The challenges of being a woman in the workforce are well documented. But the struggles can be worse for African-American women.
Jamie-Clare Flaherty, Director of Strategic Initaitives for the Obama Foundation, Tracey Patterson, a Senior Manager at Accenture, and Bärí Williams, the head of business operations for StubHub North America, discussed the challenges they have faced in their careers on a panel titled “The Black Ceiling” at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit Tuesday in Laguna Niguel, Calif.
“Black women sit at this intersection of both race and gender,” sad Patterson. “If we think about the challenges we experience as a woman, being underestimated, trying to raise our voice, this is amplified when you add African-American on top of that.”
All agreed that programs designed to foster female empowerment need to go further in recognizing the challenges unique to African-American women. “Underneath that layer are several different complexities. I think the first step is understanding that layer exists,” said Patterson.
Williams said that the solution should theoretically be simple;“You have to ask for what you want,” she said. However, she said that, in reality, the challenges of the workplace, including a lack of sponsorship, make that difficult.
“It’s on us to ask for what we want and that can be daunting because you don’t know how it is going to be received,” she explained.