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Equity At Work Webinar Series

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Patriarchy and paternalism have deeply rooted themselves within workplace cultures, perpetuating systemic inequalities that disproportionately affect Black individuals. Patriarchy is defined as a general social or governance structure where men hold the position of power and generally exclude women from meaningful leadership positions. Paternalism, on the other hand, is a function of a patriarchal society and is defined as a system under which the people in authority restrict the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinate to them in their alleged interest. While many individuals are familiar with the term “patriarchy”, more work is needed to analyze the impact of paternalism and how it shows up in the workplace.

Studies consistently reveal that decision-making positions and leadership roles are predominantly held by white men, leading to a skewed perspective that sidelines the experiences and insights of Black professionals. This phenomenon diminishes opportunities for growth, innovation, and representation. Furthermore, paternalism often manifests as well-intentioned guidance that carries implicit biases, portraying Black individuals as needing additional support or mentorship due to perceived shortcomings. This narrative undermines their competence, reinforcing a cycle of dependency and limited advancement. Paternalism is gender neutral and can also affect Black men with women supervisors.

In addition to patriarchy and paternalism, there are additional workplace power structures that are far from transparent, and which operate in ways that often disadvantage Black employees. Some of those power structures include nepotism, cronyism, as well as informal networks and connections. The “who is in, who is out” phenomena can have dramatic effects on career progression by allowing certain individuals access to opportunities that remain hidden from others. These networks, frequently formed through shared backgrounds and social circles, perpetuate exclusionary dynamics that leave Black professionals on the fringes of career development. Research has shown that promotions and influential projects often flow through these informal channels, further marginalizing Black talent while compounding growth opportunities for those who fit the power structures unspoken preferences.

This lack of visibility and internal bias perpetuates a cycle where the contributions of Black individuals are underappreciated and overlooked, ultimately stifling their potential for growth.

The effects of patriarchy, paternalism, and biased power structures on Black individuals in the workplace are profound and far-reaching. Career advancement is hindered, representation remains inadequate, and the psychological stress of navigating these obstacles takes a toll on mental and emotional well-being. Microaggressions, discriminatory practices, and lack of inclusion contribute to a hostile environment that hinders productivity and innovation. The result is a workforce where Black professionals face barriers at every turn, forcing them to work harder to achieve the same recognition and opportunities as their white counterparts.

Recognizing these deeply ingrained issues is the first step toward creating meaningful change. Organizations are beginning to acknowledge the urgency of dismantling oppressive structures and fostering inclusive environments that empower all employees. By embracing diversity in leadership, implementing transparent promotion processes, and offering targeted mentorship programs, businesses can work toward leveling the playing field and breaking down the barriers that have hindered Black professionals for far too long. The transformation of workplace culture is not only a moral imperative but a strategic advantage that unlocks innovation, creativity, and growth for all.

Join us during ABC’s Equity at Work Webinar on Monday September 25, 2023 at 7:00 pm est for this enlightening panel discussion as we explore the nuances of patriarchy, paternalism, and other systems that oppress as we work towards workplace equity.

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