It is funny and in some cases quite telling how people go through similar experiences, whether they be traumatic childhood memories or experiences in adulthood.
In the corporate environment, this is no different. In a space that lacks black voices at the management or executive level, especially positions held by black women, one author has decided to document her lived experiences at a few big corporate companies.
The Black Girl’s Guide to Corporate South Africa by Lindelwa Skenjana is a chronological memoir that includes the insights of black women at various stages of their careers as they navigate the pitfalls of the corporate world.
Skenjana, like many black women entering the workforce after they graduate from university, is bright-eyed, eager to learn and make an impact in the working world. This goal is especially directed at the organisation they are hired in if they are lucky enough to get a job. The author journals a story that many youths in this country may go through: the struggle of finding employment as a graduate and, when they do, the highs and lows that the corporate world brings.
The guide helps black women learn what Skenjana wished she knew before going into the corporate environment. In the book, she gives other women of colour their sides of the story to tell as well. Quoting famed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “The ‘single’ story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”
Skenjana says this was very deliberate and wondered why a book on this subject wasn’t previously used to document these experiences.
“Every story is different to my voice, it was to advance and progress humanness. I strongly believe in mentorship, I love people and having conversations with other women.”
She adds if you don’t have a book that tackles “brown skin matters, who is better equipped to write than the very brown skin girl [sic]”.
An author who is passionate about technology and African women’s development, she had numerous engagements with other women and noticed certain themes that kept coming up. One of those was the perceived allies of other black women, particularly older black women. But, unfortunately, in some realities this is not the case in corporate SA.
Skenjana provides some solutions to these issues, such as how managers can lead a group of people and different approaches needed to allow people to shine in their strengths.
Now a new mother, Skenjana is looking at writing fiction but hopes the success of Black Girl’s Guide continues to be a conversation starter on black women’s economic participation as well as their mental health in a space where they are nowhere near well represented enough.
It would be unfair to place pressure on Skenjana to solve these issues but the insight is necessary as people can reflect on how they can individually change their behaviours.
The Black Girl’s Guide To Corporate South Africa is available nationwide in mainstream book stores.