Black Women Have Largest Gap Between Resources to Advance in Workplace

[STUDY] Black Women Have Largest Gap Between Resources and Support Needed to Advance in Workplace

black women executives
(Image: File)
Image: File

A new report released by Working Mother Research Institute examines why fewer women of color are advancing to executive ranks in the workforce when compared to their male counterparts and white female peers. Surveying more than 1,700 college-educated women, including 1,370 multicultural women, the study looked at how satisfied women of color are on their jobs and the factors that play into whether or not they feel supported in the workplace.

Of the multicultural women surveyed, 55 percent said they definitely or possibly plan to leave their company within the next three years, with the top three reasons for departure including the need for better pay, better opportunity to advance and better work-life balance. When taking a further look at the barriers each group of women face, it was black women who reported the highest gap between the resources and support needed to advance within their career. Of the 400 black women surveyed, 88 percent said the opportunity to develop their skills would help them advance within their company, yet only 58 percent expressed they were satisfied with the skill development resources presented to them. In addition to reporting the need for more career advancement opportunities, black women were the largest group to believe their race was the first thing co-workers noticed about them when walking into the room.

[Related: [STUDY] Women of Color in STEM Discriminated Against in the Workplace]

Joan Williams, the founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law at UC Hastings College of Law spoke on the likelihood of black women experiencing racial stereotyping and discrimination in the workplace and how they are able to cope with the bias treatment.

“Black women are raised with a sober, open-eyed understanding of social inequality, and that’s something that white women often lack — and so do Asian American women and some Latinas,” Williams said in the report.

While the study points out that many managers are unaware of the dissatisfaction and discrimination that their minority female employees experience, Jennifer Owens, who is the director of Working Mother Research Institute says its time for companies to wake up and be aware of the unconscious bias that’s taking place in the workplace.

“I think they need to be conscious that these unconscious bias exist,” Owens tells “I think the first thing to do is to look at all the data that employers are tracking in their human resources department and take a look at their top levels of leadership. Is anyone female and non-white? You don’t even need a survey for that you can just use your own judgment.”

Owens says it’s impossible for companies to reach the diverse group of consumers who buy their product if they don’t have leadership that looks like their audience. She stresses the need for companies to create a diverse and inclusive culture where women are also comfortable with bringing their authentic self to work. According to the report, 91 percent of women who felt they could be their authentic self at work agreed to being satisfied with their current job.

“If there are some spoken or unspoken rules that make you feel you can’t be yourself at work, then you need to find a place where you can be,” she added.