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‘I was Broke, Furloughed, and Scared’: Why a Former Recruiter Created an Initiative to Help Black Women Land Lucrative Jobs at Companies Like Disney and Amazon

Niani Tolbert, 29, is changing the workforce game and the job market by using her recruiting skills and passion for equity. 

In honor of Juneteenth, she created a LinkedIn post that asked, “Would HR professionals join her in donating an hour of their time to review the resumes of 19 Black women in honor of Juneteenth?”

(Photo: LinkedIn)

As a result, her post went viral, and Tolbert confirmed more than 500 résumé review sessions between Black women and hiring managers. Due to the amazing success that grew from her post, Tolbert decided to turn it into her full-time job. And thus, #HireBlack was born, which provides hiring events, summits, career workshops, and career resources for Black women. It also provides a database on its site that lists the salaries for jobs within various industries, along with virtual workshops that help you better analyze salary expectations based on important factors like company size, location, and experience level.

In a recent LinkedIn post, Tolbert wrote that this effort gave her “a sense of purpose when everything else felt unstable.”

In the midst of George Floyd protests and the COVID-19 pandemic, Tolbert found herself in a whirlwind of straits. “I was broke, furloughed, and scared,” she told CNBC Make It. “I didn’t know how I’d afford to stay in New York City or where my career was going.”

Part of the reason Tolbert continued this initiative was also to help close the pay gap Black women faced in the labor force. According to the National Women’s Law Center, Black women make 67 cents to every dollar paid to white men. According to AmericanProgress.org, racial bias plays a significant role regarding this disparity. 

#HireBlack not only provided her with a new opportunity but a chance to help other women. Tolbert expressed her own experience with inequity when she worked on a freelance project. She claimed she was paid $5,000 while her white colleagues were paid $30,000 for the same job.

#HireBlack’s goal is to get 10,000 Black women employed, career educated, and provided with the opportunity of lateral job growth. Tolbert, who is CEO, and her team of eight have since secured partnerships with household names like Amazon, Uber, and Disney. So far, #HireBlack has increased Black women’s collective earnings by more than $2 million, Tolbert told CNBC. 

When it comes to the experience of Black women and asking for their worth combined with the taught idea of working twice as hard to compete in the job market, Tolbert says it can have a negative impact. 

“It instills a feeling of putting your head down and being grateful for whatever opportunities you’re given, not to challenge how much you’re getting paid, which discourages Black women from speaking up and negotiating their salaries,” she says. “Wealth is not about assets; it’s about access.”

#HireBlack not only encourages Black women to reexamine their job development but their relationships with money and advocacy for their well-being through encouraging workshops and coaching sessions. 

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