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NEW report explores women of color work experiences

Silhouetted woman

Women of color are having much different workplace experiences than their white peers and will remain underrepresented in management and executive roles if companies do not focus on barriers to their success, according to “Advancing All Women,” a new report by the Network of Executive Women in partnership with Mercer and Accenture.

Just 15 percent of managers, senior managers and executives at the retail and consumer goods companies surveyed are women of color — a figure that will decline over the next 10 years if there are no changes in talent strategies.

The good news: Women of color could hold one in four of those roles by 2027 if companies address hiring, promotion and turnover challenges.

“Companies that focus on ‘all women’ in their organization — and assume that all women’s workplace experiences, barriers to success and career trajectories are the same — marginalize the unique experiences and perspectives of women of color,” said NEW President and CEO Sarah Alter. “Organizations like these do not benefit from diversity of thought and perpetuate the women of color achievement gap.

“To reach their diversity and inclusion goals, companies must focus more closely on the retention and development of women of color. This report offers a starting place for purposeful discussion and workplace change.”

Key influencers

As a group, women of color pointed to two factors influencing their intent to stay with a company: A feeling of belonging and satisfaction with their ability to achieve long-term career goals. These were the only two factors consistently selected by women across all ethnic and racial groups surveyed: White, Black, Hispanic, Latina, and Asian.

In both areas, companies are falling short. Only six in 10 women of color report feeling a sense of belonging, compared to seven in 10 white women and men.

“Corporate cultures that are not inclusive encourage ‘covering,’ as women of color face conscious and unconscious biases against their gender, race and, for some, religion,” Alter said. “Uncomfortable being authentic at work, women of color often feel pressure to hide aspects of their lives, leading to even greater workplace stress. In many cases, women of color also deal with additional cultural, community or religious demands that make work/life integration even tougher than it is for white women.

Women of color also reported less satisfaction than white women with their ability to achieve long-term career goals at their company. Forty-seven percent of Hispanic women, 41 percent of Black women and 38 percent of Asian women said they feel good about their ability to reach their long-term goals, compared to 50 percent of white women.

“Most companies still have some serious road to travel to get to workplace equality for women, an even farther distance for women of color,” Alter said.

The report pinpoints the workplace experiences that most influence Black, Asian and Hispanic women to stay, and offers strategies to move toward more gender- and ethnic-equal workplaces.

Like a previous NEW report, The Female Leadership Crisis  published in March 2018, “Advancing All Women” is based on U.S. hiring, promotion and turnover data representing more than 400,000 employees; interviews with executives at 11 companies; and a survey of more than 3,600 NEW members and U.S. retail and consumer goods industry employees. Of the total survey respondents, 2,351 were women; 486 identified themselves as women of color.

Download the report