Season 2, Episode 6: A Roadmap for Black Women to Thrive in the Workplace with Ericka Hines

A group in deep thought during the Accelerator in 2019.

There is something about the Black Women Thriving research project that feels a lot like love. It began with a personal need and grew into a much larger question: What would it take for Black women to thrive – not just survive – in the workplace? From this question, a massive project took shape.

In this project, Founder of Every Level Leads, Ericka Hines and her team set out to understand Black cis and transgender women and Black gender expansive professionals and their experiences. Their goal was to understand them in all of their complexity. Ericka and Dr. Mako Fitts Ward wrote the report based on findings from 19 facilitated focus groups and a survey of over 1,400 Black cis and transgender and gender expansive professionals. 

Black Women Thriving was designed to find out – by listening to Black women – how organizations and businesses need to adapt so that Black women can thrive within them. It was created to understand exactly what thriving means to Black women.  

During this conversation with Nicole, Ericka shares a hope about the recently published Black Women Thriving Report: “I hope that Black women who read this feel the care and respect in which we held their stories.” 

For Black women and gender expansive folks to be seen (without being scrutinized), listened to, and centered in the workplace is exactly what Black Women Thriving is all about. Nicole and Ericka discuss the ways in which typical DEI efforts usually result in benefitting white women and do very little to create organizational excellence, let alone a workplace in which everyone can thrive, because those efforts are not rooted in intersectionality.

Because businesses and organizations are typically built to honor the needs and norms of white men, people within these organizations do not necessarily even have eyes to see the solutions-based leadership skills that Black women bring to the workplace. And without eyes to see, these skills go unrewarded. According to the BWT Report, only 33% of Black women surveyed believe that job performance is evaluated fairly and only 50% of Black women surveyed who applied for a promotion within their organization received the promotion.

And what will it take for Black women and gender expansive professionals to thrive in the workplace? It will take organizational change. Ericka is adamant: The recommendations in the report are for changes organizations must make. They are not changes for Black women to make to fit into a broken system. Ericka says, “We’re not going to ask Black women to do another thing,” namely contort themselves to fit into an organization that is not designed for them. 

The BWT Report is a blueprint, offering not only unique data, but straightforward recommendations for organizations to implement. And although these recommendations are not necessarily “plug and play” as Ericka mentions, they are specific, usable strategies.

In their conversation, Ericka and Nicole discuss the reality that if organizations make recommended changes– common sense but overlooked practices like providing mentorships and sponsorships from other women and People of Color– then the organization becomes better for everyone. The BWT recommendations “literally make it fair” for all folks in the workplace. These recommendations have the potential for organizations to reach beyond mediocrity.

Where does the report and its recommendations go from here? Now that it is complete, the Black Women Thriving Report is ready for us to give it both roots and wings. The roots will come from our commitment and time. The wings will come from our ingenuity, courage, and imagination.

Ericka Hines and her team at Every Level Leadership have done their work. Now it’s time to do ours. Read more about how each of us in the Inclusive Life community can support Black Women Thriving.

About Ericka Hines:

Ericka Hines is the Founder of Black Women Thriving and creator of the Black Women Thriving research project, an innovative and groundbreaking exploration of the lived experience of Black women in the workplace. This work is rooted in the belief that Black women deserve workplaces that support their care and healing, and that invest in their professional development at every level.

Ericka is also the Principal of Every Level Leadership. She is an advisor and strategist who works with organizations to align their commitment to inclusion and equity with their everyday actions and operations. She has worked with government agencies, nonprofits, and foundations across the country to help their staff and stakeholders learn how to create inclusive culture. To date, Ericka has trained over 3,500 individuals in skills that will help them to be more equitable leaders for their teams and organizations.

Ericka has served as lead researcher and a contributing author to the national publication: Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture published in 2018 by Equity in the Center. She holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia School of Law and a BA in Political Science from Wright State University.

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