As we close out Women’s History Month there has been much attention paid to the progress women have made over the years. The stone-cold reality is, women are still underrepresented at every level in the workplace, and women of color are the most underrepresented group of all, lagging behind white men, men of color and white women. The Webster dictionary defines progress as, to move forward, to develop to a higher, better, or more advanced stage. Based on this definition Black women are not making progress because we are not moving forward, faring better, or moving up higher in the workplace; in fact, we are falling behind. Black women are caught in the dangerous and deadly cultural crosshairs of sexism and racism.
We as Black women are often disregarded in the promotion and pay raise process, leading to ongoing issues of pay disparity. The Census Bureau shows that Black women earn 62 cents for every dollar earned by white men, a figure that is less than the 82 cents the average woman earns for every dollar earned by men. When looking at the total workforce in the U.S., Black women account for 7% of the population, but make up 12% of minimum wage earners. McKinsey & Company, the international consulting firm reported that men currently hold 62% of manager positions, with women only holding 38%. In the C-suite, only 1 in 5 executives is a woman, while fewer than 1 in 30 is a woman of color.
I must include a footnote here that the death of George Floyd and the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement caused a shift in placing African Americans in key positions, but these positions are limited to areas in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Although this is good, we cannot stop here.
Currently, there are a record 40 women leading Fortune 500 firms, just three are women of color, none Latina and only one is Black. That Black woman is Rosalind Brewer, the former Starbucks Chief Operating Officer and graduate of Spelman College was recently named the CEO of Walgreens. Ms. Brewer was recently quoted as saying “Black women often get mistaken as the help instead of the person in charge, they even think we are in the wrong place when we are in charge.”
In order to level the playing field, to make sure girls today will have a more equitable tomorrow, employers must acknowledge that there is a pay gap between men and women doing comparable work and that inequity must change, and change quickly. If the playing field doesn’t level out soon, women, especially Black women will leave corporate America. This trend may already be happening evident by the fact that Black women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs among women, having grown by more than 600% in the last decade. I am one of them.
It is important that this generation of women, as well as the next generation, know that they belong in the work rooms and boardrooms and we have something special and unique to offer the workplace and the world. Workplaces must provide women with the requisite resources, relationships and responsibilities that will provide the exposure, education, and experience to fairly compete.
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Visit www.WendyGladney.com and www.forgivingforliving.org to learn more. Wendy is a life strategist, coach, consultant, author, and speaker. You can hear her every Wednesday on Instagram Live at 12 noon PST.