A NEW view: The industry through a multicultural lens
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Joan Toth
More than 36 percent of U.S. women are multicultural — by
2050, they’ll be the majority of women. This shift has already transformed our
retail consumer base and workforce, but it’s not being reflected in our
Not so long ago — when "diversity” was known as "equal
opportunity” — diversity was seen as black and white, male and female. Little
attention was paid to the extraordinary experiences and contributions of multicultural
women, and this created a gap in understanding that persists today.
Last year, 1,950 NEW members and supporters — most of them
women — completed an in-depth survey on multicultural women’s leadership. The findings
were eye-opening and used as the basis of the NEW Best Practices Report
"Tapestry: Leveraging the Rich Diversity of Women in Retail and Consumer
Goods.” Although women share many experiences in the workplace and perceive
many of the same barriers to leadership, there are many instances when the
perceptions of multicultural and white women vary widely. (Multicultural in
this reporting refers to individuals who identified themselves as African-American or Black, Hispanic or Latino, Asian/ Pacific Islander, mixed-race,
Native American/ Alaskan and "other.”)
For instance, multicultural women surveyed were much more
likely than white women to say they "have experienced workplace bias” (44
percent versus 32 percent). While 56 percent of multicultural women said they
face greater work bias than white women do, fewer than 28 percent of white
women agreed. Likewise, multicultural women were more than twice as likely as
white women to say that white women are more likely to advance in the workplace
(51 percent versus 21 percent).
The majority of all respondents agreed that "white men have
an advantage in the workplace,” but a greater percentage of multicultural women
It was no surprise that white women (and men) were less
likely to perceive bias in the workplace — it’s harder to see bias happening to
someone else — but these wide differences in perception should serve as a
Companies get low marks
White women were more likely to agree that "my organization
includes the perspectives of multicultural women in making important decisions”
than multicultural women (32 percent versus 26 percent), but neither group gave
our industry high marks on this telling question.
While more than 75 percent of both multicultural and white
women surveyed said they’ve had "mostly positive” workplace experiences,
one-third of all women (32 percent) and 38 percent of multicultural women described their careers as "stuck."
Only half of those surveyed said they have a sponsor or
mentor, and an astounding 54 percent reported being bullied or harassed at
Although most women agreed with the statement "I trust my
supervisor,” white women were more likely (73 percent) than multicultural women
(62 percent) to do so. No wonder, then, that multicultural women are less
likely than white women to feel free to be open and authentic at work. Forty-five
percent of multicultural women said they "don’t share important aspects of
their personal life at work,” compared with 35 percent of white women.
Company policies and corporate cultures that ignore the
unique qualities of multicultural women are doing a disservice to all women and
to their organizations. It’s bad for multicultural women deprived of
opportunities to advance, for work teams denied the benefits of diverse
leadership, and for retailers that lose multicultural women’s unique insights.
Joan Toth is past president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women.
This article first appeared in Progressive Grocer.
Views expressed in signed blogs and user comments are those of the
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