The Triple Whammy of Being a Black Woman Introvert
All three can count against you in the workplace
Some time back, I read a Twitter thread that blew me away with the force of its truth. It was about being a Black woman introvert, and it made me reflect on my own experiences.
Any woman knows that there are certain things you may face in the workplace. Sexism is rife in many workplaces, and women may be undermined, ignored or assaulted. That also applies to Black women, sometimes with an additional layer of misogynoir.
There’s more: as a Black woman, you’re more likely than not to be “mistaken” for the help, and to have your qualifications and competence doubted.
Now try being an introvert, too, especially if you find it hard to fake extroversion. You may find it difficult to make your presence felt, and this may count against you at performance review time.
What Happens to Black Women Introverts in the Workplace
The pain of racism - well, just one of the many pains of experiencing racism - is that so many white people are often ready to believe the worst of Black people, based on nothing more than the color of our skin. As a Black woman introvert, I’ve seen quite a few examples:
I may have mentioned before doing an assessment at a job fair. I sat quietly during the presentations because I had nothing to add and I wasn’t learning that much. But when I aced the subsequent assessment, the trainer was surprised. He’d assumed that because I was Black and very quiet, I didn’t have the brain power, knowledge or skills to participate.
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Another example happened in a meeting. There were about 12 people in the room, of whom 4 were women. Everyone except me was loud and a bit boisterous. Back then I found it hard to fight my socialization and speak up anyway, so as the meeting progressed I got quieter and quieter. When there was a lull and I put forward my idea, everyone looked at me in astonishment. Again, they had presumed I was totally disengaged and not paying attention.
These are just a couple of examples, but imagine if this view persists, if Black women introverts are seen as less capable and committed just because they are being themselves. Actually, you don’t have to imagine, because this happens every day.
As a Black woman introvert, you have two choices:
Be yourself, and risk missing out on the respect of your colleagues and promotion and other opportunities.
Or pretend to be extroverted, and end every work day completely exhausted by the effort of masking your true self.
Either way, it costs you.
Showing Allyship to Black Women Introverts
So, what can you do as a would-be ally? Here are a few places to start:
Pay attention to share of voice: who’s speaking, and who’s quiet.
Interrupt those who speak over Black women introverts, and make space for those women to speak.
Make opportunities for the quiet people to give their input, either before or after the meeting, by email or DM.
Ensure that you acknowledge and give credit for the contributions made by quiet Black women.
And of course, interrupt racism wherever you see it.
The beauty of this is that it will create a better work environment for everyone - and that’s pretty good, isn’t it?
Thanks for reading my perspective,
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2022. All Rights Reserved.