The Workplace

Life as a Black Girl in a White Male-Dominated, Advertising Industry.

By:Wendy Seleme

Being 1 of 4 black girls in the Creative Department has taught me that each day is a battle, and when going to battle, one needs their weapons sharpened. Our voice is one of those weapons. I realized I needed to be more confident in my work, in the path I chose. I realized that my fire needed to burn intensely, that I need to stop waiting for other people to acknowledge how great I am and how great I will be. Because black woman, you have power. It runs deep inside of you.

I enter the office each morning, trying not to forget my black girl power, trying not to forget the accomplishments of the great black women in the Industry. Women who have come before me. A woman like Nunu Ntshingila-Njeke who has been a driving force in the Industry.

A woman who has given black girls like me, hope. Hope that I can go out there in my blackness and do great things and not be apologetic about it. A woman who has allowed other black women to tell their stories and own them. A woman who heads Facebook Africa.

When do we begin our journey to greatness when the issues that impact the ability to move forward haven’t been dealt with? When black female Creative Directors don’t even make 20% of the Industry?

When we find ourselves in meetings where we’re told to dumb down our ideas because the mass market wouldn’t understand. As though my people are stupid? When you’re the token black. The person who is tagged along to presentations just because the client may be black or so that the team appears diverse when in fact, it isn’t at all.

When you’re called into a meeting just because they need your black insights and not because they need your input, so that white privilege can misinterpret your cultural greatness into an ad. One that has black girls jumping for joy just because they’ve finally got their hands on a pack of pads or when that one game you used to play as a child is turned into something you no longer recognize. When we’re huddled in front of a brief that is telling you that black people can’t possibly be aspirational, all they wanna do is get handouts.

When you and your fellow black people are having a conversation in the office and you’re told to keep it down because you’re laughing too loudly and it’s disturbing the peace. Well i’m sorry my blackness is too loud. When your ideas are shut down because they’re too black, too kasi, too ghetto. Well, that is what I have known all my life and why is that not good enough?

When we’re not given the same guidance or mentoring we need to better ourselves and our career as our male counterparts. When the only people involved in a soccer project are men because what would women know about soccer? When will our stories stop being taken for granted? Will we ever come to a point where the first line in a rationale isn’t “As a black person…” or “In the black culture…”

There will be many challenges throughout your career, especially in a largely white male-dominated Industry, but you must but never forget your power black girl, even when you have to constantly prove yourself, to constantly fight to be heard. You must know that your fight for equal representation will not go unnoticed.

The day will come when the only people in that board room are black women who know self-love. Black women who are tired of having their curvy, beautiful, big hips and thighs photo-shopped so that they appear smaller, or are tired of seeing themselves portrayed as weak and naive.

I’ve become more aware of myself and the work I wanna put out there. I want to do more work that motivates and encourages girls to go out there and do their own shit at their own terms, because if we don’t have a hand in changing the system, then we’d be taking a few steps backwards. So go out there and slay these lames black girl! Go do the damn thang!

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