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Jan Lee headshot

Women of Color: A Silent Voice in Corporate America

Words by Jan Lee

Women have made significant strides in the corporate workplace in recent decades. But statistics published by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving women's access to opportunities in business, suggest that women of color still have a long way to go to reach parity in corporate America.

Latina, Black and Asian women fall far below the threshold of representation when it comes to holding jobs in America's largest corporations. Nearly a third of the country's female workforce are women of color, yet less than 3 percent hold seats on boards of directors for Fortune 500 corporations.

Just as startling: Only 16.5 percent of the workers in S&P 500 corporations are women of color.

"In an era of increased efforts to diversify corporate boards, it is tempting to think that women of color -- Asian, Black and Latina -- would be highly sought after. But this isn't the case," the writers said.

And for those who have the skills, education and background to serve in management or advisory positions, there's often a catch, said Catalyst: "Getting on the board requires already having served on one."

A few other statistics:

  • 3.1 percent of board seats for Fortune 500 corporations are filled by women of color, but that is only because a quarter of those board members sit on multiple boards.

  • 4.4 percent of S&P 500 board positions held by women were filled by Latinas, while 3.7 percent were filled by Asian women and 11.7 by Black women.

  • 0.40 percent of CEOs are either Asian or Black

  • 0 percent of CEOs are Latina

Percentages of S&P 500 board seats held by women by race/ethnicity in 2014

"Relying on limited networks to fill board seats shrinks the pool of board-eligible women of color to a puddle," note the writers. Instead, "boards looking to diversify can disrupt the default by reaching beyond their regular network of contacts to find well-qualified, diverse candidates."

Image credits: Catalyst. Women in S&P 500 Companies by Race/Ethnicity. New York: Catalyst, March 2015.

Jan Lee headshotJan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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