Last week, I had the chance to sit down and talk with the farmers market manager, Julie Rice. She is very quick, very successful, and seems to know every single person who steps foot in our market. Julie has a background in corporate management, but somehow made her way to HOPE Village Revitalization. She is so knowledgeable about entrepreneurship and how to run a good business, and sometimes I see her guiding the emerging vendors at our farmers market and giving them advice on how to grow their customer base.
She shared with me some of her stories about working in a high-up position as a black woman. In one instance, she was in charge of directing a store opening for a Target in North Carolina. Essentially, she had to go in and direct the entire staff (including the store managers) on what to do. She said that most of them ignored her directions and responded in racially hostile ways. In response, she called the VP of Target, who was also a black woman, who flew into North Carolina from New Orleans and set things straight. In Julie’s story, the VP brought the store manager into his own office, and she was sitting behind his own desk as she told him that he must respect Julie and follow her advice (or else he would be fired).
Julie said it was infuriating to feel so disrespected; she had worked hard to earn this managerial position and it felt like no one would listen. Her takeaway from these difficult experiences is that we must have more black women in positions of power. In her case, it was another black woman in power that helped her out. And, she believes that for many of the employees at this store, seeing Julie as ‘the boss’ made them realize that capability and intelligence is not determined by race and/or gender.