There have been various studies lately concerning African-American women. Two recent ones focused on women in the workplace and women and finances.
According to a poll conducted by the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation, financial stress seems to hit Black women the hardest. The poll found that nearly three quarters of Black women worry about not making ends meet. The poll suggested the stress might be due to a number of factors: a lack of job skills as well as extended family commitments. A majority of the women polled said they felt they lacked the necessary job skills for advancement to be competitive on the job market. Part of the financial stress, according to the study is family responsibility. The story found that Black women are more likely than white women to lend money to family or friends. They are also more likely to provide help for aging relatives as well as provide childcare for family members.
"We still live in a society where there is a significant wealth gap between whites and minorities. Although the effect of the financial downturn is widespread, in the African-American community, it adds an extra layer of pressure on families who may be fragile already dealing with poverty, unemployment, illness, job loss and single parent families," notes workplace expert Havilah Malone, "Women are nurturers and since birth it has been ingrained in us to take care of our siblings and to help others. When one person is able to advance their career and/or achieve any level of success, they are constantly reminded not to forget where they come from. There is a sense of obligation associated with success, and almost immediately you are labeled as ‘lucky’. The truth is, women work hard and have made sacrifices, but the label will begin to wear on your psyche and before you know it you begin to feel compelled to “over give”. Over giving is where you give until it hurts you, and your future."
Malone says there are several ways to elevate financial stress. "Worrying about where your next meal will come from or not having the ability to pay bills can create an immense amount of anxiety, not to mention stress. But having a good financial plan and always working within a budget can significantly reduce the level of stress," she explains.
Here are a few tips from Malone:
• Start with a Profit and Loss statement: Before making any major purchases take a look at your revenue and expenses over a period of three months - six months to give you an idea where you are financially. Everything begins and ends with a budget.
• Cost saving cuts: Sell off items that you no longer need, reduce entertainment expenses such as eating out and travelling.
• Hold a Board Meeting: Let everyone in your household know the status of household finances. African Americans, for far too long have tried to hide their financial situation. Be very transparent and give everyone, including the children, an opportunity to offer ideas on how to save money. Have frequent updates and fill everyone in when budgets are kept and when there has been overspending.
• Establish a project freeze: You can only do so much for others. Be clear in communication that you want to help but can’t financially at this time.
• Go Surfing: Use the Internet to find resources to help a loved one who may need a wide range of services outside of money to get them through their challenged time.
• Increase your cash reserves: A critical tool is to develop a hefty cash reserve to assist you with unforeseen circumstances.
"Getting a solid education and/or updating your skill set are critical," she adds. "It’s equally important that while you are enrolled in classes or an educational program that you connect and network with the people around you including classmates, guest speakers and lecturers. Take control of your life. If you do not have a skill, go out an acquire it—volunteer to help someone or a small business in the industry you are interested in and get on-the-job training."
The Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll was conducted by telephone, among a random national sample of 1,936 adults, including users of both conventional telephones and cell phones.
A different study focused on power in the workplace. According to "Can an Agentic Black Woman Get Ahead? - a study co-authored by Ashleigh Shelby Rosette - an associate professor of management and organization at Duke's Fuqua School of Business, and two others from the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, Black women in leadership roles do not see the same backlash against displays of dominant behavior experienced by white women and Black men of power.
The study, which is pending publication in the journal Psychological Science, gauged the reactions of 84 non--Black people to scenarios in which fictitious business executives were shown to be either reprimanding employees, or encouraging them, in an online poll.
The angry, aggressive Black woman stereotype has even followed even Michelle Obama to the White House, and Malone thinks labeling Black women as more aggressive in the workplace can lead to negative feedback. "The labels that have been thrust upon Black women in today's society have an effect on how we are viewed and put us into a stereotype box even in the workplace," she says. "The backlash may not come in the way of a reprimand but is revealed in our inequality in pay. It's time to blur the color lines, instead of intentional or unintentional "Black expectations" or "white expectations". When do we all just become people and share the same expectations?"
But as noted author, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison once observed, "Aggression is not as new to Black women as it is to white women. Black women seem able to combine the nest and adventure. They don't see conflicts in certain areas as do white women."