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The 'Great Resignation': Black Women Share Why They Left Their Jobs To Find Fulfillment

A snapshot of what's behind the wave of bold professionals building their new normal.

Workin' Girl

There's this phenomenon that's being talked about on social media as well as in the news, where a wave of people have sparked what is now being called the "Great Resignation." Professionals have been chucking the deuces to working their 9-to-5s and saying to hell with pandemic-era fear and hesitation. This recent wave, which includes at least 4.3 million workers, has been led by—you guessed it—women, who have been quitting their jobs at a higher rate than men.


And here are some telling tidbits about the who, what, where, when and why of it all: Harvard Business Review reports that resignation numbers are the highest in the healthcare and tech industries, both areas where high levels of stress came in with the increased demand during and after the pandemic. Rates are also high among mid-career workers (Hey, all my geriatric millennials! Heeey!) who perhaps have "reached a breaking point" and are rethinking career and life goals.

Let's get into a few real-life stories of Black women who took the plunge to find success and fulfillment, redefine balance, and get to the bag in ways that shift the narrative.

Allyssa resigned from her job as a VP in marketing after more than a decade managing multimillion-dollar campaigns for global beauty and luxury brands. She officially launched her company, Meg & Munro, in September 2020 and hasn't looked back since. "I left because I began to notice that despite the resounding success, I was frequently being overlooked as a Black consumer of those brands and as a key strategist on the marketing team," Alyssa says. "With the goal of bringing more inclusivity to the marketing field, I launched a marketing and communications agency for beauty and lifestyle brands."

She held a passion to tap into new audiences and offer her skills on her own terms while expanding the landscape of brand awareness. "With the growing attention to the multicultural beauty and personal care category in the height of the pandemic, many brands needed help reaching the same diverse consumers they once ignored," she added. "Through public relations, social media, and influencer partnerships, my agency drives visibility, interest, and demand for brands aiming to reach multicultural consumers."

"Surprisingly, the pandemic allowed me to double down on my decision to leave my full-time marketing position. I saw how uncertain things were in the workplace and thought it was a better use of my time and talents to grow my own business."

Allyssa has enjoyed her new normal after taking the leap. "I now experience less anxiety (no more Sunday Scaries!) and have a lot more ownership over my work and time," she says. "Since launching, we have worked with dozens of beauty and lifestyle brands and creators including Converse Shoes, Footlocker, Anderson Bluu, Her Agenda, Strange Bird Beauty, Avocurl, and Yawoni just to name a few. Our work and clients have also appeared on The View and inGlamour, Forbes, Refinery29, Good Housekeeping, Hypebeast, Goop, and much more!"

For others who might be pausing their efforts to go forward with leaving their jobs, especially at a prime time when millions of companies and professionals are reevaluating strategies and goals, she urges planning and patience. "Leverage your network. It's important to communicate your values and let others know your goals for starting a business. Second, it's very important to plan your finances and strategy for making money within the first few years of operating. It takes time to start seeing returns in business, and it will be difficult to scale and/or make sound business decisions if you're constantly worrying about finances."

Melissa decided to go full-time with her love for makeup artistry last November, after slowly growing her business as a side hustle. "I was working as an underwriting analyst for an insurance company, and my part-time business was starting to require more of my time," she recalls. "The more it grew the more I realized that's where my passion was. My career was no longer fulfilling. In addition to not feeling fulfilled in my career, I had a boss that micromanaged everything I did."

"I felt overwhelmed, undervalued, and drained. My 9-to-5 was holding me back from reaching my full potential. My boss would often deny my PTO requests and when he did approve my time off, I would feel the retaliation when I returned to work."

The final straw for Melissa was when she took approved PTO for a big wedding booking, and upon returning to the office, was met with an abrupt meeting request. "It was about my work and more micromanaging. In that moment I knew I couldn't do it for another day. I submitted my resignation letter in the middle of a pandemic not sure what would happen next."

Stepping up her game in building MeMa Creations and gaining new clientele seemed like a natural next step for Melissa. "That feeling of uncertainty—not knowing what tomorrow may bring—made me feel so uneasy, but it also made my decision to leave very clear. I didn't want to continue putting all my time and efforts into a corporation that didn't value me. I was tired of sacrificing my own dreams for someone else's dream."

Since going full-time with her business she has enjoyed a level of success that she can be proud of. "I have done makeup for more than 60 weddings, in addition to my regular clients," she says. "I also offer virtual makeup lessons and one-on-one in-person makeup lessons. My work has been published in two major magazines in less than a year, and I am launching my makeup products before the end of the year."

Tracy started her firm in June 2020 as a pivot due to the pandemic. She'd worked for a decade in the finance industry, and had taken a leap of faith to pursue a career as a retail fashion buyer and independent image consultant. "The ongoing freelancing that I was doing lessened significantly in early 2020, but as opportunities came back, I was not comfortable doing image consulting due to the nature of the work. It was impossible to be socially distant," she said. "So when an opportunity for PR management arose, I leaned into it and grew it knowing I needed to replace my income."

Tracy's reputation preceded her, and she was able to help a previous image consulting client to help with her public image via PR management. That was when she says, Tracy Aliche Consulting really took off. "I took on the challenge, hit the ground running, and soon attracted opportunities to do the same for other entrepreneurs as a result of all the press I was able to secure. We now have a roster of five full-time clients, and the rise has been truly exhilarating!"

For others considering quitting their day jobs to pursue a new career or journey, Tracy suggests investing time in a bit of self-actualization. "One of the most important things to consider before leaving a job is being honest with yourself about what you're willing and not willing to sacrifice to reach your end goal," she adds. "What are you willing to give up? Would you give up your cozy apartment if it meant being able to sustain financially after leaving the workforce? If you insist on maintaining your current lifestyle as is, then creating a realistic timeline, building a financial safety net, and having a fully fleshed-out backup plan are non-negotiables. I think it's important to know your 'why.'"

Watchen Nyanue's journey in transitioning from a 9-to-5 to entrepreneurship during the Great Resignation has a positive twist. She'd been leading a podcast that was the launchpad for her brand, all while working full time as a WNBA executive. "My job was actually amazing, but I knew that, for the sake of my reputation and for the work I'd put in, I didn't want to start letting the quality of my work drop to pursue something else and ruin the reputation I'd already built in decades of work. My company was literally behind me 100%. They knew when the podcast launched, and they are [actually] one of my clients today."

Her platform, I Choose The Ladder, helps large corporations develop and retain their high-performing Black female talent, a service that came in high demand.

"The pandemic, at least for me, was a gift and a curse. The time that we had at home gave me some time to assess what I wanted to be spending my time doing and who I wanted to be spending my time with. And because I started planting the seed already, the jump wasn't as scary as I thought it would be."

She offers some key advice for women who are thinking about joining the wave. "First I would encourage folks to ask, 'Is it the company you work for, the person you work for or is it corporate America?' A lot of times we make large decisions based on really small factors. Maybe the company that you work for is not the best fit for what you're trying to do. That doesn't mean there's not a company that can meet your needs."

Another key piece of advice: "A lot of people go to entrepreneurship because they're running from something not because they're running to something. If you're running from a job and all of the chaos that you think might be in corporate, a lot of those things still exist in entrepreneurship. And if you have not figured out how to navigate [challenges] while on someone else's dime, it's going to be an even steeper, more expensive, more stressful, and lonely learning curve. So make sure you're running to entrepreneurship, not just from corporate America."

Featured image via Getty Images

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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