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The Plight of a Black Businesswoman

This is for my code-switching Black women in Corporate America, for my round-the-way girls in work clothes, for my ceiling shatterin' girls from the ghetto, for us who just want our pie -not a mere piece. Y'all mind if I talk how I talk?

We gotta fight racism when we want to level up and take our bottom line to the next phase. We face pay discrimination. I've just experienced a racist company thinking they were being generous to me. I know, I can't even go there right now. Setting aside the plight that many of us know and face often daily in some way, can we talk about what's unspoken, even a little taboo? Being a woman in business, married or single, can be a flat out cuss word at times. The image of a Black woman has been oversexualized for centuries and we don't always talk about the subtleties in professional realms. When we land contracts, we have to wonder did we get it based on our merits or because the counterpart had ill intentions. I can't even pause to talk about the people who simply fetishize Black women.

I've been a step away from cussing a former client out for being blatantly disrespectful because I'm not just a woman, but a young Black woman. I would get calls in the wee hours of the morning and late at night. I had to explain how inappropriate that was on the next business day of course. It was as if it were new information to this man. Honestly, I do not doubt that it was new information to him because we have been told to just take it, so we do not run the risk of being the "angry Black woman" even when we have every single reason to be angry. If you are not my man, my family, my inner circle, there is no reason for you to blow my phone up incessantly, but I had to explain this to that former client who allegedly had a reasonable measure of sense. THE MATH WAS NOT MATHING!

If we are talking business, it is completely irrelevant if I'm single or otherwise especially when the context does not pertain to my availability to the work. I would get comments about what kind of men I should be dating when that was never on the table for discussion. We have to be extra cautious of our behavior even at social business events because people are watching and typically waiting to label us with the negative stero-types we work so hard to remove. One minute you think you're networking innocently and the next minute a married man is making you uncomfortable. I do not climb corporate ladders like that, fancy titles do not make me forget my scruples. I know I ain't the only one.

I had the opportunity to work on the committee of a huge conference. For the first time in my career, I felt validated as a professional. I was exhausted, but it was well worth it. One evening of the conference I sat in a lounge on my way to grab food with a mission to go to bed early to get up early and do it all over again. Professionals from all over the country were there, and as I worked the conference I wanted to make sure I was welcoming and professional whenever seen because I was there to do a job. Now, if a particular person's name comes up I won't be recommending his return because his behavior is bad for business. That can reflect ill on them. See, what we do on our personal time is indeed our business, however, sometimes we forget that business is more than the service or product we provide but our character can absolutely affect our career. Some people may be okay hiring or working with folks who are sloppy because when you clock out, you clock out, but when you're at a function representing the company, that might not bold over too well.

Personally, I love and honor the sanctity and beauty of marriage, that's a sacred union in the eyes of God, so I have a huge problem when married men hit on me and use potential business propositions to do it. I am 1,000% offended that not only somebody's triflin' cousin not only disrespected his own marriage but thought I was gone be triflin' right along with him because he thought his title was impressive.

Having to debate if you're going to speak on your experience because in the society in which we live, it's often our fault in some way. That's flat out raggedy. Sometimes it feels like we just can't win. Being a Black Woman in Business is often a fight on all fronts and it can be exasperating, but what is redeeming about this tedious journey is the purpose we push, the real people we get to connect with who just get it, and the opportunity to train up our children to know, do, and accept better.

My mother worked in corporate America for decades and she used to have to travel a lot. She would tell me how she felt like a real grown up when she settled in and started having more of these opportunities to represent her company at conferences or go on site out of state to clients, but she also told me how more times than not someone tried to cross professional lines (unsolicited) and she often was left to keep that to herself to keep her image as a Black woman clear.

We cannot change the hatred that people have in their hearts if they want to hate the color of our skin. It's not my job to teach someone how to tolerate my culture when it should not have to be "tolerated". I cannot teach a grown man manners and what is appropriate versus what's not in a professional setting, but I can put my foot down on the clients I will accept. I cannot make other people value marriage and respect their spouses, but I can walk away to avoid catching a case because somebody's raggedy son disrespected me by thinking I'd disrespect his wife with him.

Sometimes what we face aren't just the regular woes that come with careers such as high tension in the workplace, quick turnarounds and unrealistic deadlines, limited workforce, too minimal revenue, etc. There are external barriers that seep in because people are human and as much as we compartmentalize we aren't that good where we keep everything from crossing over in the workplace. I thought I told y'all business is personal.

If no one has shown you today, I love you, but God loves you better.

Be blessed.

-K.T. Braxton

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