Knowledge Center

Women of Color in Corporate Management: Dynamics of Career Advancement

This report focuses specifically on career advancement issues for women of color, and offers comparisons between women of color data and Catalyst’s other data on white women. This is the first report on the data collected by the major Women of Color in Corporate Management study.

Impetus: The purpose of this report is to fill knowledge gaps about the career experiences of women of color in corporate America.


  • Focus groups and interviews of women-of-color managers, human resources professionals, and corporate leaders in 15 major companies.

  • Survey of 1,735 women in 30 Fortune 1000 companies.

Findings: Although a clear majority of the women surveyed are satisfied with their jobs, significantly fewer are satisfied with their advancement opportunities. Women of color do not see their advancement opportunities in the past five years as being as favorable as those of white women, and report the following as major barriers to advancement: not having an influential mentor or sponsor; lack of informal networking with influential colleagues; lack of company role models of the same race/ethnic group; and lack of high-visibility projects. On the subject of affirmative action, a little less than one-half say it helped them get in the door, while slightly less than one-third say it helped with promotion.

Sponsors: The Ford Foundation; with additional support from 18 corporations (Amoco, Avon, Deloitte and Touche, Dow Chemical, E.I. DuPont, Eastman Kodak, General Motors, HBO, Hoechst Celanese, IBM, Levi Strauss, Mobil, Motorola, Pitney Bowes, Proctor & Gamble, Sara Lee, Sears, Xerox)