Whenever I speak on the advancement of women, I bring up the issues faced by women of color.
White women earn 78 cents to every dollar white men make, but African American women earn 64 cents and Latinas earn 53 cents. Only Asian women do better, earning 87 cents. Unconscious bias? Women of color have to deal with the double whammy of the majority culture’s bias against both their gender and their race. As an African American woman once said at our Multicultural Women’s National Conference, “My skin color walks into the room with me.” This is one factor white women don’t have to deal with when they’re the only woman in a meeting or the first woman in their role.
Work life balance? Women of color are more likely to have issues around extended family ties that go way beyond white women’s more contained nuclear families. All women face enormous challenges of child care and elder care, but senior multicultural women may be the first in their extended family in a professional-level position. They may feel the need to help nieces and nephews to go to college and other obligations most white women don’t contend with.
People of color compete for success at a disadvantage some experts call “white privilege.” This is the unconscious advantage white people have just by being in the majority. It can be a difficult concept to grasp as white women fight against their inequality with men — especially at the top of the corporate pyramid. Senior white women are always supportive when I bring up the greater disparities faced by their sisters of other races, but they rarely bring up the topic on their own.
That’s part of why I am so passionate about Working Mother’s Multicultural Women’s Initiative launched in 2002. We took a position of leadership, calling on companies to be measured for their ability to advance women of color and to join us in our commitment to create an equal playing field for all women. Only together can we change the patterns that hold all women back.
The 25 Best Companies for Multicultural Women for 2014 including the Top 5–American Express, General Mills, KPMG, Procter & Gamble and State Farm–employ 2.7 million workers-and create initiatives that ensure that women of color are among the decision-makers at all levels of their companies.
Bravo to this year’s winning companies who make sure that women of color are welcomed, nurtured and promoted to the highest levels.