“I am a black woman. I cannot separate the two. What I need as a black woman might be different from what a non-black woman might need.
and that is perfectly fine!”
“Am I black or a woman first?”
That is the question Hannah Awonuga constantly needed to ask herself whenever
she walked into a room.
Hannah became more aware of her race than her gender but together, they have
had a compounding effect on how she presented herself in the workplace.
As a young black girl from South London, Hannah began her career in banking at the
age of 16 and did not quite understand the magnitude of the challenge ahead of her.
In the early 20s, gender was the only topic barely being discussed in the workplace.
It was not until 2017 when the UK government mandated gender pay gap reporting
in an effort to encourage more women into senior positions; however, for Hannah,
this did not include women who looked like her.
For years, Hannah felt she could not become a senior woman in banking. After all,
no one in senior positions looked or sounded like her, or had come from the same
background as her.
A few years into her banking career, Hannah commenced another journey –
motherhood, adding to the intersection of not only being a woman and black, but
now also a mother of three. Hannah remembers the daily struggles of leaving the
team she oversaw as Branch Manager to ensure she would be on time to pick up her
children from afterschool club.
Being a woman comes with many challenges and women are often judged simply
because of their gender. There is a preconception that women cannot commit to
senior positions because they may want to have children. Fundamentally, not all
women want to become mothers, nor do they all desire to be stay-at-home mums
and many women still want to have fruitful jobs and careers after having children.
So what can organisations do?
Hannah Awonuga is an award-winning diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) senior
professional who uses her voice, experience and perspective to speak on issues
relating to gender, assessing the intersecting link of being a female, black,
neurodivergent, a carer and a mother.