“If we aren’t intersectional, some of us, the most vulnerable, are going to fall through the cracks.” -Kimberlé Crenshaw

Over the years, research scholars have conducted research and coined phrases and terms to help readers understand the human experience, which can trigger responses that unearth emotions such as sadness, anger, pain, or joy. Sometimes, instead of embracing a new learning opportunity, further division and lack of understanding are met at the intersection of unknowingness and the possibility of creating a future of promise, awareness, and compassion for our neighbor’s experience and hope for something better shatters. Understanding another’s perception has the potential to add value to life.

There is an opportunity to learn from the stringent work of research scholars.

Researchers go through an extensive, rigorous process of collecting and analyzing data, whether for sociology, medicine, or psychology, by exploring and investigating issues. A researcher then makes recommendations for policy and system changes as well as suggestions for further research. The process of collecting, interpreting, analyzing, and writing up data findings takes years. A study must pass through trustworthiness, which includes validity, credibility, and dependability. The researcher gets grilled by their universities and the Institutional Review Board and must go through additional coursework and testing to ensure the safety of humans and institutions who participate in the research process. Researchers are cross-examined on biases to ensure that the results are not based on subjective opinion, but are factual. With all of the scholarly research that exists, researchers still need to research groups we don’t often learn about, particularly women.

Research on the experiences of women has allowed the world to understand their experiences in the workplace.

Findings have helped create policy and laws that assist thoughtful leaders of organizations in including positive experiences for all employees. Results from the C.R.O.W.N. (Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Research Study (2019) revealed that African American women faced overburdening by workplace policies and practices linked to personal grooming such as hairstyles and hair texture. California Senate Bill 188, the CROWN Act, was unanimously passed and signed into law on July 3, 2019, and expanded the definition of race in the Fair Employment and Housing Act and state Education Code to ensure protection in workplaces and K-12 public and charter schools.

Findings from The Lived Experiences of African American Women Superintendents in California K-12 Public Schools research revealed that psychological stress is associated with various mental health issues because of the personal nature of interactions often encountered in the workspace. Stress from daily negative experiences that may be due to race and gender may result in health-related issues such as hypertension, breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, anger, and anxiety. This study revealed that African American women faced greater workplace scrutinization, micromanagement, and higher standards for work performance. Also, they faced more significant consequences in their work settings. This research showed that being held to a higher standard happens as early as elementary school settings by notable differences in discipline, grading, and behavioral expectations.

Benicia resident, Mrs. Valerie Roberts Gray, provided her perspective about her experiences in the workplace.

Mrs. Gray holds a Masters of Arts in Communications, has an extensive career in civil service and corporate, and currently works for a nonprofit. When asked about experiences related to gender and race, Mrs. Gray stated the following, “Both are consistent with who I am and being a woman and an African American, one being cannot exist without the other. It is important for employers to understand that for women, particularly for women of color, there is not an option to be one or the other. The experiences for women of color are that of a woman as a person of color.”

The intersections of one’s existence are often in tandem with class, age, ability, education, and so forth. Mrs. Gray said, “When circumstances arise, it can sometimes be difficult to ascertain if decisions are made on the basis of my being a woman, a person of color or on the basis of different life experiences that shape one’s perceptions of life.” Mrs. Gray shared, “There also has been the question of qualifications. I grew up in a household where education, hard work, and doing your best were always stressed. These were considered keys to success.” Mrs. Gray mentioned her experiences with promotional opportunities. She stated, “I’ve gone for promotions and been non-selected where others with lesser qualifications were placed over me, and I had to train the boss.” Mrs. Gray wondered if the non-selection was based on race and gender, considering no one on the panel looked like her. Mrs. Gray did not allow herself to be discouraged. Mrs. Gray stated, “I remember the words from the song, ‘if at first, you don’t succeed, pick yourself up and try again.’” Mrs. Gray shared the importance of organizational structures including diverse perspectives in decision making and stated, “If you aren’t on the other side of the table, you can’t make a change.”

Mrs. Gray offered encouraging words to other women:

“Follow your passion in life and do not be afraid to take a risk … Risk aversion doesn’t allow you to grow. In life, you have to be willing to go out on the limb to get the fruit.”

Devoted to community service, Mrs. Gray is an active member of the local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. Mrs. Gray spoke about the importance of finding a healthy balance and outside activities, stating, “Balance will make you a happier, more well-rounded person.”

We wish all mothers a Happy Mother’s Day. Mrs. Gray shared that her greatest joy is her family; “I am also so proud to see my adult children following their career passions and realizing my husband and I, with the Lord’s blessing, were able to help in guiding them along the path. This is joy!”

Mrs. Gray with mother, daughter, and granddaughter