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I heard, �??A female becomes a woman when she speaks without permission.�?� This statement was so powerful to me. Recently in my practices, I have had an increase of women between the ages of 28 to 35, college graduates, who are excelling in their careers. The underline theme has been these women questioning their identity as a black woman. So I proposed the question �??What does it mean to be a Black Woman�?�. The women I spoke to stated being a Black Woman means to live unapologetically, bold, fierce, driven, not backing down, strength, nurturing to others but neglecting self, misunderstood, queen, diva, mad, outspoken. These descriptors were interesting but I was looking for the meaning behind the words. Women (ages 45+) felt being a Black Woman is individualized and conceptual. Concluding they felt they were seen as a woman first and their blackness second in society. Whereas Millennials felt they were seen through a collective lenses as being black, a woman, and a millennial. This triple mindedness affects their psyche and sometimes proposes a challenge causing psychological reconciliation. Posing an unique scenario for millennials. Although all women interviewed felt within the workplace they always had to prove themselves, work harder, and believed they did not have the flexibility of their counterparts. It was clear they felt inequality in the workplace. Viola Davis stated in an interview that as A Black Woman she has to hustle for her wealth. She stated with the same professional background and credentials she does not get the same opportunities of White Women in her field. This feeling of not being acknowledged for your worth continues to show it�??s self in society. It seems there is a shift in what it means to be a Black Woman. In my interviews women reported feeling an increase of empowered within their Black Woman cohorts. In addition they felt there is a movement that black women was starting to appreciate themselves and taking back their power. There are many environmental factors that have influenced this shift. The changing roles of the black family, education, income, and more acceptance of the LBGTQ community. These factors have impacted black women�??s persona. Black Women are more educated, the black family dynamics has changed, and new social norms are being developed. Here are some statistics from 2013; 57% of Black women are college educated, 64% of black women have white collar positions, 48% of black women have never married, the average age for Black Women is 35 and around 4.6% of African American�??s not specific to women; identify as LGBT. Why are these statistics meaningful? Because they affect social identity of the Black Woman. Dumb down and Ugly UP �??Black women are strong not because they are angry; they are strong because they are strong!!!!�?� Not sure who made this statement but yet another powerful view of Black Women. The uniqueness of being a Black Woman includes culture influences. Psychologically most Black Women reported feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders but still having to persevere. One of the surprising central themes from a physical aspect is the conversation around hair. Yes hair even in the workplace. Do you know of any other culture that hair is an office conversation? Even to the point when coworkers feel that having the right to have an opinion of their preference; as to give permission. Especially when black women are natural. There is a consistent debate on if it is too ethnic? I will pause here on the topic because this is an article on its own. I have to give black hair justice because there is a need for liberation in the hair movement! In many instances being the black woman on a team means that you are to represent the entire culture. This notion misrepresents the totality of race, inclusion and diversity. Instead of meeting quotas, the objective should be to represent a diverse dynamic which provides inclusivity to meet the needs of society. One person cannot provide this although it is a start. Therefore if you are at the table you have to represent because if not you, who will? Ladies we have a voice! Everyone navigates life through their personal experiences which does not ensure racial inclusion. For example one�??s childhood experiences around race and acceptance impact the lenses in which individuals self-identify. Many of the millennials that I talked to stated the environments in which they grew up did not invoke the racial tension that they face in their current professional environment. Therefore these challenges forces them to rethink their identity, their roles, their responsibility to educate and advocate. This shaping of a women�??s blackness has created an environment which Black Women are being recognized by their abilities while being challenged inequitably regarding their value. Building Awareness and Representing Blackness Understanding your womanhood and blackness is an individual exploration but a collective experience. Accepting your individual uniqueness promotes a healthy individual identity. It is the collective experience that we sometimes miss out on. Although it is needed to advancing the equality for Black Women. Creating cohorts that nurture empowerment and acceptance in the Black Community is essential in changing how society views us well as how we view ourselves. Self-evaluation is key and you must understand the energy you bring into the room. Building self-awareness skills are imperative. Here are some skills that can assist you. Crafting the art of dressing up ones language so that you are not seen as the �??Angry Black Woman�?� Understanding there is an unspoken probation period before you gain the respect of your co-workers Knowing that even if you don�??t want to be at the table; not using your voices is still making a statement Always be prepared. It is to your advantage if you are 2 steps ahead Find multiple �??Organic�?� Mentors that are in your presence (not always field driven) Know you are always evolving so your identity as a Black Woman might look differently daily You do not need permission to be you You are unique and wonderfully made. You have been fashioned and shaped based on your personal life experiences. Not everyone can handle all of you! So be intentional in your presentation by knowing your audience. As my friend always says to me �??They ain�??t ready for you but you are Ready for them!�?�

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