Commentary

The Best Time to be Who We Are – Is being a black woman helpful or a hindrance professionally?

Written by Calibe Thompson

In my own mind I’ve accomplished a lot. I’m a nationally and internationally syndicated television producer and a regionally published columnist. I’m well educated and easily command attention and respect when given a platform to make my opinions known.

Yet I’m often mistaken for the secretary in my small, shared office space, or when I’m introduced as the producer of a national show, people correct the introducer to specify – “oh, available just in South Florida?” or “oh, you do the voiceovers?”. I’ve gone into meetings with people who I know pay much more for much less than we offer, and with offerings of comparable quality. Yet our targets “don’t see the value” and meet us with blank stares.

People have asked me if being a black woman has been helpful or a hindrance in my professional pursuits. I’ve always said “no” because in my own mind it hasn’t. But from the outside, I have to wonder.

I’ve seen wealthy white men in dusty overalls command respect based on what they do, not what they look like. I’ll admit I’m very low maintenance and don’t pay much attention to hair, nails and brand name clothing, but are those things really necessary for us black women to be taken seriously? A friend shared with me that black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in America. I believe it because when educated, we are ambitious, authoritative and uncompromising where it counts. But out of the appropriate costume, even among our own peers, the default assumption is that we’re “the help”.

It is an unfortunate reality that we may continue to deal with for a generation. It is perhaps why there is so much emphasis placed by our community on material things, often to the detriment of our financial well being. But as upwardly mobile women, our fallback is not private pity partying. We focus on our missions. We prove to ourselves and others that we are worthy of respect, whatever we look like. And we relish the thought that right now is always the best time to be who we are.

Calibe Thompson, the first Jamaican producer to get a national series on PBS : Taste the Islands - Photo by David Muir

Calibe Thompson, the first Jamaican producer to get a national series on PBS : Taste the Islands – Photo by David Muir

Calibe Thompson is a television producer and personality, public speaker and author. Watch her Mon at 10:00PM and Tues, Thurs and Sat at 9:00PM on South Florida’s BECON-TV (Ch 63 / Comcast 19), and follow www.facebook.com/misscalibe.

About the author

Calibe Thompson

Jamaican born TV host, producer and director Calibe Thompson is Head Dread at Blondie Ras Productions, creators of “Taste the Islands”, “The Caribbean Diaspora Weekly”, “Miami Fitness TV” and other terrestrial and web based series broadcast regionally throughout the Caribbean, US and Canada. She is also an opinion columnist for the South Florida Times, voiceover professional and on-camera personality. Thompson’s mission is to continue to showcase the best of Caribbean culture to the wider world.