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The truth is : the emotional tax is real 

“I’ve always wanted to work.” 

For Alicia Lashley, she always envisioned working a job that would be fulfilling for her. One of the reasons she searched for any and all opportunities that could fulfill her was due to witnessing her parents working 9-5s in their governmental jobs.

When it comes to future job prospects, our parents can play a huge part in the process. It often begins with what we choose to study

However, even prior to that, you may be observing how they move within their jobs before truly understanding what it may mean.

For some parents, they speak outright to their kids in an attempt to assuage their expectations. Many African-Canadian children can attest to having heard, at least once in their lives, their parents say:

“You have to work twice as hard, to get half as far.”

Having navigated the system, they knew all too well how it could be towards all those who fall short of this arbitrary standard. 

But, sometimes our parents influence how we — the next generation — navigate the workforce especially when it comes to dealing with racism at work. 

As a mid-level partnership coordinator, prior to entering the workforce, Alicia loved the idea of working. Today, after many years in various fields, she says “I think [work] requires a lot more mental and physical energy than I ever thought [it would].” 

A part of that may be due to the emotional tax Alicia deals with in her daily interactions with her boss compared to the relationship she has with her colleagues and clients. An emotional tax is defined as ‘the heightened experience of being treated differently from peers due to race/ethnicity or gender, triggering adverse effects on health and feelings of isolation and making it difficult to thrive at work.’ According to a survey by Catalyst, nearly 60% of women of color have experienced this burden.  

“I have a poor relationship with my boss. I believe there’s been some racism from my boss….I have a friendly relationship with my colleagues but I am much closer with my clients and partners,” she says.

Alicia didn’t grow up talking about racism and prejudice with her parents. “I just grew up embracing my culture as a Black Caribbean Canadian,” she shares. Regarding her parents’ views of how to navigate the workforce, she says they “mostly encouraged her to be herself and to work hard.” 

Though Alicia has struggled with her boss deeming her intimidating simply due to her work ethic, she hopes for the day where all races will be treated the same and different cultures embraced…on the clock and off.


Josie Fomé is a multimedia Journalist with a keen interest on issues related to the African Continent and the African diaspora. She has international experience in community facilitation, radio show production and documentary film making. She has a passion for reshaping and creating new narratives surrounding the African continent and the African diaspora through story telling in all its forms.


Dnika, J. Travis, Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon, and Courtney McCluney, Emotional Tax: How Black Women and Men Pay More at Work and How Leaders Can Take Action (Catalyst, 2016). 

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