The Triple Consciousness of Being Young, Black and Female

The Triple Consciousness of Being Young, Black and Female

I consider myself a Beyonce of business. When I walk into a meeting, I know how to take my audience and…Engage them. Educate them. Entertain them.

But what I’ve kept classified until now, is that it’s also because…I’m Young, Black and Female (YBF).

Growing up Black, you’re told you have to be twice as good. Add growing up female to this equation, then you have to be thrice as good.

W.E.B Du Bois defined double consciousness as the dual identity conflict Blacks face in America.  We view ourselves through both the lens of being oppressed and the view of our oppressor.

For this editorial, I’m defining triple consciousness as the triple identity conflict millennial, Melanated, women face in business.

Depending on the landscape of the room, I view myself from these three perspectives and how each attribute can shed negative light on me.

When Hitler came to rise, African-Americans had to ask themselves if they should raise arms for a country that was doing everything in its power to push them down.

When Trump came to rise, I didn’t know if I should burn my bra, raise my fist, or make a witty post on Instagram first.

Welcome to the modern age of multi consciousness.

Most of you reading this are at least one of the three.  If you’re not, swap out young for old, black for brown, and female for LGBTQ and see where it takes you.

If wearing youth creates fear of stupidity, and wearing femininity creates fear of sensitivity, and wearing blackness creates fear of brutality, how do we “dress” for work when the wardrobe God gave us includes all three?

You dress for success on a style and cerebral level so high that you can’t be denied.  It’s not just blazers and tights; it’s knowing how to tailor your skills to your job and wearing the role right.

So, let’s suit up and get ready for the spotlight that gives no room for error, only excellence.

Young (or Young Looking)

  1. Dress for the Job You Want, Not the Position You’re In – Don’t wear a hoodie when you’re trying to be the head of the department.
  2. Casual Friday Can’t Be That Casual for You – You can wear sweatpants, but not pajama pants.
  3. Kylie Jenner Can Wear Blue Hair, You Kan’t – Settle into the office before you settle into a bold style if you’ve just been hired.


  1. CPT is a Stereotype, but Don’t Prove it by Being Late – No explanation needed.
  2. Don’t Let Them Touch Your Hair, But Tell Them About It – For those who don’t know other black people, you are their lens, so give them a clear example of who we are.
  3. Be Black and Proud…But Not Too Political – Maintain your voice, but don’t volunteer to jump in a conversation on why black people stood by OJ.


  1. You’re a Boss, Not a Bitch – If your subordinates aren’t used to reporting to a woman, then train them.
  2. Don’t Play the Girl Card When Convenient –Walk the walk of equality that we’re talking.You can do it!
  3. Don’t Ask Men to Look Up if Your Dress Is Asking Them to Look Down – You can’t wear a visually distracting ensemble and then wonder why no one’s listening.

These are the directions by which I navigate corporate spaces from my three lenses.

Ironically, the exploration of the attributes that were supposed to make me weak, have actually made me strong. My quest to disprove the stereotypes associated with my youth, blackness and femininity has actually led me on a path to strengthen who I’ve become.

I encourage everyone reading this to do the same because while it’s so difficult, it’s so dope, to be Young, Black and Female.

Wear your triple consciousness like a three-piece suit and WERK.


Malia Dawkins Jennings

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