Am I seen As Me?

Photo by @Negro Elkha

I decided to interview two very strong women who I hold very near and dear to my heart… My Mother and my Godmother. I chose to interview them because not only are they some of the strongest Black women I know but they hold very high positions in their workplace as well as being a part of the LGBTQ+ community. As I interviewed them I was thinking of how important it is for all generations to be educated on these very real issues that black women face in the workplace. Usually when people think of a higher up position I feel as though they think it will automatically be a man. The sad truth is that as a black women in America they continuously have to work a million times harder just to be one step ahead of the competition. Here are two very real people who encounter situations in the work place while being a black woman appt of the LGBTQ+ community.

I now present to you my Godmother Patrice Drake…

Hello my name is Patrice Drake and I’m a cybersecurity expert with nearly 20 years of experience defending against cyber criminals. I currently work at Deloitte as a Sr. Manager overseeing several security teams all over the world. I got my start in tech because I was exposed to computers at a young age through my father’s technical profession. I had an early exposure to computer systems and loved the constant evolution of tech. In fact, seeing it grow from static websites like GeoCities to a worldwide dynamic collaborative environment like TikTok has been such a great experience.

What is the hardest situation in general you had to face being a black successful woman who is also a part of the LGBTQ+ community?

The hardest situations I’ve faced in my career are ones where I’ve been actively gaslit or outright dismissed. It’s been frustrating for others to dismiss the pay, racial or diversity disparities that I’ve voiced over the years. I’ve combated this by leaning into incredibly supportive groups like Women In Technology, National Society of Black Engineers, Lesbians Who Tech, etc. and have aggressively had to seek connections and sponsorship to help further my journey. I truly believe that it’s taken me a longer time to reach my success due to several disparities that I’ve had to overcome.

Do you feel because you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community that it affects you in the workplace? If yes please explain why.

Yes. Earlier in my career, I felt this was true. At that time, my main clients were federal government agencies whose stance on gays in the workplace were very conservative. When people would ask about my family or my weekend, I downplayed my queer social activites and felt as though I also had to hide that part of myself in order to avoid termination or isolation. Nowadays, I won’t work for any company, client or project that doesn’t actively embrace the LGBTQ+ community. I actively seek out supporting places and people which has helped me show up wholeheartedly in my career.

Since you are black women in businesses, where it’s male dominated, do you feel more threatened or do you feel supported? Explain a time where you were or were not supported.

As a black woman, I’ve never felt threatened by others in my industry due to their gender, race, etc. I give a great credit to my mother for this. She is an incredibly strong woman and I had numerous examples of her standing up for me, herself or other women throughout my entire life…even to this day. I will offer that it can get lonely being the “only one” in certain situations where I’m the only one (woman, black, LGBTQ+). In those moments, it was difficult for others to appreciate my input or support my suggestions as people tend to like people that mirror themselves. With recent DE&I efforts, more companies are better about showing support to underrepresented groups and, in the most recent years, I have benefited from that.

Who is one feminist you admire and why?

There are so many great feminist that have devoted their lives to the advancement of women! My standout is Gloria Steinem – what an amazing impact she’s made on showing up for the cause. I remember being exposed to Ms. Magazine, a publication that she helped establish, and really appreciating the level of passion and activism that Gloria has given her entire life.

I now present to you my Mother Ebony Dawkins…

My name is Ebony Dawkins, I’m a Real Estate professional And owner of a Boutique brokerage!! I’ve found myself in this profession by chance. I Wanted to go onto real estate when I was 18 years old however my life was not prepared for such a commitment. I started a daycare in which I owned for 15 years, and circled back to this profession after all of that time. I am a mother of four and currently married in a lesbian relationship.

What is the hardest situation in general you had to face being a black successful woman who is also a part of the LGBTQ+ community?

I would have to say the hardest situation that I have faced being in this career field is knowing who to share my true self-with. There are times where I do not share my family information or relationship information with individuals so that I do not have to face judgment or questions. That can sometimes be very uncomfortable.

Do you feel because you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community that it affects you in the workplace? If yes please explain why.

I don’t necessarily think it affects anything as far as my workplace, it just makes me cautious of who to share my personal information with. You never know what someone’s religious beliefs, personal beliefs or otherwise and so I try to maintain professionalism at all times. When I first began this career field I would not share anything about my family with most people and it wasn’t until they became my friends on Facebook that they actually found out that I was in a lesbian relationship. 

Now I am of the mindset that I do not feel like I need to come out to people and it’s more so if they are interested to know and or make a comment about my “ husband” I will correct them.

Since you are black women in businesses where its male dominated do you feel more threatened or do you feel supported? Explain a time where you were or were not supported.

Being black woman in a field dominated by men does not make me feel threatened. It honestly pushes me to work harder and to focus more on what I’m trying to achieve. I do realize that the odds can be stacked against me however, I also that women bring different attributes to the table that men would never be able to which gives me confidence in what I am doing.

My first experience of having sexism was when I went on a listing appointment and my company did a QA call. Upon doing the QA call they discovered that the gentleman did not want to list his property because I was female. They ended up re-assigning the lead to a male who got the listing signed. If I was in charge of the brokerage I think I would’ve moved on from that client entirely as I wouldn’t want my agent feeling they were not supported.  I have also experienced racism when I went to a listing appointment for a high-end listing and you could quite clearly tell the gentleman was uncomfortable with me being an African-American female in his home. I continued with the appointment as usual and he still decided to sign with another company. I can’t say I was surprised but I was definitely taken aback.

Who is one feminist you admire and why?

The one and only Ruth Bader Ginsburg!! She was such an amazing woman who stood up for equality and woman rights such as making it possible for women to to have the right to sign a mortgage without a man and even the right to have a bank account without a male co-signer.

I hope you enjoyed the interviews of these two very lovely ladies and took something away from it. Wether it’s more questions you have or these encounters that they have had just resonate with you. Just know you’re not alone.

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