Navigating the Intersection: Colourism, Ethnic Hierarchies, and Career Progression for Highly Skilled Migrant Black Women

ethnic hierarchies leadership Jan 01, 2024
Amina Chitembo

In the complex landscape of career progression, highly skilled migrant Black women face a unique set of challenges that intersect with colourism and ethnic hierarchies. These women, often possessing advanced degrees and professional expertise, encounter multiple layers of stereotypes that can impede their professional advancement. This article explores the intersectionality of colourism and ethnic hierarchies and how these dynamics manifest in the workplace, affecting the career trajectories of highly skilled migrant Black women.

Understanding Colourism and Ethnic Hierarchies

Colourism, deeply ingrained in societal norms, perpetuates biases based on skin tone within racial or ethnic groups. Ethnic hierarchies, on the other hand, involve the stratification of different ethnicities within a given society, often influenced by historical, economic, and political factors. For highly skilled migrant Black women, these intersecting dynamics create unique challenges as they navigate their professional journeys.

Double Jeopardy

Highly skilled migrant Black women often face a form of double jeopardy, being subject to both racial and gender biases. Colourism exacerbates this experience, as lighter-skinned individuals may encounter fewer barriers than their darker-skinned counterparts. These intersecting stereotypes can affect hiring decisions, promotions, and overall workplace dynamics.

Stereotypes and Tokenism

Stereotypes surrounding Black women, such as the "angry Black woman" or the "sassy diva," persist in the workplace. For highly skilled migrant Black women, these stereotypes intersect with perceptions of their ethnic background, contributing to the risk of being tokenised rather than recognised for their skills and qualifications.

Networking Challenges

Building professional networks is crucial for career progression, but colourism and ethnic hierarchies can impact the networking opportunities available to highly skilled migrant Black women. Social circles and professional connections may be limited, affecting access to mentorship and sponsorship crucial for career development.

Addressing the Challenges

Dismantling Stereotypes through Education: Organisations must prioritise educational initiatives to raise awareness about the intersecting challenges faced by highly skilled migrant Black women. Training programs should address unconscious biases, debunk stereotypes, and foster a more inclusive workplace culture.

Promoting Diversity in Leadership: Actively promoting diversity in leadership positions is essential. When Black women see others who have overcome similar challenges in leadership roles, it can be a source of inspiration and encouragement. Organisations should implement inclusive hiring practices and ensure diverse representation in decision-making positions.

Cultivating Inclusive Networks: Creating spaces for inclusive networking is crucial. Organisations can establish mentorship programs to support highly skilled migrant Black women, providing guidance and fostering connections that contribute to their professional growth.

Advocacy for Policy Changes: Advocacy for policies that address colourism and ethnic hierarchies is essential. This includes pushing for anti-discrimination policies, transparent promotion processes, and initiatives that actively combat biases in the workplace.


Addressing the multiple intersecting stereotypes faced by highly skilled migrant Black women requires a comprehensive and collaborative effort. By dismantling colourism and ethnic hierarchies, promoting inclusivity, and advocating for policy changes, organisations and individuals can contribute to a more equitable professional landscape where the talents and contributions of highly skilled migrant Black women are recognised and valued. Embracing diversity is a moral imperative and a strategic move that enhances innovation, creativity, and the overall success of organisations.

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