Kyra Kyles recalls the time early in her career when an abrupt staffing change at her communications job caused managers to look to her to fill a leadership role.
Kyles said she knew she could handle the promotion. In fact, Kyles had already been performing some of the job responsibilities without the title and pay.
Still, she felt insulted the small agency had not considered her for the role before crisis struck. And as a Black woman, the pressure to perform the job without error was high, she said.
“They didn’t expect us to miss a step even though there was a clear staff interruption,” said Kyles, who is now CEO at YR Media. “In that moment I felt more nervous because I thought that as a Black woman if I’m not able to knock this out of the park I don’t want it to be a situation where they don’t give another woman of color a chance.”
Kyles’ experience isn’t unique. Experts and advocates for women of color say Black women are often hired or promoted to leadership roles at companies at times of crisis with the expectation being that they will fix the issues. The task, experts say, can be so daunting that it quickly leads to burnout or even failure.