A new LeanIn.org report released on Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, Aug. 13, the day Black women must work until to make what their White male counterparts earned the prior year, makes a stark statement: The workplace is worse for Black women.
“In all of Lean In’s research on the state of women at work, we see the same general pattern: Women are having a worse experience than men. Women of color are having a worse experience than White women. And Black women in particular are having the worst experience of all,” the report says.
The State of Black Women in Corporate America report from LeanIn.org is compiled using insights from the last five years of Lean In and McKinsey & Co.’s annual Women in the Workplace study, plus Lean In’s “50 Ways to Fight Bias” program, and additional research it conducted with SurveyMonkey. Since 2015, 250,000 individual employees and more than 590 companies employing 22 million people have participated.
“The pay gap is a huge injustice, and this report shows that it’s just one part of a much bigger problem,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and co-founder of LeanIn.Org. “It’s critical that we take a hard look at what’s happening in the workplace and do more to advance Black women. The research is clear, women are having a worse experience at work than men. Women of color are having a worse experience than White women. And Black women in particular are having the worst experience of all.”
Black women face more everyday discrimination, the report says. They are more than 3x more likely than White men, and almost 2.5x more likely than White women, to hear a coworker express surprise about their language skills or other abilities.
Black women are promoted more slowly. For every 100 men who advance to manager, 58 Black women do — compared with 80 White women and 72 women overall.
Black women receive less support from managers and get less access to senior leaders. 59% of Black women have never had an informal interaction with a senior leader, vs. 47% of White women.
If Black women are ever going to achieve equality in the workplace, including addressing the lack of pay equity that Black Women’s Equal Pay Day highlights, companies should focus on the unique barriers they face, the report says.
The report recommends that corporations:
Take an intersectional approach to setting representation targets. Fewer than a third of companies set targets for gender and race; only 7% set targets for gender and race combined.
Require a diverse slate of candidates for hiring and promotions. Research shows that when only one woman or one Black person is included in a slate of finalists, there is statistically zero chance they will be hired.
Create an inclusive workplace for Black women. Consider hiring and promoting Black women in cohorts or clustering them together on project teams to make the “Only” experience less common. More than half (54%) of Black women say they are often the only Black person or one of the only Black people in the room.
The report concludes with a call to action for corporate America: “For years, Lean In has urged employers to make their workplaces equal for women. The only way to do this is to center on the women who are most marginalized. If employers want to do better by women, they must do better by Black women.”
In spite of the obstacles they face, Black women are motivated to lead and improve their workplaces, the report says. Black women are substantially more likely than White women — and just as likely as White men — to say that they are interested in becoming top executives. And among employees who want to be top executives, Black women are more likely than men and women overall to be motivated by a desire to positively influence company culture or to be role models for others like them.
To read the full report, visit leanin.org/state-of-black-women.