The Unspoken Truth of How Childbearing Impacts the Trajectory of Black Women's Careers
Is there a "right" time to have children?
A girlfriend of mine asked this question as we had dinner.
She had just gotten out of a long-term relationship and began questioning her life goals.
Initially, I dismissed her inquiry.
However, it stuck with me throughout the night.
Questions like these are often what we ask ourselves, as black women, in fact, career-driven women, in particular, have been asking themselves this for generations.
Can a black woman successfully climb the corporate ladder and start a family whenever she wants?
It's a valid concern that plagues our community, one that women of other races may not understand.
Although there is evidence that it is possible, and there are countless archetypes who serve as inspirations, for some of us, these examples are not reflective of the women in our lives like our grandmothers, mothers, and aunts.
Out of the success stories about women of color who hold advanced degrees and have the experience, but haven't had the luxury of advancing in their careers like their white counterparts, one could only inquire that there is something wrong on a systemic level.
While I'm someone who doesn't desire to have children at this time, I understand that everyone is different, and some women would like to start families in the near future.
Still, I can't help but wonder what having a child means within the context of long-term career growth, for black millennial women.
Although there are protections such as The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), we are aware of the country's history of racism and discriminatory practices in the workplace, as it relates to people of color.
In turn, women's career trajectories and livelihoods are greatly impacted.
According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) states, "...a woman cannot be fired, denied a promotion, demoted or forced to stop working because she is or might become pregnant, and employers cannot refuse to hire someone because she is or might become pregnant. The law also requires employers to treat a pregnant worker the same as any other employee who becomes sick or temporarily disabled, including in the provision of leave and other benefits."
What does this mean for black women, especially when we are already functioning at a deficit when it comes to pay equity?
A study conducted by The Center for American Progress states, "...Black mothers have the highest labor force participation rates of mothers from any racial or ethnic group, a trend that has been true for years; in 2015, 76.3 percent of black mothers were in the labor force, compared with 69.6 percent of white mothers. Yet their compensation does not match this increased participation: Black mothers consistently earn less than their white counterparts, and the gap only increases when compared with white fathers.."
I'm sure there are several factors that contributed to this report's findings, such as socio-economic background, education level, etc.
This isn't to suggest that black women who desire to have children cannot do so while being successful in their careers, however, there is something to be said about discrimination in the workplace, and how it impacts black women's decision to start a family.
This conversation is multifaceted and draws commentary from women of diverse experiences.
While the answer to this is subjective, it leaves some wondering about their futures, rightfully so. The best advice I could give any woman, but especially black women are to:
1) Seek to be intentional with your life 2) Set goals and maintain standards to create the life you want to live
3) Create routines for long-term success
4) Trust your process
No matter what, it is important for us to still work hard, dream big, and go after what we want in the world.
You deserve to live the full, prosperous life that you've worked so diligently for.
Keep striving for greatness, and keep applying pressure, you're closer than you think.
You are your ancestors' wildest dreams.