Black Women Are Still More Likely To Face Inequity In The Workplace

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By Stephanie Long, Refinery29

It’s no secret that for most women, the journey up the corporate ladder tends to be a challenging one. For black women, however, the climb is especially arduous

In fact, according to and McKinsey & Company’s 2019 Women in the Workplace study, — which takes a look at the representation of women throughout corporate America — 44 percent of companies have three or more women in their C-suite. Even so, just 1 in 25 of C-suite executives identify as women of color, with just 58 percent of black women being promoted to manager for every 100 entry-level men who receive similar promotions. 

The study attributes this to the “broken rung,” a systematic roadblock which often prevents black women from advancing at the same rate as their peers. It’s this “broken rung” that this year’s Women in the Workplace study examines, highlighting the experiences of women of color, queer women, and women with disabilities — who statistically face more barriers and receive less support, hindering their overall growth in the workplace.

Generally speaking, it’s true that women have ascended at higher rates in the corporate world  in recent years, which speaks to the overdue progress being made. McKinsey & Company highlights how this recent progress could spell out a positive impact across the board when it comes to promoting diversity in the workplace.

“Still, we shouldn’t confuse progress with parity,” McKinsey’s Kevin Sneader and Lareina Yee told Wall Street Journal last month.  “To create workplaces where young men and women progress equally into top-level business leaders, we must address a glaring gender disparity at the very first rung of the corporate ladder.” 

Below are additional key findings:

73 Percent of Women Experience Microaggressions And Discrimination at Work

And while it’s true that 59 percent of men have also experienced microaggressions in the workplace, as noted in the report, numbers show that women are twice as likely to be met with them.

The likelihood increases when looking at the experiences of black women, who are the most likely to have their competency questioned by their peers. Additionally, lesbian women, bisexual women, and women with disabilities are more likely to be demeaned and spoken negatively about.

41 Percent of Women Have Been Sexually Harassed at Some Point in Their Career

That’s two in five women who shared that they have experienced some form of sexual harassment during their career, including – but not limited to – receiving unwanted sexual attention.

According to the study, lesbian women and bisexual women are more likely to be sexually harassed than others. Women who are in technical and leadership roles are also more likely to be sexually harassed, due to the fact that they challenge what women are conventionally expected to do. Those with disabilities also experience sexual harassment at higher rates.

Women Who Are Often the “Only” in the Room Have a More Negative Work Experience than Those Who Work with Other Women

To put things into perspective, the study reveals that 1 in 5 women says that they are often the “only” one in the room. This occurrence, similar to those who face sexual harassment, is twice as likely for those in senior-level and technical roles.

That’s because when put into an environment where they are the “only,” they are essentially placed in a breeding ground for microaggressions, and may face more instances in which they must prove their competence (many are mistaken to be more junior than they actually are). “At work, I’m under a microscope,” a VP who identifies as a black lesbian woman shared in the report. “I feel an immense pressure to perform.” Being the “only” woman also heightens the likelihood of sexual harassment.



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