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March 6, 2021

Black Women in the Workplace – A Glass Ceiling in Corporate America and How to Break It

Black women in the workplace face bigger obstacles in careers compared to their Caucasian counterparts. The studies show that they are the least likely group to feel included in the work environment. Not only that, but African American employees are less likely to be promoted or mentored by their senior managers. The position of black women is not enviable. However, there are things corporations can do to help them improve career status by treating them fairly and providing them with equal rights and opportunities to learn, lead, and grow.

Being a Black Woman in Corporate America Means Being up Against Many Problems

It is not a secret that African Americans are underrepresented in workplaces. The research from the marketing company McKinsey even shows that 49% of surveyed women feel like their race makes it difficult to get a promotion or even a raise. The same research shows that only 3% of white females feel that way.

The first obstacle African Americans encounter is low chances of being promoted to managers. Statistics show that for every 100 men, only 58 African American women are promoted even though they ask for the promotion at the same rate. Also, when it comes to hiring, for every 100 men, only 64 African American females get the job.

On top of a lower percentage of hiring, African Americans often have their successes discounted. It is mostly attributed to factors like random chances, affirmative action, and help from other employees. All of these reinforce a stereotype that shows African Americans as less competent and talented than other employees.

Black Women in Corporate America Are Less Likely to Get Support

Mentorship is extremely important if you want to succeed in your career. That’s why the fact that around 60% of women of color lack influential mentors is devastating. This lack of support can be a huge barrier to future career advancement.

African American employees are less likely to have managers advocate for them, showcase their achievements or give them opportunities to manage projects. Furthermore, these employees are less likely to cooperate with senior managers and leaders. This lack of opportunity to work closely with seniors is mirrored in a lack of mentorship and support from their bosses.

All of this means that African American employees have fewer chances to be included in important debates about company strategies and plans, which all results in fewer opportunities to get noticed by those in charge.

African American Women in the Workplace Face More Discrimination

It is a fact that African Americans face more prejudice on a day-to-day basis.

Which explains why more women of color are reaching out for help. Finding an African American therapist that you trust is key to getting the support you need.

Unfortunately, a wide range of microaggressions is thrown in the faces of females daily. These comments and actions can subtly demean you based on your gender and race, as well as any other aspect of your identity. As an African American employee, you are probably faced with both sexism and racism.

These microaggressions are not isolated incidents, and they occur daily, building up and taking their toll on a person. When you start feeling like you can’t bring your A-game to the table, seeking help from African American counselors who can hold space for you is critical.

Data from McKinsey shows that around 40% of African American employees have had their competence questioned, while 20% have been mistaken for a person at a lower level in the company. These discrimination levels are left unchanged because many white employees are not stepping up as reliable allies. Even though 80% of white people consider themselves allies, their support has been unnoticed by African Americans at the workplace.

The way white people can take advantage of their position of power in corporations is by advocating for people of color. They can challenge racism and microaggressions, creating a less toxic and more inclusive environment.

Being Black in Corporate America Means Remaining Ambitious in Spite of the Obstacles

Breaking the glass ceiling is a long and tedious process. African American employees are determined to do so. Black women, just like white men, are likely to say they are interested in becoming executives. They are mostly motivated by a desire to become role models so that they could influence the culture in the company. Because African American employees know how hard it can be for people of color to advance in corporate America, and they want to participate in changing that.

There Are Concrete Ways to Help Advancement of Black Women in the Workplace

To be able to work in an inclusive environment, all companies should address specific barriers that African American employees face. A thriving enterprise is one that will focus on gender and race problems combined and look into mitigating both sexism and racism. Addressing and targeting specific problems will surely help women’s advancement in the workplace.

Look Into Both Gender and Race When Setting Representation Goal

Targeting gender and race combined is one way to prioritize growth for African American women in the work environment. However, only 7% of companies have these specific goals combined. If enterprises want to advance and become inclusive, they should:

  • Track promotion and hiring processes for women of color, ensuring they are getting the same opportunities as the rest of the employees.
  • Create mentorship programs, sponsorships, and development opportunities
  • Be open with their data by giving the employees insight into how the enterprise is performing when it comes to diversity goals.

Rewarding Progress Will Help Black Women at Work

Currently, only one out of five companies financially reward senior leaders and managers who meet set diversity targets. This tells you that many enterprises are not fully committed to creating an inclusive environment because rewarding progress has been one of the best ways to encourage leaders to step up. If corporate America wants to be inclusive, enterprises should hold managers accountable for meeting diversity objectives. This can be done by adding those goals into performance reviews.

There Is a Hiring Bias That Should Be Addressed

Let’s be honest, reducing bias takes time and commitment. The best way to decrease it is by promoting and hiring African American employees. To do so, companies should focus on concrete strategies such as:

  • Requiring a diverse slate of candidates for every job opening – this means that there should be at least two applicants from any underrepresented group. Data from Harvard Business Review shows that if only one person of color is the finalist, there is a zero chance that they will be hired. However, those chances rise dramatically when there are two or more candidates included. In order to have a fair chance of being hired, there should be at least two African Americans among finalists.
  • Using consistent review criteria – this means that companies should have evaluation tools that gather and process information objectively. Most enterprises that are successfully reducing inequality are using quantitative rating systems with point scales. With them, every African American person is rated based on their answers, not on their skin color. Giving them a fair chance at getting the job.
  • Anonymous CVs – in the early stages of the hiring process, enterprises should anonymize all the data they are receiving. Since the data shows that black-sounding names on a CV get fewer callbacks, anonymity will only increase employment chances for people of color.

Corporations Should Make Sure Evaluators Go Through Bias Training

All the strategies for reducing bias won’t mean a thing if evaluators don’t understand their importance. That’s why bias training should be mandatory for those involved in the hiring process. Unconscious bias training would teach employees all the ways they can lower gender and racial inequality in very specific work settings. Also, employees should have a team member from a different department as their criteria monitor. Data shows that with criteria monitor it’s less likely that candidates are picked based on their skin color.

Creating an Inclusive Work Environment Would Help Break the Glass Ceiling

It will definitely take a lot of effort from many parties to break the glass ceiling. First things first, employers should start showing African American employees that they are respected, valued, and welcomed. This can be done by implementing various strategies for lowering bias, educating people on discrimination and sexism, and offering mentorships.

African American women are ambitious and motivated. With their employers’ help, they can overcome many difficulties and create a better, more inclusive environment for the generations to come. And if you feel overwhelmed by the corporate culture, you can go to a black female therapist, and for advice when it comes to work-related stress