A new report sheds light on the alarming pattern of Black women leaders leaving their roles in the non-profit sector, citing hostility, unfair expectations, and limited opportunities for advancement.
A new report by the Washington Area Women’s Foundation titled “Thrive As They Lead: Advancing the Infrastructure to Support Black Women Leaders in the D.C. Metro Area Nonprofit Sector” has unveiled a disconcerting trend: the pushing out of Black women in leadership positions. The report highlights the challenges faced by Black women leaders, including hostility toward their leadership, strain on their health and well-being, unfair job expectations, and limited opportunities for career progression. This article delves into the key findings of the report, explores the experiences of Black women leaders, and discusses the urgent need for supportive infrastructure and cultural change.
Taking Leadership in a Time of Turmoil:
The rise of Black women into leadership positions has coincided with a tumultuous period marked by a global pandemic, public health crisis, and racial reckoning. Despite these challenges, Black women have been at the forefront of innovation, leading dynamic organizations and shattering glass ceilings. However, the lack of necessary infrastructure to support their leadership has left them teetering on the edge of a glass cliff. The report defines the glass cliff phenomenon as the elevation of Black women into senior leadership roles with the expectation of addressing organizational deficiencies without adequate support or resources.
The Quiet Backlash:
The report reveals that Black women leaders are facing relentless scrutiny, challenges, and undermining of their presence. They are expected to exhibit innovation and ambition while conforming to societal expectations that limit their departure from traditional forms of leadership. This has led to a significant number of Black women leaving leadership roles, citing unsupportive work environments, overwhelming workloads, microaggressions, and negative portrayals in the media. The toll of these experiences is evident in the overwhelming exhaustion, chronic stress, and burnout reported by Black women leaders.
Building Supportive Infrastructure:
The report emphasizes the need for measures to provide Black women leaders with the support, resources, and infrastructure they need to thrive. It calls for the establishment of leadership development programs tailored to the unique needs of Black women, retreats prioritizing their health and well-being, and general funds dedicated to supporting their growth and infrastructure. Additionally, the report highlights the importance of learning institutes, training for funders and philanthropic leaders, regular convenings, and events exclusively for Black women leaders.
The report’s findings shed light on the urgent need to address the systemic barriers faced by Black women leaders in the non-profit sector. While supportive infrastructure is crucial, it is not enough. Black women need protection, collective power, and a shift towards healthy cultures that support their leadership. The experiences of Black women leaders deserve attention, and it is the responsibility of partners, strategists, boards, and funders to step up and create sustainable support systems. By dismantling systemic disparities and fostering positive change, we can ensure that Black women not only lead but thrive in their roles.