This article was originally published on 1/14/2019
Millions of women in sub-Saharan Africa make the dangerous and arduous trek to the wells each day, sometimes walking an average of 3.7 miles to access clean and safe water for their families. The powerful idea of women from different tribes banding together to accomplish a goal inspired entrepreneur Krystal Scott to launch a space for professional Black women to connect.
The Well Space launched on International Women’s Day in March 2018 and aims to provide an authentic network of career-driven Black women based on genuine relationship building.
After nearly a year of building the community from scratch, The Well has just reopened the waitlist for women to apply to join the Tribe and launched a new website along with the rollout of new member benefits.
“A lot of what we need to advance in our career can be gotten from our relationship with other people,” said Scott, founder, and CEO of The Well. “It’s really important for Black women to remember that we are a tribe. We are a community.”
The community-based platform will now allow each of its members to create and maintain their own profile on the website with the ability to directly message others. Members will also have access to a directory of The Well members by location and industry.
Other perks include a program featuring discounts and freebies from Black-women-owned brands and a 12-week mentorship program.
“When I first launched, I was thinking about The Well being a coworking space,” recalled Scott. “But, I didn’t want the community to be limited to just a physical space.”
“We’re building that infrastructure as a community for women to meet in an intentional way,” she added.
Since its launch, The Well has hosted a number of networking events in New York City. From happy hours at Ode to Babel–a Black-woman owned bar and lounge in Brooklyn–to Karaoke nights for members. Scott said the focus is on social ways for Black women to meet.
The platform, currently in beta, has just under 200 members across the United States, Spain, and Canada. The community connects virtually during video meetups, and collaborate daily via email and group messaging.
Scott—who has a background in public policy and non-profits—sought to create an environment for Black women to thrive at work after her own journey navigating the workforce and finding that she was often the only Black woman in the room.
“It’s really hard to talk to someone who isn’t a Black woman about things that are happening at work because you’re a Black woman,” she said. “There is a shared experience that Black women have in the workplace.”
The recent Women in the Workplace 2018 study published by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company found nearly half of women of color are often the “onlys” of their race at work and over 80 percent face microaggressions.
Despite efforts to improve diversity, the study found women of color only make up 17 percent of entry-level employees and 4 percent of C-suite executives.
Black women are 40 percent less likely than men to receive the first promotion to manager, reflecting the largely stagnant progress for the advancement of women in the workplace overall.
“We’re underrepresented in the workplace because we’re undervalued,” Scott said noting Black women need more support as entrepreneurs, creatives, artists, and in terms of being paid.
Black women were on average paid 61 percent of what white men were paid in 2017, according to Census data. Black women’s unemployment rate was 8.9 percent—the highest among women from all of the largest racial and ethnic groups—yet, the gap persists.
Despite the Women in the Workplace study finding stating that more Black and Latina women are requesting promotions and raises at the same rate as their white counterparts, they don’t get the same outcomes.
As the conversation around equity in the workplace wages on, Scott says she and her team are ready to expand programming and continue to provide the space for Black women to support and help each other get across the finish line.
“Black women enjoy each other’s company,” said Scott. “We understand each other in a way that’s really beautiful and really powerful.”
Photo credit: Nneka Peters