Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faces double standards in her confirmation


Do you want to know what it’s like to be a black woman in the workplace? The confirmation hearing and related media coverage of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is a real-time case study of the double standards we often face.

This double standard—a set of unspoken rules unfairly applied to Black women at work—often manifests itself in people questioning our ability to do exemplary work purely because of our race, getting glares and comments when we go to appearing to work, dressing, speaking, or otherwise staying true to our respective cultures, or demanding twice as much educational experience or credentials from our resumes as anyone else.

Put simply, the workplace is much tougher for us.

That extra toughness is, after all, one of the main reasons for black women with the highest employment rate of all womenare severely underrepresented in senior management positions in American companies.

As a black woman who has spent over 15 years in the corporate world as well as thousands of hours as a career and leadership development coach for women of color, I am not surprised when I see the extra round of hoops Judge Jackson is expected to jump through simply because they had the audacity to attempt to climb the highest rungs of the ladder in their field.

Whether she’s repeatedly asked to turn in her Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score, unfair scrutiny and irrelevant rotation of her court record has to defend her in a way inconsistent with that of her predecessors, or whether she’s smiling and navigating through situations where people mispronounce and/or mock their first names, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s experience reflects the experiences of many black women in the workplace.

Furthermore, Judge Jackson — and the many black women in similar situations — are expected to endure this double standard without showing a trace of emotion for fear of being labeled as such “furious” or “unprofessional”.

The double standards that black women face in the workplace not only negatively impact our ability to close the leadership and pay gaps at work, but also affect our mental health disproportionately.

The fact is, no conversation about Black women in the workplace is complete without addressing the impact that being Black can have on a woman’s career path.

The double whammy of being a woman and Black often means that navigating double standards will be a familiar part of our work experiences.

While we know intellectually that another’s racial or racially insensitive behavior is 100% related to them and not a reflection of who we are, it can be difficult not to internalize those experiences as something that’s wrong with us. Because of this, it’s important to be proactive in taking care of ourselves as we deal with the double standards imposed on us at work.

Here are some self-care strategies black women can consider.

1. Find church. Finding community, either within your organization or within external networks designed specifically for Black women, can prove a respite from the perils of the workplace. Being able to relax and connect with others who understand your perspective can be invaluable.

2. Confirm yourself. Proactively look for opportunities to remind yourself of your worth. For example, if I’m the recipient of behavior or words designed to invalidate my experience or challenge my knowledge, I’ll reread past performance reviews, talk to friends and family members who will, of course, corroborate, and do other things to counteract the negative messages I have received.

3. Validate your emotions. You are not overly sensitive or wrong for feeling the way you do. Whether it takes you 30 seconds or 30 hours, you have the right to think, reflect and process what happened. Deliberately and intentionally break away from internalizing guilt or shame for the outcome

As we await the conclusion of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation process — here’s what I hope someone close to her has whispered in her ear — so is my message to every black woman who has found (or will find). ) that she must endure the sting of double standards in her own career path: the inability for anyone else to see your worth doesn’t change the fact that you are indeed valuable. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faces double standards in her confirmation


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