The League of Black Women, an organization that focuses primarily on leadership, research, and education programs based on that research, and a team of researchers at DePaul University developed the Risk and Reward Survey to determine how black women experience risk (efforts to reach for success) as they pursue leadership, career advancement and life fulfillment.
The fresh, groundbreaking report, Risk and Reward: Black Women Leading Out on a Limb, uncovered some shocking findings.
In a nutshell, the black woman is self-motivated and comfortable with taking the initiative. However, the typical black woman lacks the support and sponsorship to bring her initiatives (risks) to fruition. Thus, there is very little payoff (rewards) for the effort.
Furthermore, black women lack access to power players who can provide strategic advice and informed counsel to help them to better evaluate risk in the workplace.
Sandra Finley, League of Black Women president and CEO, and T. Shawn Taylor, lead author of the study, tell rolling out that the findings delve deep into the typical roadblocks that may face black women at work.
“We wanted to find out if black women have reach in an uncertain time, for opportunity to advance that ambition … What is that reach experience like, and how are they experiencing it?” says Finley. “And what it is that they have to do against the uncertainty of this time to take advantage of the opportunity of the time, and what it is that the larger society has to do in order to get ready for our ambition.”
Black women felt the least empowered in the public policy arena, explains study co-author Taylor.
“One of the areas we felt the least empowered was public policy, debate, but we show a willingness to become engaged,” she states. “So there’s definitely a disconnect between our willingness to become involved in matters and opportunities for our voices to be heard and for us to participate on a full level in public policy debate.”
Finley adds, “We don’t appear to have a lot of confidence that our actions will result in significant policy change.”
The study also found that black women have ample cheerleaders in their support networks, but lack access to the key, powerful partnerships that can actually make things happen.
Still, allies can be found in the workplace if black women know how to play their cards, explains Finley, and if they look for the common denominator that unites them to others.
“It changes depending on who you ally with. For black men, the allies might be against the concerns of race that get in our way. With white women, the allies might be against the concerns of gender. With white men, the allies might be against the concerns for innovation and global connections — that is what we offer that they don’t have.”
The League of Black Women president and CEO Sandra Finley advises, “Make sure that the match for the alliance is in sync with what [your] goals are and what the ally could see as an important gain at the same time.”
Scenes from the League of Black Women Conference