Women in Black and White

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 1, 2006; 7:24 AM ET

Leading a Mommy Wars discussion in Columbus, Ohio, I met a woman named Paula Penn-Nabrit, with whom I had a great deal in common: We both have three children, had studied at elite East Coast colleges, both worked in business, and each had written a book about parenthood. (And if Paula’s name sounds familiar, it may be because On Balance profiled her experience homeschooling her sons a few months ago.)

Our primary difference is that Paula is black and I am white. But we discovered that this led to another commonality: We both had long wondered why candid communication and camaraderie between black and white women, at work, school and home, is unusual in America.

So we decided to do something about it. We developed the first national survey exploring how life, love, work, motherhood, money, sex, religion, and relationships differ for black and white women in America. This isn’t to say that other distinctions — racial, economic, cultural, religious, geographic — aren’t important, too. But given the long and interdependent history between black and white women in America, we thought it would be fruitful to give women a reason to contemplate and discuss our commonality and differences.

The “Women in Black and White” survey launches today. Completing the survey, which is anonymous and confidential, takes about 15-20 minutes. The questions are meant to be thought-provoking; you’ll find them very different from standard market research. The survey is not scientific and it’s not designed to be used to set any policies or draw any national conclusions.

The questions are meant to get us all thinking about the role race plays in our lives as mothers and workers, and to start an open conversation between black and white women in this country. The results will be released in 2007. Neither Paula nor I stand to benefit financially from the survey. It’s also important to mention that no one at The Washington Post had anything to do with developing the questions or analyzing the data.

Does your race influence your work, where you went to school, your parenting style, your goals for your children? If you answer “no,” think again, and take the survey. You may be surprised by how little you’ve thought about and talked about this fundamental aspect of American women’s lives.

View the article comments here.

Download the tabulated survey results here.