I was threatened by another black female co-worker. I work at a small tech company and I was the new girl on the block. She has been at the company for going on 11 years. We are the same age so that wasn't a factor. My mistake was trying to befriend her. My first gut feeling was to leave her alone. She is NOT the type of person I usually befriend. She crass (cusses at work all the time), loud (everyone knows when she arrives), ignorant(she pops gum like someone popping the bubbles on bubble wrap), dresses inappropriately for work (like she's going to the club-jeans, a tight shirt, hooker like shoes, all tattoos showing) and an attitude to match. She is also BFFs with HR who is the white version of her. Neither of them have a degree and certainly act like it. I cannot for the life of me, understand why she's still there. How can a company allow someone to threaten someone and simply move her seat and think it's ok? It's NOT ok.

How can we do this to each other. It simply doesn't make sense. Is it hatred? Jealously? What is it and why do we do this? I used to try and befriend all the people that looked like me at a company, but now, I run the other way. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Oprah touched on it today in her going away show. We don't feel we are "worthy". So therefore we don't feel others are "worthy". On Self Esteem I give us a c-. Sorry. Over thirty years of fighting for equal rights to sit at a lunch counter...we still hate ourselves. If you hate yourself, you can't get love or give love to anyone else. Plain and simple. We have adopted the Modus Operandi of the oppressor. We have been brainwashed. I've worked with different ethnic groups and even if they hate each other they have each other's back. Not us. Our hatred goes so deep it is splitting us wide open. It's shameful. Yes I said it. Our minds are F---ked.

Anonymous said...

For the most part, I have only had issues working with Asian women (no offense to Asians). But, for some reason, I feel they have undermined my position in the workplace and treated me quite unfairly. They tend to stick together and in my experience they have found ways to make me and other Black employees, look bad on the job. For instance, on my last job, I was blamed for a few mistakes that a female Asian co-worker made. Since my supervisor, who is and Asian female, is a friend of the co-worker in question, she took her word over mine's. That type of ill-treatment still burns me up to this date. I'm sorry, but I will never trust an Asian woman in the workplace! They can be scandalous! But, that is only my experience. Maybe, other Black females have had a different experience. Most of the Black women I have worked with were okay folks.

HairPolitik said...

@Kalena Michelle, can you say LAWSUIT! Seriously, that type of harassment is sooo illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act!

Professional Complainer said...

Anonymous @ May 25, 2011 5:05 PM

I don't understand why the other person deserves a "pimp slap" from you. I also believe that I have ZERO obligation to assist or support another person because they are female or Black. I don't choose my friends or allies this way. In fact, if someone befriend for the sole reason of my race, I don't think that I would even want to continue my relationship. I guess I just think it's much more important that I have something in common with a person rather than thinking about what they look like.

I honestly believe that women in general are catty. I work in a department where it's about 90% women and the drama is ridiculous. It has never had anything to do with race though.

Professional Complainer said...

That is not to say that I am not proud of women in color who become successful, but I don't think it should be more sole reason to help or hurt them.

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with Black women undermining each other in the work place. Some four and a half years ago when I was a novice nurse at my first hospital job, I was singled out by the Senior black charge nurse. For whatever reason, this woman did not like me. If I made mistakes, they were magnified to the 10th degree. She always criticized me, but never, not once offered any mentorship on how to be a better nurse. It was horizontal violence at its finest. This lady even went as far as to hit me in my back once. Seriously. I was stepping back into her and instead of saying hey or somehting she hit me in my back. Things didn't get any better from there. I ended up having to leave that job. I don't know why some black women do this. But its a disgrace to the human race period.

kitka82 said...

@Professional Complainer,

"I honestly believe that women in general are catty. I work in a department where it's about 90% women and the drama is ridiculous. It has never had anything to do with race though."

I totally agree. The cliques, the gossip... I can't stand it. But I can't deny the presence of jealousy or race-related drama, just because I may not have had that experience personally.

I will say that at my last job, I was constantly excluded by the other females in my department, most of which happened to be black as I worked at a hospital in DC. I was questioned constantly about where I went to school, and the way that I talk, and I didn't really have time for BS. To this day, I'll never know why and I honestly don't care. I'm all about treating everyone with respect, and being true to myself.

Vonn said...

I had a Social Work professor who worked with many different races and ethnicities. She always told me that each race sees their own problems and wants to be like the others. The Latinos would say, "Why can't we come together and support one another like the Blacks during the civil movement?" Meanwhile the Blacks would say, "Why can't we support one another like the Latinos?" Same for the Asians etc.

I agree with those who stress that it is "some" people. There are some people in every race who don't like to see others succeed, who want to feel like "the only one" and who don't believe in supporting or helping "the new girl or guy". Likewise, there are supportive people like most of you who have commented.

We just have to keep doing what we're doing and not worry about those who don't like us. At the end of the day, they are not adding anything to our lives. As mentioned before, "if you work hard, they will have to respect you." but if they don't? Forget about them.

Anonymous said...

BRAVO Rene for continuing to shed light on pertinent issues in our community!

Early in my career, I was blessed with a beautiful, Black female mentor, who took me under her wing and showed me the ropes. I vowed then to ALWAYS "pay it forward," to assist other sisters (and anyone else in need) the way my mentor had me.

Fastforward...I now unfortunately work with a very large, homely (These are significant details and I'm making a point.) Black woman, who projects her smallness on to me, frequently speaking to me as though I don't have two brain cells that touch.

The contrast obviously is that my mentor--beautiful, educated, and well-adjusted was secure (key word) enough to help someone else shine. The woman I presently work with constantly talks about her weight, obviously doesn't like who she is, and simply can't handle feeling as though others are "outpacing" her.

Are these negative traits specific to all Black women? Of course not. But, in my opinion, these incidents happen too frequently among Black women for my comfort. And it bothers me that when forums like these seek to address said issues, many Black women give pat answers such as, "We need to stop stereotyping Black women...That's not my reality, so it's not true...Other races can be catty too." Well, DUH! "Other races" are not a historically oppressed, disenfranchised people who are apparently dragging their baggage with them! Our history has rendered us people who oftentimes don't feel worthy and causes us to project the whole, "Who do you think you are to come up in here being cute, smart, and strong in spirit, when I haven't made my way there yet?" on to other sisters. Until we can stop deflecting and face our crap, we will continue to be a people who fare lower than other races on the education, cohesiveness, health, and marriage rate totem poles.

Anonymous said...

Rene, I work in the corporate world and I have been dealing with this for last 12 years. You are so right about Black women working amongst each other, I work for one of the largest communication company in the world and I notice that when it come to our people helping each other, they would rather help the other races get the job. I was working in a department where black women out number the other races and it was actually ran by a black woman. I felt that the first 10 years of my career I always had to work harder to prove myself to this one particular black woman, but whatever I did was never good enough, I would stay later than my white co-workers, ask for more work, help out other women in the department just so our numbers would stay up, but she would always praise my white co-workers. So about two years ago our department was surplus and everyone, but my group had the option to follow the work. Well our group had to find our own jobs within the company and she came up to me and ask me what are your plans because I know you aren't going to find work because you don't have a collge education, I said, I gave it to God just like I gave you to God for him to take me from under you. 3 months passed by and the ladies that was in my group were going home, but I was determine to find a job within this company. My prayers was answered and I moved to a postion right next door to my old department, I am basically my own boss, I work with all men,and I love it. The Manager was very upset that I got the job and felt my white co-worker should have gotten the job, I heard her make the comment to someone, but when I packed my desk and moved to my new office, she couldn't say anything. God, showed her and in my new department they are paying for me to go back to school again, so I can get an even better postion. oh one more thing she hated my natural hair and always made comments as to when was I going to it relaxed God is so good.

Anonymous said...

Let me think about this one because I did pull myself out of the office as a nurse because of other black people. There was a lot of jealousy and kissing up to the white people in charge....The gay black males were sleeping with the doctors, the single black females were fighting over the straight single males black or white, and while I was in charge, Male Nigerian orderlies would never follow my directions and speak down to me....I was 23 at the time. I learned a lot about people and consciousness and those who I worked with were not coming from a good place....
It did not make me dislike my own people but it sure did give me things to think about regarding the "Slave Mentality" of blacks in the work field.

Anonymous said...

It was a senior Black Charge nurse who was my most awful experience in the work place and before I became a nurse, it was a 60 year old black female supervisor who gave me trouble. I was 19 and from the country. I was very happy go lucky and eager to learn and work hard in the big city. This supervisor took advantage of me by making me do the most undesired work in a mental health hospital. They would sit and laugh at the fact that I was chosen to change diapers on adults. I remember her saying to the rest of the staff during a Thanksgiving holiday, "Leave that shit for Harris, she will do it!" It became very obvious that I was the outsider among these older black women who were all from the same part of the city and who went to high school together.....
Although my own people hurt my feelings and abused me as a child, I still have love for Black People...No self hate even though it was black people who said I was ugly and fat. I have 5 beautiful black sons and 1 daughter...Other blacks called me ugly and made fun of my pimples and the fact that I never wore name brand clothes and that I never had a father.....I still love my black skin and I will still be there for those in my group who want and need knowledge.....

Anonymous said...

I work in law enforcement. NYC Correction,in fact. Whenever I'm tasked to work for any Black female, I think of it as an "HONOR," to get an opportunity to grow. More often times than not though I'm confronted with the "crab
in a barrel" type mentality. I dont know what it is about us Black women. We cant seem to get together to help each other succeed. We are often left fighting with each other while other ethnic groups around us thrive, and in the end we suffer. This is the point when it seems that we (black females) can unite. For that small moment in time, until there is some measure of success again. Then the cycle seems to start all over again. I once had a Black female supervisor come to the site that I worked, and I made it my business to get to her office and even though I didnt work directly for her, I offered my assistance because I knew she would need some help. she had been given an impossible task to complete. It wasnt long before she started asking me to do things that were unauthorized and asked me to cover. When I wouldnt,she flipped on me like nobody's business. I became #1 on her most wanted list. She wrote me up for the most trumped up matters,and in the end she was transferred. But, the damage was still done. The thought around here is that Black women just cant help but fight each other, and I thought it was a myth until I experienced it firsthand. I have had some female bosses who were much better and more secure but there is always that defining moment when you decide if this "relationship" is going to be contentious or professional. I pray that more women learn to be accepting of other Black females who are educated, smart and driven, like they are. There is so much room for us ALL!

Anonymous said...

I am a black women and I feel like black women are catty. If you have nice hair and you dress good, you will get starred at and you will get an eye roll. If you have a handsome man, you get hated on. If you have something that another black women doesn't have you get gossiped about. Im tired of it. When im around other women from other cultures I don't notice that behavor taking place. White girls don't treat each other like that. some of the spanish women that I have met can also be a little vicious and mean as well, but I see more hatefulness and cattiness in the black culture and it's sad. As african american women we already have alot working against us, so why be envious and catty? Instead of tearing down another women who looks good and is well put together why not build her up?

Anonymous said...

In my experience. Black female mentors have been though on me because they wanted me to be better than my counter parts. Yes they were though on me and rarely complimented my hard work, but when I questioned their strict expectations of me, I was assured that my mentors were though on me because they wanted to push me to go above and beyond the call of duty. Maybe we shouldn't see these behaviors as hostile, but we could use it as an opportunity to push ourselves professionally.

Anonymous said...

Look, people support people they are NOT threatened by, regardless of race or gender. Established men are not likely to be threatened by an inexperienced male counterpart, partly because "experience" is usually the most important thing a man has to offer in the workplace.

But because "looks" are a significant part of the package a woman has to offer..... and because so few women are in high level positions to begin with.... women are more likely to be threatened by other women regardless of experience. They're less motivated to want to mentor them. I'm not saying it's right, or even rational, but it's true.

Sadly, the reality is that black women are even more insecure than their white counterparts precisely because there are far fewer of them at high levels.

The only way to avoid the insecurity that causes "cattiness," is to know yourself and what you're worth and to develop and maintain high self-esteem. Unfortunately, what I've learned the hard way, is that high self-esteem is possibly the most threatening personality trait a black woman can have in the workplace.

Anonymous said...

Just came across this article as I'm fuming about the annual performance evaluation I received today. One of the areas that we are evaluated is as follows: "Communicates directly and candidly. Builds trust by saying what's on his or her mind without being overly guarded political or guarded. Does not carry around "hidden agenda. Welcomes input from others."In a nutshell I my supervisor stated that she felt I hidden agenda because she observed me (he exact words)"huddling with a _______(a co-worker)", a brother and former colleague who was smart enough to just quit a few months ago and move on.

This form of racism still prevails. When blacks congregate we're still often viewed by whites as threatening, being up to no good,etc.

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