Misogynoir: The Trauma Experienced By Black Women In Corporate

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We all have trauma and none of us have had perfect lives, but black women are subjected to a unique form of discrimination known as Misogynoir.

Misogynoir is a term coined in 2010 by Moya Bailey to describe the “specific hatred, dislike, distrust and prejudice directed towards Black women.”

As a result of misogynoir, black women – especially those working for large corporates – are far too often overlooked and unnoticed.

In a recent LinkedIn survey we asked black women working for corporates their experience of being one of the few black women or black people in the room and what some of the biggest challenges are that they are facing when navigating the corporate environment.

This is what we found:

47% of black women had experienced racial and gender bias at work

12% experienced loneliness and mental health issues

29%  have experienced challenges around recognition and salary increase

17% felt there are a lack of opportunities to progress up the ladder

What’s the impact of misogynoir?

Many black women who work in corporate environments are impacted by misogynoir. Dealing with constant prejudice can lead to a lack of confidence and self-esteem, which can cause an increased risk of anxiety, depression, panic attacks and OCD.

In the workplace this translates into black women feeling like they do not belong, decreasing their sense of purpose and productivity at work.

Misogynoir often leads to a heightened feeling of imposter syndrome, with an increased likelihood of black women feeling like a fraud or not recognising their achievements as good enough.

In the corporate world, black women might be struggling to get a promotion and feel overlooked despite working much harder than their peers.

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Too often, black women feel the need to over-deliver and push themselves to extreme standards, leaving them feeling burned out and emotionally drained.

Black women frequently lack the reward or recognition that their work deserves which can be difficult to come to terms with – leading them to believe that they constantly need to show up perfectly at work.

3 phrases of coping with misogynoir

1. Raising awareness
It’s very important to raise awareness that these issues do continue to exist in our society and black women constantly have to fight prejudice directed towards them. Anti-racism education should explore misogynoir and others need to listen more to the experiences of black women. This awareness process can also involve black women separating their real selves from what is projected onto them by others – such as rejecting the common stereotype of the ‘angry black woman’.

2. Containment
When you go through certain situations, it can be helpful to process this by talking to someone else that has faced similar experiences. Just being able to vent and get how you’re feeling off your chest can also be beneficial. This will then create more space for you to be able to think about your wider perspective of the situation.

3. Validation
Validation is a key part of this process to help cope with the challenges faced by black women around self-esteem and imposter syndrome. When we don’t feel validated it can have a real impact on our mental health and wellbeing. When our feelings are not validated, there is an increased risk that you might find yourself less willing to trust those around you. Having your feelings validated by yourself or those close to you can also help reconnect with yourself.

Advice for black women in corporate environments experiencing misogynoir

  • Try to make an effort to tackle the internal side of you by focusing on developing yourself. Finding your true self, who you are and what you really mean will allow you to show up as your authentic self without all of the expectations from society.
  • Representation matters! If your workplace is not representative of people from a similar background to you, it is a good idea to surround yourself with positive people who are more representative and achieving great things both online and offline. Greater representation can make a massive difference to the way you feel about yourself and how much you believe in your potential accomplishments
  • Building a network of people who share similar values to you can be so valuable. This could be a network of other black women who are going through similar experiences. Networks can really help people identify with each other, feel less alone and find solutions for themselves. It will give you the opportunity to share stories, how you’ve dealt with certain situations and what your feelings were.
About the author:
Marteka Swaby is Founder of Benevolent Health. She is passionate about enhancing human connection with over 15 year’s clinical experience, helping individuals, teams and organisations to flourish and reach their full potential. She is an expert in Mental Health, improving emotional wellbeing through coaching, consulting and mentoring. If you are interested in joining a network of people who share similar values to you, Maretka runs Kinship – a safe space for diverse women on the first Friday of each month to explore the intersectionality of Race & Mental Health. If you would like to attend, you can register here
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