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Lean In Live

11 ways to support Black women at work right now

COVID-19 has upended the workplace—and the impact on women of color, especially Black women, is profound. Catch up on our conversation with Minda Harts, author of The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Secure a Seat at the Table, and learn how you can step up as a leader, manager, or ally during this time.

On what leaders or managers can do to support women of color at work right now:


In The Memo, I talk about a situation where my manager, who happened to be a white man, saw that I had on orange nail polish and commented, “You people love your bright colors.” I was the only Black woman that worked at the firm, and I had a coworker—who was also a white man—there with me, and he didn’t say or do anything. I felt so down in that moment, and didn’t know what to say. — Minda Harts

1) Lead with empathy: Let’s humanize the workplace because things can get lost in translation. If you do or say something that may be incorrect or may have, then go back to that person and apologize. This encourages open communication and creates trust with your team.

2) Listen with curiosity: Working from home doesn’t mean the same thing for every woman in the workplace. Find out what your team needs from you right now. You can’t assume that every team member has the same needs or accessibility during this new virtual work environment. Managers, make sure you have regular one-on-ones with the people on your team and ask them how you can support them. Ensure that everyone has the same access to you and start building trust and genuine relationships.

3) Lean into your courage and show up for your colleagues: Having co-workers that have your back is critical. That way, when you do see that someone is being aggressed in any shape or form, you can be there for them.

4) Support inclusive hiring and management practices: If you have the opportunity to hire during this time, make sure you have a diverse slate of candidates during the interview process. Equip yourself with resources and learning materials on how to manage diverse talent. The reality is we get to change the workplace with our decisions today—read books on gender, intersectionality, and having crucial conversations.

On how to show up as a better ally to women of color:


We all need to speak up when you know something is not right—again and again. Just because you’re not the person creating the problem, you’re perpetuating the problem if you are not speaking up. And we’ve all got to do better. — Rachel Thomas

5) Attend virtual events hosted by women of color: The more you listen to the experiences of women of color, the more effective and knowledgeable you can be as an ally.

6) Intervene when it counts: If you observe microaggressions taking place in virtual meetings, be an advocate or speak up in the moment.

7) Build genuine and authentic relationships with women of color: Follow women of color on social media and engage in conversation, or ask a friend who is a woman of color to have a virtual chat.

How women of color can advocate for themselves at work during Covid-19:


In my career, I realized, as a woman of color, I had to be my best advocate. If I don’t advocate for myself, how will the systems change? It’s bigger than just me, because how will anyone know that their behavior is not okay if I don’t let them know?” – Minda Harts

8) Strategize about your future: Leaders are thinking about what work is going to look like coming out of COVID-19. If you don’t have a manager that’s invested in your success, this is the time to advocate for yourself.

9) Book virtual coffees with senior leaders: Your leadership team is at home, so ask for those virtual coffees, book those one-on-ones, and continue to bet on yourself and build out your network.

10) Ask for opportunities: Take this time to create opportunities for yourself and set yourself up for success after this is all over.

11) Advocate for yourself: Success is not a solo sport and this is not a time to shrink. This is a time to move forward, and set the agenda for yourself. This is the time to lean in.

Minda Harts is a best-selling author of The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Secure a Seat at the Table, host of the podcast Secure the Seat, and founder of The Memo LLC, a career development company for women of color. Minda is an Adjunct Professor of Public Service at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and frequently speaks at companies and universities about helping women of color secure their seat at the table.