36% of Black women have quit their jobs because they feel unsafe

DE&I expert says HR can change the tide by hearing and believing Black women.
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A psychologically safe workplace may be a basic employee need, but not everyone has a safe space to work. New research finds that many Black women feel emotionally unsafe at their jobs.

The data. More than one-third of Black women “have left a job due to feeling unsafe,” according to the June State of Self-Care for Black Women report by Exhale, a mental wellness platform for Black women. Furthermore, just 50% of the 1,005 Black women surveyed said they feel safe enough in their work environment to openly share their feelings.

Krystal Allen, CEO and founder of DE&I consultancy K. Allen Consulting, told HR Brew that Black employees often feel unsafe when there’s an uneven power dynamic. “We have to look at the composition of formal power and decision-making within organizations,” she said, noting that Black women frequently aren’t in the C-suite or on the board.

“If this is the table that is being set, and it is devoid of certain voices, perspectives, lived experiences, and backgrounds, there will be a lack of attention to certain nuances and needs of a particular demographic,” she added.

What HR can do. Allen told HR Brew that it’s incumbent on HR leaders to create a workplace for mental wellness. She said this starts with getting a read on how Black women feel at work. One-on-one conversations, focus groups, and exit interviews with Black women are critically important to understanding which needs aren’t being met.

“I think there’s something to be said about the art and the science of listening,” she said, “to make sure that there is an informed opportunity to then create structures, practices, policies, and an overall climate of inclusiveness, of belonging, and ultimately a psychological and emotional safety in the workplace.”

Allen also said that while listening to Black women is important, it’s just as vital to believe them, as they’re often gaslit into thinking that their experiences aren’t real. “Often there are harmful, offensive, and psychological and emotionally unsafe moments and incidents that happen,” she explained, “whether they’re microaggressions to very macro incidents.”

“When we are not believed, it makes you feel isolated, it makes you feel othered, and makes you feel that something is wrong with you.”

Finally, Black women should be consulted on workplace decisions, Allen said. “You can’t have an environment that is inclusive of Black women without that holding space being informed by Black women as a safe space for them.”

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

Our HR newsletter delivers need-to-know industry news and insights to HR pros every weekday for free.