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Black entrepreneur leads effort to bring diversity to the US workforce

Stephanie
Posted at 7:52 AM, Oct 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-27 10:55:01-04

ATLANTA, Ga. — Just about every morning, Monicha Taylor hits the gym. She says it helps with productivity before logging on to work at her kitchen table.

“My favorite thing about it is the flexibility that you get,” Taylor said.

Her current public relations job makes it possible for her to work from home, but just like 25 million other Americans, she was unemployed the first few months of the pandemic.

“It was super frustrating, honestly, and scary," Taylor said. "I live alone and I have to take care of myself, so I just wasn't sure how I was going to come out of this or how I was going to stay afloat.”

Since graduating college in 2017, Taylor has been able to stay afloat thanks, in part, to freelance opportunities through Black Girl Group.

Founded by Stephanie Alston, Black Girl Group is a creative staffing platform that connects men and women of color to companies seeking more diverse creative talent.

“Let’s say they're looking for a graphic designer," Alston said. "They'll come to us and we will vet out the top three candidates for them and then we'll send those candidates over for them. They'll interview those candidates and if they decide to hire, then a relationship with them is made and then that person is able to move forward in that role.”

Alston says the idea came to her in a dream. Her goal is to diversify companies all over the U.S. by bringing people of color to the table.

“Being in PR in the past and being the only Black woman in the room on several occasions, what I realize is that oftentimes either there was not enough representation at the table or there was representation where people were afraid to speak up because they were fearful that they would be retaliated against if they did speak up,” Alston said.

Bringing women of color into the workforce is critical right now. Demographics professor Rogelio Saenz at the University of Texas-San Antonio says Black and Latina women have been the most heavily impacted by job loss during the pandemic.

“Childcare disproportionately falls to women and then with women, they also had elder care as well,” Saenz said.

Saenz’ report shows the highest peak of unemployment happened in April. Latinos had the highest unemployment rate at nearly 19%, followed by Blacks at 16.4% and whites had the lowest at around 13%.

“With respect to who was able to work from home and there that was also a significant difference, that it tended to be much more likely to be people with higher levels of education and also more likely to be whites compared to African Americans and Latinos,” Saenz said.

“The Band-Aid that was often put on the struggles that women of color face in the workplace, it was ripped off,” Alston said.

Saenz says the lack of opportunity for higher education and well-paying jobs among women of color is an issue of sexism and systemic racism. Because of that, he says the types of jobs many women of color have are in the service or tourism industries, those heavily affected while we were in lockdown.

The need for diversity became essential and noticed after George Floyd was killed in late May of 2020. Alston says that's when companies started making commitments toward diversity.

“It is unfortunate that the death of George Floyd, you know, was one of those things that propelled us into that," Alston said. "But at the same time, we are now able to give more people opportunities to sit at the table who may have otherwise never had the opportunity before.”

Taylor says her long-term goal is to become an entrepreneur like Alston, propelling women of color into high-paying and meaningful jobs.