In February, Catalyst Inc shared research that highlights the state of Women of Color in the workplace.  

Following is a summary of findings from their report that focuses on Black women.

  • In 2019 Black women comprised 12.9% of total of women in the US population and are projected to be 15.2% of the total women population by 2060.
  • Of the total bachelor’s degrees earned by US citizen women and permanent residents in 2017–2018, the percentage of those earned by Black women is 11.4% (a 7.3% decrease from the high of 12.3% in 2011-2012).
  • Of total bachelor’s degrees in business earned by women in 2017-2018, the percentage of those earned by Black women is 11.5%
  • Between 2019–2029 the projected percentage increase of Black women in the labor force is expected to be 9.3%.
  • The percent of Black women among all US management, business, and financial operations employees in 2020 is 14.2%. 
  • According to Catalyst report, “US Workplaces struggle to retain” Black professionals. According to a 2019 survey, 52% of Black women professionals planned to leave their employers in the next two years. 
  • Black women held a mere 4.1% of total management positions in the US in 2020 (compared to 32.8% held by White women).
  • Based on full-time earnings in 2019, for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men earned, Black women earned 63 cents.
  • Roughly 60.3% of maids and housekeepers, 50.3% of nursing assistants, and 45.7% of personal care aides are women of color. Within these occupations: 
  • More than half of home health aides are Black women.

Click here for the full report and comparisons of all Women of Color.

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Though this report highlights women in more corporate workspaces, it is a start to begin to understand more fully the impact of systemic racism/sexism on Black women.

No doubt, behind these figures is the cultural bias that cause Black women to often be seen or depicted in one-dimensional terms — terms that I won’t even dignify to repeat in this post. You know the tropes, stereotypes and labels that we have all had to resist and prove wrong at some point in our lives. 

We confront these tropes and stereotypes as young girls and these stereotypes and biases follow us into the workplace. Not to mention into other places of leadership as well.

As you know and the report confirms, we are underrepresented at the top in terms of leadership and pay, and overrepresented in lower paying roles.

I write, research, consult, coach, and develop programs in the area of leadership. I see up close and personal the vacuum or gap for Black women that Catalyst’s data reveal.  I can put faces to the stats. And I’m sure you can too.

We often get pigeon-holed.  We strive to get published. To get invited onto Boards. To advance in our careers. 

It’s exhausting.

Too often Black women aren’t given opportunities to lead or to demonstrate their leadership.

Let’s face it, every role, whether it’s in corporate, in churches, or in schools, has a leadership dimension to it.   

To lead is to influence toward some positive end. To lead is to guide, to direct, to build relationships in order to achieve some goal or outcome. To lead is to strategize and get creative in providing solutions, especially within resource constraints.

Black women, we know how to do this! 

Yet, with few exceptions, we still are not given the same opportunities to lead in the systems that were not created with us in mind.  

No wonder so many of us launch out and start our own businesses, enterprises, and ministries. 

If you are feeling the exhaustion of fighting against the grain, it’s not your imagination.  You are not alone. And you have some options.

  • Continue to follow this blog. We are improving this site to provide more interactive coaching content for women who lead, particularly Black women who lead or are interested in leading. Stay tuned!
  • Share the articles with your colleagues and friends. Share them with White allies who say they want to help. And share them with your leaders who have power to change the way things are.  
  • Join our community of Black women leaders at www.BlackWomensLeadershipNetwork.com. Black women have distinct ways of leading that are valuable to workplaces and communities.  And we need to know each other and share our resources. Add your name to our mailing list. We’ll share with you a paper describing the inclusive leadership practices of Black women. These lessons are our distinct ways of leading and relevant to all.
  • Get ready to grow with other Black women and be supported in your development.

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