In 2019, Cleveland was ranked the worst place in America for Black Women.

The Problem

Research in 2019 found that Cleveland is the worst place in America for Black women in terms of Healthcare, Education, and Economics. 

While this research helped us understand the severity of what Cleveland is like for Black women, it didn't include any information on what life is like in Cleveland for the thousands of Black women living out their lives in our community. 

We decided to change that. We developed a survey designed to collect the experiences and perspectives of Black women in Cleveland. 

The response was overwhelming. Nearly 500 Black women shared their stories. Stories of targeting, harassment, exclusion, ignorance, and perseverance. 

"I worry for my daughters. At this point in my life and my career, I think about whether or not they should stay here. It's not the safest place for them. I wonder, will they be able to thrive here? The older I get the more likely I think it is that I will have to tell them they are better off finding a new home.

The Method

We built a research model rooted in Phenomenological principles. Put simply, this means that we are researching lived experience. We aren't here to prove whether or not Black women are subjected to worse situations, the existing research already proves that they do. 

This project focuses on what it is like to live, work, and pursue education in a city that is designed to exclude you. 

After gathering stories, we applied qualitative and quantitative research methods to identify common themes. What we are searching for are experiences with similar challenges. Once we find those shared barriers, we can devise strategies for breaking them down.

You will find two reports born out of our research — the first focuses on how Black women can protect themselves while interacting with these systems. We include descriptions of common barriers, strategies for self-advocacy, and support for individuals. 

The second is aimed at organizations. How can we do more, position ourselves for success? 

"I am a classroom teacher. A white teacher confused me with another teacher, came into my room, while I was teaching, insulted me and swore at me in front of my students and left. When I reported her to the administration, I was asked if I was overreacting and if I could just forgive her for the sake of the team."

The Urgency

The world is becoming increasingly diverse. 2020 marks the first year that Millennials comprise the majority of working people. In addition, Generation Z is entering the workforce in earnest. These two groups will form the economic powerhouse of the American economy for the next several decades. 

These two generations are significantly more liberal than previous generations. They are increasingly diverse themselves, and they see inclusion as a major deciding factor as to where they will work, live, and innovate. 

In addition, we are witnessing fundamental shifts in the future of work and life. The Covid-19 pandemic generated many new work-from-home opportunities, untethering millions from living near work. In addition, Covid-19 has generated a housing crisis in crowded areas, prompting many young people to consider new places to settle. 

Cleveland is uniquely positioned to capitalize on these fundamental shifts in our economy. We are a highly diverse community, with accessible housing and living prices and a location that facilitates access to the entire eastern seaboard. 

However, we will not attract talent while our story continues to be one of exclusion and hardship for people at diverse intersections. The future or our region depends on our ability to revolutionize inclusion. The future of innovation will come from diverse minds. We have to commit to attracting and building that talent now.