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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Shegog: A Commitment to Black Women

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I am a very analytical person who spends a great deal of time processing my thoughts. Off the heels of Black History Month and right into Women’s History Month, I’ve found myself struggling to properly honor these months without recognizing that a commitment to equity—across race and gender—is only powerful if it’s an intentional commitment year-round.

Since we’re in the midst of Women’s History Month, I celebrate phenomenal Black women, including the two of the most important women in my life: my wife and my mother who are both incredibly strong, steadfast in their attempts, and love me deeply. I could also use this space to honor Black women who helped shape our history. Women like Rosa Parks, Katherine Johnson, Lonnie Bunch, Michelle Obama, and Indy’s own Madame C.J. Walker are just a sample of the decades of fierce, bold, Black women who fought to break boundaries that advanced an entire generation of Black excellence. And yet, as Black women today lead—from the boardroom to the community center to the kitchen table—they continue to be trapped by systemic barriers that prevent their health, success, and quality of life.

Access to Quality Care
According to research produced by Indy Indicators, a research group out of Indianapolis University Purdue University Indianapolis, non-Hispanic, Black women in Marion County had higher infant mortality rates, often double the rate of their non-Hispanic white counterparts. Furthermore, non-Hispanic, Black infants are born with low birth weight almost twice as often as their non-Hispanic White peers, with rates staying between 12% – 15% over the past ten years. The good news is that access to affordable healthcare can reduce infant mortality rates and the overall health of Black women—however, affordable care requires dollars and cents. The state of Indiana and this country most prioritize fair, affordable healthcare while also holding medical professionals accountable for the biased systemic racism that permeates the industry.

Equitable Pay
As leaders of their households and community, Black women have the tendency to put everyone in their lives in front of themselves. However, access to care doesn’t just depend on an affordable system. A recent report by Brookings Institute revealed that women make 79 cents for every dollar men make—but Black women earn only 64 cents on the dollar. While the numbers are important, the facts and figures represent how our country systematically devalues Black women. Furthermore, lost wages mean that Black women have less money to support themselves and their families, save and invest for the future, and spend on goods and services. Families, businesses, and the economy all suffer as a result of this imbalance. Black women deserve their share of equitable pay.

Workforce Advancement
And if inequitable pay is detrimental, stifled leadership opportunities are downright damaging for Black women. In a time where talent is the topic of every corporate conversation, Black women are still fighting to gain access to professional networks, mentors, and connections that directly impact their career advancement. Particularly for women of color, who are typically underrepresented in professional, high-status jobs, when they do make it into rarified roles, they’re statistically more likely to doubt corporate commitments to equity and have a lower retention rate than their white colleagues.

Investing in the development and leadership of Black women results in a higher degree of success. I’m proud of the fact that the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper has dynamic and highly qualified Black women leading the majority of our departments.

While the plight of Black women is an uphill climb, recently, organizations across the Indy region have united behind action. Through the Six Sigma Racial Equity Initiative, Black leadership + Legacies, Inc and Inspiring Leadership, LLC, Women’s Equity (WE) Brunch Indy, and through the Business Equity for Indy’s People Community of Practice, Black women are finally cultivating shared spaces for collective action—action that will drive inclusivity, fair pay, qualify of life, and even life expectancy—all of which also cultivate stronger local economies with a greater sense of place.

As Women’s History Month comes to a close and eventually folds into a new season of months and recognition, I hope that we don’t lose sight of the opportunities we have to come alongside our Black women, celebrate their strength, and support their successes.

Robert Shegog serves as President and CEO of the Recorder Media Group.

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