Black women have been at the cusp of racism and sexism both in and out of the workplace. Despite the challenges, they have continued to strive through and succeed. Women of colour confront two glass ceilings in the workplace; the first is there because they are a woman and the second is because they are a woman of colour. However, BAME women have not given up in changing the story and creating new paths; their efforts have not just been for individual gain, but for the wider BAME community and our daughter’s daughters.
The short-film Dọlápọ̀ Is Fine is the first to shed light on the pressures and challenges Black women specifically face with their identity in the workplace. Dọlápọ̀ (played by Doyin Ajiboye) is set to graduate from a British boarding school keen to begin a career in finance. To improve her prospects, she meets a career advisor who she hopes can guide her to breaking into the finance industry. It is during Dọlápọ̀’s meeting with the career advisor, Daisy (played by Joan Iyiola), where we first get an insight to the common challenges BAME women come up against in the workplace. Daisy suggests Dọlápọ̀ change her name to Dolly and hide her afro in order to give herself the best opportunity of having the successful career that she wants. Despite reservations, Dọlápọ̀ decides to take the advisor’s advice and surpress her identity.
Daisy’s advice comes from her underlying contempt to conform to workplace standards and “fit in” into the culture. The fifteen-minute short-film draws attention to important issues like racism, conformity, and conventional beauty standards – each of which most women of colour can relate to. The film does end on a positive note, however, leaving the audience full of hope and empowered, just as Dọlápọ̀ goes on to be.
Joan Iyiola, who played Daisy in the film, is a British-Nigerian actress, writer, and producer based in London. She is also the screenwriter of Dọlápọ̀ is fine. She provided us with insight into the subject of the film and how the workplace can be more inclusive of women of colour. Joan says she “felt compelled to write this film because it felt to us that this was an important issue that we had yet to see on screen, and we also wanted to showcase a positive narrative centring on a young black woman’s experience, in a coming-of-age moment.”
Women of colour often struggle with breaking into certain industries due to several reasons. These reasons can range from cultural taboos to workplace stereotypes that prevent them from entering different professions. Increased calls for inclusivity and diversity have encouraged women of colour to break into their preferred careers. However room for improvement remains.
Joan narrated her own experiences, saying that “the difficulties have stemmed from refusing to accept us for who we are and asking us to fit awkwardly into a box that isn’t right for us.” She suggested that in order to support more Black women into leadership roles, organisations need to listen more. “Profoundly listening and being prepared that the approach for support might be a different model than the one that is traditionally and historically used… Sign up to Halo Code, and learn how to pronounce peoples names!”
Joan advises Black women and other women of colour who are faced with challenges at work to “Remember that you are not alone and that so many women like you have encountered the same challenges. Find them, share your experiences, and don’t let the challenges sink into your bones. Find a way to release and find a community who can support you. Combating this with your method of joy is the best medicine to get you through.”
We are fortunate to be living in an age where there are many strong women of colour offering inspiration to young girls through their resilience, courage, and success. But as the saying goes, there is no such thing as too many successful women to look up to. Ultimately, as women, we need to offer one another support and share our stories to get through the hurdles.
Dọlápọ̀ is fine stands out as a film because it leaves the audience full of confidence and hope. We asked Joan what she wanted the audience to take away from the film and she replied “we want the audience to take away a message of empowerment with this film and hope that it encourages them to find confidence and self-acceptance in who they are, and in turn to find a celebration!
Dọlápọ̀ is fine is available to watch on Netflix UK and HBO. Here is a trailer of the film.
Ayesha Mirza is a journalism intern at Yellow Eve. She is passionate about dismantling patriarchal structures and uplifting the voices of marginalised groups.
Related reading: Inspired by my manager: Why we need more Black women at the top