*Puts down glass of Lemonade*
Excuse our delay in writing about Beyoncé’s new album, ‘Lemonade.’ After getting over the fact that we almost missed the weekend premiere, it took us a few days to process the depth, symbolism, pure brilliance and overall #blackgirlmagic that is her latest visual album and artistic expression appropriately named ‘Lemonade’. Don’t get us wrong, the whole album is dope (yes y’all, it’s filled with bangers for the soul from beginning to end and back again), but what intrigues this diversity duo most is the narrative. Simply put (because for real – there are levels on levels on levels at play), it’s an ode to black women, the songs of our pain, our struggles, and redemption for generations as far back as we can remember and our daughters to come. It’s a narrative that so many black women know all too well and proudly live, as passed down from our grandmothers and mothers and on to our daughters and granddaughters. It’s a story of survival and grit and perseverance that is the essence of black womanhood. And it’s a story of invisibility because it’s never told and is absent from so many places and spaces that claim to be champions for diversity and inclusion, including corporate America.
Please excuse the bluntness and seemingly ‘ode to black culture’ in this post, but we can’t pass up the opportunity to talk about how corporate America is void of our narrative as black women or what it means for us and corporations. We always knew that our story wasn’t being told, but ‘Lemonade’ points out the danger of a corporation or a law firm or a top company that is void of black women leaders and innovators. Because let’s face it, this void isn’t free, it costs us all something. For us, this invisibility and lack of ‘Lemonade’ is jeopardizing the pipeline and future of black women lawyers as the legal profession is entering the sixth year of consistent decline of black women lawyers with no end in sight. For law firms and corporations, the cost is even greater because if ‘Lemonade’ teaches you nothing else, it’s that no one should doubt or undervalue the strength, prowess and ability to adapt that is inherent in being a black woman. In fact, it’s this exact combination of attributes that we want leading our most complex, international litigation and transactions, making critical decisions at the tables of Fortune 500 boardrooms, and creating the strategy across industries that will take America from good to great. Corporate America is losing because without us and our ‘Lemonade’, corporations are missing a key and critical ingredient in the melting pot that is the cornerstone of America. Missing a key ingredient means that corporations are under performing and earning less than they would if that ingredient was present.
We’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth saying again and again – we have to be brave enough to be our authentic selves if we ever want our narrative to take its rightful place amongst the many narratives that form the basis for decisions about company culture, strategic planning, compensation, and so much more. We also need to recognize and understand the intrinsic value added by having women of color at the table. Trust us, we *know* it’s difficult and counter to the mainstream narrative that says if you keep your head down, black woman, and just play “the game”, you will be safe and successful. But what we also know to be true is that we have nothing to hide, and playing their game hasn’t worked for us ever. Although our story is one of pain and bearing more than we can bear and then bearing some more, it’s also story of strength, of triumph, of the resiliency that builds professionals and executives who will stay the course through a corporation’s good times and bad because unlike any one else, we are absolutely certain that weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. *Church* In this age of technology and consumerism, what corporation wouldn’t benefit from having loyal thought leaders who won’t jump ship at the first sign of trouble? Or having someone who is able to grin and push through during corporate lows, make hard decisions, have difficult conversations and inspire everyone to continue working by example. Dare we say they would all benefit time and time again.
So shout out to Beyoncé for reminding us that our #blackgirlmagic was born from pain and tears, but rooted in strength. And for showing us that we can embrace our narrative for ourselves and our daughters. It might not be the popular thing to do, but courage is what we’ve been made of for generations, surely we have enough of it to live our best, authentic selves. Even if those selves happen to be unapologetically black and distinctly woman. And if we ever needed a reminder that it was possible – Bey, one of the most carefully constructed icons of our time (remember when her sister and husband fought in the elevator, speculatively over Becky with the good hair, and Bey stood still in the corner like she knew there were cameras and her star power could be threatened) – told us we could.
*Picks up glass of Lemonade*
So today, face all of the woes of working in corporate America as a black woman or woman of color. Smile a little as you embrace situations that make your co-workers freak out, but remind you of your troubled past, ancestors’ triumph and the unique perspective you bring to the table. Don’t be afraid to take a sip and pass it around at the next team meeting because, contrary to popular belief, our ‘Lemonade’ should be consumed by everyone. Enjoy!