Stop Devaluing Black Women’s Labor

One: Giant Corporation Would Like Volunteer Work

Last month, while I was at a conference, preparing to give a talk, I got a message from someone at a large tech corporation–really large. The biggest one you can think of–yeah, that’s the one.

He wanted to know if I would be interested in making a 4 hour drive to give a talk in their talk series. He made sure to mention how popular the series is, how many thousands of subscribers they have and millions of views they get. He mentioned how much they ‘love’ my talks and cited an example from one of them. He included a link to the YouTube channel so I could see how many smart, famous people have given talks for them.

He did not mention compensation so I sent back my standard form letter which outlines my conditions for considering a talk, one of which is being paid.

He wrote back and said he totally understood and agreed but the talk team from Giant Corporation That Has More Money Than God, Bill Gates and Oprah combined does not compensate their speakers. But maybe he could scrounge up some money from interest groups and individuals inside the company. He attached a couple of sample videos so I could see that I had the opportunity to join Famous Internet Celebrity and Really Smart Director of Health center. Didn’t I want to be part of such a prestigious club?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized, there’s literally no value for me in giving a talk for this particular audience. He never said what kind of talk he was hoping for, but I’m betting it’s one similar to this one, or this one, this one, all of which involve a huge amount of emotional labor, even with audiences I feel safe with.

The implied promise of ‘exposure’ from such a talk wouldn’t help my business and might inch me that much closer to the visibility tipping point that usually results in short or long term online harassment for Black women.

Two: Refer Paying Client, Get Invite to Mentor Strangers for Free

I referred a client to another favorite client of mine who helps people by providing online courses. They signed up for a several hundred dollar course.

The same client sent me an email intro to a friend who is older and interested in changing careers and becoming a developer. She wanted to do an informational interview with me and the client thought I could share my insights. For free. When I wrote back with my standard canned reply which details all the many free resources I have already written and posted about, I got a second, enthusiastic reply asking for more resources, and more time and free mentoring.

Three: Can I Buy You Lunch?

A fellow tenant in the office I work from was impressed with my project management and organization with the project I’m currently working on and frequently says, he should follow my example. He offers to buy me lunch in return for ‘picking my brain’ for information I’ve spent many thousands of dollars in courses, mentors and mistakes, to learn over the past two years.

Four: This Way to The Free Stuff!

I was frustrated with this trend and took to twitter to vent my frustration:

I got into a short exchange with a young man working on growing his podcast. After the exchange, he was kind enough to send a small donation via Paypal, which was nice, but this was what he chose to highlight from the interaction:

(Follow Kronda for free labor!)

Five: Just Kidding, I Don’t Really Want to Pay for That

An accountability partner who I met from a (paid) online course we are both in, laments almost every week about her frustration with all things technical and the challenge of implementing some of the things we’re learning. She asks if we can talk about doing business and if can take on some of the technical aspects of running her two websites, setting up password management, email marketing and a few other things off her plate. It takes her two days to successfully find / reset her login so I can even look at the back end of the site.

I spend a couple of hours reviewing her sites and coming up with a suggested plan of action and the investment required.

When I’m finished, she says, “I just don’t see the value in that.” She’s fine paying a similar amount for the information in the course, which only has value if implemented.

Six: You Look Like You’ve Got Some Free Time for a Random Student

This week, my podcast interview with Revision Path was published. It was a great conversation and I’m really happy with how it came out. A day later, a new appointment from my (not very public) online calendar pops up with a name I’ve never seen before. I generally only send scheduling links to current and potential clients.

I reach out and ask if we’ve met somewhere before and what he’s hoping to chat about. He replies:

Hi!
I was just listening to the Revision Path episode and I just started learning WordPress and there were a few key questions I wanted to ask because I feel like I’m not working as efficiently as possible.

Seven: It’s Not Just Me

A post came across my Facebook feed linking to this 2012 interview with Toni Morrison. Charlie Rose, the interviewer asks her a question about racism and she responds, in part:

My feeling is, white people have a very serious problem and they should start thinking about what they can do about it.

He responds, “Then give white people some free advice.”

Eight: You’re Both Black Developers!

A friend sends another intro to a Black developer looking for people to learn from.

Nine: Try to Do Good. Fuck it Up.

I tweet this article today, but even through he was writing about how managers can treat women better at work, he admits to asking two women friends who are professional editors, to review his article for free. (He paid them eventually).

Ten: I’m Done

These examples are only from the past month. I consider putting a pay wall around my entire life. Friends on friend missions will receive coupon codes for free entry. Although I want to be a generous person, it’s frustrating beyond measure to wonder if I have somehow posted a sign on my forehead that says,

“FREE EMOTIONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LABOR”

I don’t think I have done this. I think most people know that I have a business and that I exchange money for services in that business and mostly do a pretty good job.

If I do things outside of that purview that others find inspiring or useful, that’s great. But as I struggle to find the time and resources for a project I’ve been working on for nearly a year, it’s really frustrating to continually receive the message at every turn, that a vast number of people place literally no value on my time or expertise.

I’m pretty sure I don’t have that sign on my forehead. I’m pretty sure, I do have brown skin and a woman’s body and that if neither of those things were true, I wouldn’t be having these experiences on a weekly basis.

Eleven: Email Intro Pro Tip

I saw this tweet with some great advice from Stacy-Marie Ishmael on email introductions. You should go read it.

Twelve: An Invitation to Reflect

This is an invitation to you to reflect on your interactions with women of color and ask yourself if you have devalued their time / expertise or labor in the past. This is an invitation to evaluate whether you would like to change that behavior if in fact you are guilty of it, either by not asking, or by paying for services you find valuable.

In Conclusion

If you need me, my PayPal is always open.

http://paypal.me/kronda

9 Comments


  1. Thank you for writing this! I’m at the tipping point in my career where I can no longer afford to give my time away for free, and I have many of the examples you’ve gone through here sitting in my inbox waiting to be answered because I haven’t practiced valuing myself. Can you please point me at your canned responses? How do you measure the value of opportunity (people asking for things) and decide where to focus?

    Reply

    1. “…I’m at the tipping point in my career where I can no longer afford to give my time away for free…Can you please point me at your canned responses?…”

      Do you see what you did here? You assume (1) she even has “canned responses”, and (2) she’s willing to dig them up and organize for you *for free*, given this essay lamenting doing such a thing. Life is hard 🙂

      Reply

  2. This is a repost for me, thanks Kronda, I always gain so much insight from you posts.

    Mama, Cousin, Sista Auntie Liz

    Reply

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