Women of color are entering the workforce in greater numbers than ever before, bringing education, ambition, and diverse ideas and experiences with them. As a result, they offer corporations a potent force of insight and innovation that will be increasingly needed to meet the needs of a diverse customer base. Yet, despite the value that women of color represent for companies, they’re rarely given leadership positions, not to mention roles in the C-suite. Presently, there are no female black or Latina CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
For 15 years, the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) has researched gender and racial dynamics of the workplace. We have ample evidence that women of color face major obstacles that have historically hindered their advancement. In our 2016 report, Latinos at Work, we found that 59% of Latino men and women experienced slights and snubs in the workplace — a number that jumps to 67% when looking at just Latinas. In the same study, we found that 63% of Latino men and women do not feel welcome and included, do not feel invited to share their ideas, or do not feel confident their ideas are heard and valued at work — a figure that rises to 78% for just Latinas.
A similar story rings true for black women. In our 2015 study, Black Women: Ready to Lead, we found that 46% of black women feel their ideas are not heard or recognized. They are also less likely than straight white men to have their ideas endorsed. Furthermore, black women feel invisible: They are more likely to feel their talents aren’t recognized by their superiors compared to white women (26% vs 17%). No wonder black women are far more likely than white women (44% vs 30%) to feel stalled in their careers.
Furthermore, women of color are more likely than white women to feel they must compromise their authenticity if they want be leaders. In our research, 72% of black women, 53% of Latinas, and 52% of Asian women say that “executive presence” at their company is defined as conforming to traditionally white male standards. In contrast, only 44% of white women felt that way.
Now, more than ever, any company that wants to realize the full potential of its employees should be taking action to create safe and inclusive workplaces where women of color can achieve their full potential. We’ve compiled a few facts that employers, leaders, and managers can use:
If businesses are to grow and thrive now and in the future, it’s imperative to elevate the voices of women of color and eliminate institutional barriers to their success. In order to do this, business leaders must intentionally address the relentless undertow of discrimination that continues to hinder them from doing their jobs. We must unleash all talent and, in the process, create more profit, equity, and a better world.
By Pooja Jain-Link, Julia Taylor Kennedy and Trudy Bourgeois
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