What Women of Color Really Think

How do women of color perceive themselves in the workplace, and what actions do they recommend companies take to build a more inclusive workplace?

To find out, the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative surveyed 1,181 professional women of color and 545 professional white women, in its August 2021 study PowHER Redefined: Women of Color Reimagining the World of Work.

Women of color believe they bring certain strengths:

  • 68 percent say they are truth tellers, meaning they will give honest feedback even in uncomfortable situations.
  • 76 percent say they bring unique skills to the workplace that come from being the first, or one of a few who look like them, to hold leadership positions.
  • 83 percent are confident in their ability to lead.

Yet women of color face unique challenges:

  • 58 percent say having no senior leaders who look like them has impacted their career, compared with 35 percent of white women.
  • 66 percent say they don’t have access to strong sponsors.
  • 54 percent believe women undermine one another at work because they are competing for only one seat at the table.

Despite the obstacles they confront day by day, women of color have their own set of solutions:

  • 82 percent say white colleagues must have their biases and prejudices called out in order for a true dialogue—and change—to begin.
  • 92 percent say executives’ performance evaluations should include D&I metrics.
  • 95 percent say women of color need safe spaces to discuss their unique professional challenges and come up with ways to overcome them.

Bottom line: Women of color want to be involved in efforts to make workplaces more inclusive and reflective of their needs, with 85 percent saying, “Stop assuming what we need and ask us directly.”

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