In a world where recognition of the contributions of Black women often falls short, it's time to shine a well-deserved spotlight on Black women during Black History Month (BHM). This year, we delve into the multifaceted theme that highlights the remarkable achievements and enduring barriers faced by Black women. From addressing the inequalities we encounter in various facets of life to celebrating the trailblazers who have left an indelible mark, our blog aims to honour and uplift the often overlooked contributions of Black women in the UK.
What is BHM, This Year's Theme
Black History Month, commonly known as BHM, is an annual observance that provides an opportunity to celebrate the rich history, culture, and accomplishments of the Black community. Each year, BHM explores a unique theme that sheds light on specific aspects of Black history. Founded back in the 1980's through a remarkable story of Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai Sebo, this year, our focus is squarely on Black women, their incredible resilience, and their untold stories.
The Inequalities Black Women Face in the UK
Black women in the UK encounter a multitude of inequalities in the workplace. Despite qualifications and expertise, Black women often find themselves facing glass ceilings and racial biases that hinder their professional growth. It's disheartening to note that Black women still earn significantly less than their white counterparts for equivalent roles. The gender pay gap persists, and the intersectionality of race and gender compounds these disparities, making it an uphill battle for Black women, which can be illustrated by a lack of representation, particularly at CEO, executive, and senior leadership levels in the UK.
Health Disparities, Especially Maternity
When it comes to healthcare, Black women face disproportionate challenges and mortality rates. The disparities are glaring, particularly in maternity care. Shocking statistics reveal that Black women in the UK are four times more likely than White women to experience complications during childbirth and have higher maternal mortality rates. The healthcare system must urgently address these disparities and ensure equitable access to quality care for all.
Educational Barriers, Lack of Representation
In the realm of education, Black women continue to confront significant barriers. There is a glaring lack of representation among professors and academics, making it difficult for Black women to break into these roles. Of 23,000 professors in the UK, only 61 are Black women. The absence of diverse perspectives in academia hampers the overall enrichment of knowledge and deprives students of valuable insights.
Black Joy - Why We Need to Celebrate Black Women
Amidst the struggles and inequalities, it is crucial to celebrate the joy that Black women bring into our lives. Their resilience, creativity, and cultural contributions enrich our society. Black joy is a powerful force that sustains communities and fosters unity. When we celebrate Black women's achievements and talents, we uplift not only individuals but also the entire community.
Despite the challenges they face, Black women in the UK have blazed trails and left a lasting legacy. Let's take a moment to honor some of the remarkable individuals who have inspired us:
Mary Seacole Mary Seacole, a pioneering nurse and businesswoman, defied racial prejudices in the 19th century to provide vital care to wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Her unwavering dedication and resilience have made her an enduring symbol of strength and compassion.
Claudia Jones Claudia Jones, often referred to as the "Mother of Notting Hill Carnival," was a tireless activist who fought against racism and inequality. Her legacy lives on through the vibrant celebration of Caribbean culture in London's streets every year.
Baroness Doreen Lawrence
Baroness Lawrence started her campaigning work in 1993, when her son Stephen was killed in a racist attack. Lawrence and her husband fought hard for justice for their son and bought attention to problems of racism in the London police force. Baroness Lawrence has continued her work for racial equality, working with charities and the government to make change.
Otele is the first Black women in Britain to be made a Professor of History, in 2018, she’s opening doors for women in academia. She is the first Professor of the History of Slavery.
Olivette Otele will be working with Bristol university to explore the cities links to the slave trade, uncovering more about how the history of our country affects our lives today.
The Importance of Equity - Supporting Black Women Supports Us All
It's important to recognize that supporting Black women isn't just a matter of justice; it's an investment in the betterment of society as a whole. Achieving equity for Black women means breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for everyone. When we champion Black women, we create a more inclusive, diverse, and vibrant world where every individual has the chance to thrive.
Some Tips for Supporting Black Women in the Workplace
Supporting Black women in the workplace is essential for fostering an inclusive and equitable environment.
Here are some practical tips to help achieve this:
1. Acknowledge our Contributions Recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black women in your workplace. Acknowledgment goes a long way in boosting morale and fostering a sense of belonging.
2. Address Racial Bias
Implement policies and training programs that address racial bias and discrimination. Creating a safe and fair workplace is vital for the well-being and success of Black women.
3. Sponsorship Offer sponsorship opportunities to Black women in your organisation to acknowledge structural inequities and to nurture and propel top talent. Opening doors (and removing the hinges!) can help remove barriers for good, that we may face in our careers.
4. Promote Diversity and Inclusion Advocate for diversity and inclusion in leadership positions. Encourage Black women to take on leadership roles and ensure they are resourced, supported, and that our voices are heard and valued in decision-making processes to avoid losing talent through a lack of authentic inclusion.
5. Support Affinity Groups Support and participate in affinity groups and networks that promote the interests and well-being of Black women in the workplace. These groups provide valuable resources and a sense of community.
Black History Month is an opportune time to honour and uplift the achievements of Black women who have shaped our world. While acknowledging the inequalities they face, it is crucial to celebrate contributions and find joy. Supporting and celebrating Black women is not just a moral imperative; it is an investment in a more equitable and prosperous future for all.