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Loud quitting: Women of colour aren’t going quietly

A lot of women – and in particular Black women and women of colour – are becoming less patient with the systemic injustices they face in the workplace and are more likely to take a stand, loudly and publicly
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Women – and in particular Black women and women of colour – are becoming less patient with the systemic injustices we face in the workplace, writes Karima-Catherine Goundiam.

Karima-Catherine Goundiam is the founder and chief executive officer of digital strategy firm Red Dot Digital and business matchmaking platform B2BeeMatch.

Forget quiet quitting. The new trend I’m seeing and hearing about is loud quitting.

These days, I’m noticing that a lot of women – and in particular Black women and women of colour – are becoming less patient with the systemic injustices we face in the workplace and are more likely to take a stand, loudly and publicly. We want change. We have had enough of celebrating Black History Month, International Women’s Day and any other one-off efforts to celebrate us, but don’t result in real action. As Cindy Gallop, who recently appeared on my podcast It’s a Small Business World, says, “Don’t empower me, pay me.

Sometimes, racism manifests overtly. But what bothers me is the palpable unwelcoming atmosphere in some settings that speaks volumes. And increasingly, women of colour are speaking back.

We’re seeing a rumbling against the empty rhetoric of diversity programs and the inaction of those who are great at speaking, but fall short in making concrete changes. We’re witnessing women call out tokenism and broken promises, sometimes leaving the work force entirely. There’s an uproar over funding disparities, with recent data revealing that women-led ventures still receive only 2.8 per cent of venture capital funding worldwide, an exceedingly low number.

I’ve observed firsthand how some organizations, shielded by their private or non-profit status from disclosing diversity metrics, have quietly reduced their hiring of women. It was especially ironic when I recently found myself presenting to an all-male panel – seven men – in an entity that professes to champion diversity and inclusion. In Canada, progress is so slow that at the rate we’re going, we’ll reach gender parity by 2066, and right now only 6.6 per cent of CEOs of large publicly traded companies are women, almost all of those being white women. One headline pointed out that there are more CEOs named Michael in Canada than there are women CEOs. It’s no wonder women are fed up.

Over and over again, studies have reported on the critical value of diversity and inclusion, yet here we are, still having to argue for the acknowledgment of women’s rightful place in society. It’s astonishing – women make up 51 per cent of the world’s population. Every person owes their existence to a woman. There’s no justification for relegating half the planet’s population to second-class status. The resistance to embrace such a fundamental concept, to evolve and embrace diversity and inclusion genuinely, is disheartening. And if we can’t manage to achieve this for women in general, BIPOC women in particular will of course be worse off.

Like many women of colour, I can feel the ground shifting. There are more voices rising, louder and more determined than ever, calling for an end to this injustice. Women are willing to make a loud exit, burn bridges and lose opportunities if it means they can retain their integrity and make their voices heard.

In a recent example, Kamiqua Lake (née Pearce), founder and chief executive of the British PR agency Coldr, announced her resignation from her role as a Women in PR (WiPR) ambassador in March, citing the organization’s failure to include Black women and women of colour on its shadow board, despite previous progress in diversity. Her resignation shines a light on ongoing frustrations with superficial commitments to diversity in the PR industry. But it’s just one industry among many in which the same problems keep arising. Further examples abound: Black women’s terminations and resignations from leadership positions have inspired protests, and I’m not the only one to notice how many Black women are resigning as a statement against workplaces that feel unsafe or disrespectful. In fact, more than a third of Black women have quit a job because they felt unsafe, according to a report by Exhale, a mental wellness platform for Black women. That is a staggering number. In another recent example that has sparked outrage, this one about the treatment of Black women in higher education, the late Antoinette Candia-Bailey, a Black woman administrator at a U.S. university, pointed to a pattern of workplace bullying and harassment – in her suicide note.

If you’re a woman reading this – BIPOC or otherwise – I want to encourage you to quit loudly if you reach your limit. Stay alive, but walk away. Burn a bridge if you have to, particularly if your workplace has been toxic to you or harmful to others, or has engaged in unethical behaviour. And if you reach this point in your working life, know that you’re not alone. Be courageous.

If you’re in a position to make life better for women in your workplace, don’t wait. Do it now. Pay women more. Put women in positions of power. Pay more attention to their complaints and criticisms. You can expect more loud quitting to happen going forward. Be on the right side of history. Create a workplace that women don’t want to quit.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.