Report: Black Women Face More Challenges in Workplace Than Other Groups

Report: Black Women Face More Challenges in Workplace Than Other Groups

Only 1.4% of C-Suite positions held by Black women
A Black woman at her place of work

With this year ushering in a renewed focus on inequalities in the workplace, a new report suggests Black women face a less friendly work environment than other groups.

LeanIn.org, an organization that advocates for women in the workplace, took an extensive look at the experiences of Black women in corporate environments and the biggest obstacles they face. With that information, they produced a report titled The State of Black Women in Corporate America.

Not only are Black women underrepresented in the leadership ranks of the nation’s companies, but they have less support at all stages of the corporate ladder.

Fewer opportunities, less pay

It’s no secret that women in general face a gender pay gap, but for Black women, that gap is particularly wide. The State of Black Women report was released August 13 on Black Women’s Equal Pay Day in a move to highlight the fact that on average, Black women earn 38% less than white men and 21% less than white women.

When it comes to positions of leadership, Black women are few and far between, the report shows. Despite the fact that Black women make up 7.4% of the U.S. population, they hold a mere 1.4% of positions in the C-Suite, a term used to describe the most senior executive positions in a company. In contrast, white men make up approximately 35% of the U.S. population and represent 68% of C-Suite jobs.

One reason Black women may have so little representation at the top could be because they are less likely to be promoted at lower levels. In fact, for every 100 men who received a promotion to a management position, only 58 Black women were promoted, though Black women were just as likely to ask for promotions as men.

Black women feel less supported

Having a supportive manager who believes your contributions are valued can be a motivating force in the workplace. Yet, only 29% of Black women believe their manager advocates for new opportunities for them, compared to 37% of white women, 35% of Latinas and 35% of Asian women.

Building relationships with decision makers in a company can also improve one’s odds of being recognized for their accomplishments and possibly promoted. However, Black women are less likely to interact with senior leaders informally than other groups. More than half — 59% — said they have never had an informal interaction with a senior leader, compared to 49% of all women who have never interacted with a senior manager.

Black women are also more likely to feel that they have been disrespected or had their abilities questioned in the workplace:

  • 40% of Black women said they have had to provide more evidence of their competence, compared to 30% of all women
  • 20% of Black women said they have been mistaken for someone at a much lower level compared to 18% of all women
  • 26% of Black women said they have heard others express surprise at their language skills or other abilities compared to 14% of all women

A survey conducted by LeanIn.Org in June looked at whether white men and women viewed themselves as allies of people of color at work. While 42% of white women and 43% of white men believed Black women had strong allies in their workplace, only 26% of Black women agreed with that statement. An earlier survey reinforces the idea that many workers acknowledge racism but don’t see it in their own companies.

Methodology: Much of the data from The State of Black Women in Corporate America report comes from LeanIn.org’s and McKinsey & Company’s annual Women in the Workplace study, which has collected data from more than 590 companies and a quarter of a million employees since 2015. The report also included findings from a survey of 7,400 adults conducted by LeanIn.Org and Survey Monkey between June 19, 2020 and June 25, 2020.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.