The having it all discussion fails women of color

by Oct 10, 2015

Why the having it all discussion fails women of color

This is going to sound petulant and grouchy, but I have had enough of successful women telling us regular women we can’t have it all – or we can’t have it all, at the same time. Or any other timing of “having it all.” It’s a joke.


The having it all discussion fails women of color is on point for so many reasons. The women who recite this need to define “all”. They might think they have given up “having it all”, but to us mere mortals their idea of “all” is different to ours. Their less than “all,” looks pretty darn good to us.

We have celebrity coaches suggesting we need to name our “all”. For that you actually need time. Which regular women don’t have much of.  “All” will vary from one woman to the next. Courage for a black or brown woman might be simply getting a job.

Not having it “all” to these women, who believe they have compromised on key issues, centers on factors such as this:

  • a successful career where they feel less than fulfilled, stressed and less financially well rewarded
  • a business they can’t completely focus on
  • maybe a couple of well-adjusted, academically able, healthy and sporty kids, with a warm and spacious home, in a nice neighborhood,  they can’t spend enough time with or in.
  • Throw in an equally successful good-looking, faithful, husband who they feel they neglect
  • They may believe they have less time to fully enjoy and nurture, friends, family, their health and their own needs.
  • They miss family dinners, ballet performances and sports games or have to work weekends

Honey, even if parts of that are missing, you’ve got the whole package.

If you think the absence of even a fraction of that, is a sacrifice, or a step down from having it “all,” then you have to be kidding, right? Your struggle, is your struggle with perfectionism.

Regular women

For others “having it all” will be about covering the bills at the end of the month, in a job and marriage that is reasonably secure, hoping the kids won’t fail school, go out without ID and get randomly arrested or heaven forbid, shot. We are happy if our family is healthy and if they fall sick we can afford medical treatment. Insecurity and fear of losing even a small piece of that, features largely in the gut churning, sleepless nights of the average woman.

And 20% gender wage gap? Take a look. For women of color it is actually over 35%


"having it all" discussion fails women of color

Having it all is a joke

Gratitude or settling?

And yet we women of color are grateful for what we have.  Does that mean we have a different sense of “having it all?”  We rejoice in the community of our families and churches. We appreciate the support of our friendships and want the best for our kids. We are happy to be able to feed, educate and house our children and keep them safe and warm. We are thankful to be able to sleep peacefully.

But is being grateful settling for less?

The having it all discussion fails women of color because it means that all women have to be on the same page about what it means for everyone. Currently we are nowhere close.

Having it all should be for all, not just a privileged minority.

Loki  is an African-American working as an Account Manager in an international Telecommunication company based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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