This ex-recruiter is helping Black women increase pay by thousands

Two summers ago, as the Covid-19 pandemic hit New York, Niani Tolbert feared it was about to hit rock bottom.

Tolbert had lost her job as a tech recruiter months earlier. “I was broke, furloughed and scared,” she tells CNBC Make It. “I didn’t know how I could afford to stay in New York City or where my career was going.”

That June, she watched millions of people take to the streets to protest the police killing of George Floyd – and despite not feeling comfortable joining the crowd and risking contracting the virus watching the marches stirred something in her.

She decided the best contribution she could make to the racial justice movement was to donate her time and expertise as a recruiter to help other people of color like her who were struggling to find work during the pandemic.

Tolbert posted a request on LinkedIn: Would HR professionals join her in donating an hour of their time to review the resumes of 19 black women in honor of June 16?

Her post quickly went viral on the platform, and within weeks, Tolbert was able to coordinate more than 500 resume review sessions between black women and hiring managers.

Leading the volunteer work gave Tolbert “a sense of purpose when everything else felt unstable,” the 29-year-old wrote in a subsequent LinkedIn post.

She decided to make the #HireBlack initiative her full-time job: Now #HireBlack offers hiring events, an annual summit, career workshops, a job board, and other career resources for black women.

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#HireBlack’s mission is to hire, train and promote 10,000 black women. Tolbert, who serves as CEO, and her team of eight work with top companies like Amazon, Uber and Disney to recruit and hire black women.

Another aspect of #HireBlack’s mission is to help close the huge pay gap black women still face: Black women who work full-time year-round earn just 67 cents for every dollar paid to white women – Hispanic men will be paid, according to new research from the National Women’s Law Center. The pay gap cuts black women by $22,692 per year and $907,680 over the span of a 40-year career.

Since its inception, #HireBlack has helped black women increase their collective income by over $2 million, with some women seeing increases in pay of up to $60,000, reports Tolbert. This is how she and her team did it.

“Wealth is not about wealth, it’s about access”

Talking about money can evoke uncomfortable emotions among black women, who are often told they have to work twice as hard to be considered successful, Tolbert says.

“It gives a sense of bowing your head and being thankful for all the opportunities you get and not questioning how much you’re being paid, which discourages black women from speaking out and negotiating their salaries.” , she says.

Prejudice and discrimination contribute to this inequality, research has shown. But Tolbert says part of the pay gap is because black women don’t negotiate their salaries as often as their white counterparts, and when they do, they are less successful at negotiating than their peers.


Tolbert has experienced this injustice first-hand: On a freelance project, she says, she was once paid $5,000 while her white colleague was paid $30,000 for the same work.

The experience left her feeling “overwhelmed, discouraged and undervalued,” Tolbert recalls. Companies will use these negative emotions and secrecy to their advantage, she adds, “to underpay women and minorities.”

That’s where #HireBlack comes in: Through her summits, workshops, Slack groups, and coaching sessions, Tolbert and her team empower Black women to examine their emotions around money and gain a clearer understanding of their unique needs around pay and non-payment. develop pay. monetary benefits such as B. A robust health insurance plan or additional PTO.

“Wealth isn’t about wealth, it’s about access: access to information, access to resources,” she explains.

#HireBlack offers a free crowdsourced database of salary details for jobs in various industries on its website, as well as free virtual workshops that guide attendees through the various factors that drive salaries, including company size, location, and the employee’s past experience .

#HireBlack team members: Ashlee Jones, Jedaiah Daniels, Qiana Pierre and Niani Tolbert

Photo: Tiana Timmerberg

The importance of a ‘bragging book’ and a ‘money team’

For black women, successful salary negotiation begins with two tools: a “money team” and a “bragging book,” according to Tolbert.

Tolbert defines a “money team” as the mentors, staff representatives, recruiters, colleagues, and work friends with whom black women can have regular, transparent discussions about compensation, provide them with negotiating advice, and “talk about it behind closed doors in a conversation that is positive light.”

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“Unfortunately, I don’t see these conversations often among black women, who are often one of the few people of color in their workplace or who may be nervous about talking about these issues at work, but it’s one of the most important things we can do to help.” make sure we’re paid fairly,” says Tolbert.

To start building a money team, Tolbert recommends networking with a few friends in your industry who have similar years of experience, or a trusted manager.

Next comes the boast book, or a private folder where employees should document all of their accomplishments at work, including any positive feedback, milestones, and metrics that show their progress in the role.

During a performance review or salary negotiation, a boast book can help employees identify and communicate the value they bring to a company, says Tolbert.

“Ultimately, black women need to be their own best advocates in the workplace,” she adds. “We want to provide them with all the information, resources and encouragement they need to negotiate successfully.”


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