Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Women in the Workplace: Changes Need to be Made

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

When a very important member of my management team told me that she was going to take time off to have a child, my brain stopped in its tracks. I wondered how we were going to remain fully productive, how long she would be gone, and how I should respond to such a sensitive situation. I then realized that, like so many American business owners, I was thinking like a man. Once I came to my senses, I let go of my personal concerns and focused solely on supporting her in this important step. I then realized that this interaction happens in workplaces across America, and the results are not always so amicable.

The United States is among the worst of industrialized nations when it comes to comes to making allowances for the professional challenges that women face relative to men. A woman who stops working in order to have children and/or raise a family may find that when she returns to the workforce, her opportunity set has diminished significantly. This doesn't even consider typical gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment and other daunting barriers to advancement.

You may already know that according to the US Department of Labor, women now outnumber men in the workplace (64.2 million to 63.4 million). This takes us a long way from the days when women weren't allowed to vote, or female attorneys couldn't be more than legal secretaries. Given that we have grown so much as a society, our nation has to step into the 21st century when it comes to equalizing the employment landscape.


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