“The women in our groups asked us, ‘Are you in my head?’ because our shared experiences informed the questions we wanted to ask.” 

-Mako Fitts-Ward, Ph.D., (Assistant Professor, School of Social Transformation, Arizona State University & Principal Researcher, Black Women Thriving)

To help Black women thrive- it starts with listening.

When the right people ask Black women about workplace equity, they have a lot to say.  We at Black Women Thriving value listening.  When we were in the research phase, we asked Black women about their experiences.  In the analysis phase, we looked for patterns and data-informed solutions that companies can implement to support Black women across the gender spectrum as they move beyond surviving to thriving.  and find success and stability at work.

Centering Black Women

“When black women win victories, it is a boost for virtually every segment of society,” Angela Davis, a BWT Focus Group moderator, said. “This is the reward of centering Black women.”

During our research analysis phase, one of the most moving moments was hearing from the survey and focus group participants. We knew the work was important but weren’t prepared for the participant’s responses.  Over and over again, we received feedback that Black women were excited about the research and the fact that they were participating in it.

“We don’t take enough time to really dive into the actual like day-to-day. So I’m glad I got to spend a bit of time with you all.” 

-BWT Focus Group Participant.

It’s very rare for a research project to create the deep connections and gratitude we have seen in this project. The fact that this project is making Black women feel heard and understood tells us a lot about the lack of connection and understanding Black women are experiencing at work. Since we released the publication, Black women’s positive response has continued. 

Connected through Shared Experiences

We didn’t design the research phase of this initiative to be a community-building vehicle, but it has turned out that way.  We believe that this research—led by Black women, for Black women—supports the humanity of Black women. 

“I wholeheartedly agree that it has been a privilege to participate in this effort. I can’t wait to see what comes out of it. I feel like I’ve learned some things. I am grateful to all of you ladies for participating in this effort. I tell you, my spirit, my heart has been fed listening to all of you. You are amazing people.”

– BWT Focus Group Participant

Finding Support in All The Right Places

This project has revealed the importance of community. Community allows our most authentic selves to lead and support those who share our space.  Through their Black Women Thriving experience, women were able to speak openly in small groups, sharing their experiences on a variety of topics specific to their shared experiences of being Black women, whether those topics centered on ways they didn’t receive the support they needed from their colleagues or whether their hairstyles ever became a topic of discussion at work. The women also shed light on how participants felt they were acting in survival mode at work, and unknowingly, through sharing individual truths, a sense of community was formed. 

Why This Work Matters

As we are now trying to spread the word about Black Women Thriving, we are also working to encourage companies and organizations to fulfill the commitment they have already publicly agreed to in order to improve the environment that Black women work in. Many companies and organizations promised that they would do this work, but, in reality, it’s not getting done. We want to help organizations keep these promises.  While Black women’s votes matter, our voices, and experiences are frequently ignored. Our goal with Black Women Thriving is to continue to listen to these voices and ensure that our community feels centered, supported, and valued in the ongoing work of creating equity in workplace culture.