Knowledge Center

Women of Color Executives: Their Voices, Their Journeys

This report, drawn from data gathered for Catalyst’s groundbreaking study, Women of Color in Corporate Management: Opportunities and Barriers, delves further into the issues faced by African-American, Asian, and Latina women. It tracks the careers of six women-of-color executives and provides recommendations for companies.

Impetus: Women of color who hold top jobs in their organizations are very rare. (In 2000, 1.3 percent of corporate officers in 400 of the Fortune 500 companies were women of color.) The purpose of this study is to examine the experiences and career paths of these rare women of color, who had reached the upper echelons of corporate America.


  • Qualitative analysis of 35 in-depth interviews with senior women of color (one to three levels below their CEOs), who had participated in Catalyst’s 1999 study, Women of Color in Corporate Management: Opportunities and Barriers.

  • Case studies of six women of color.

Findings: Personal resilience, mentors, and a knack for creating opportunity are among the tools used by women-of-color executives to break down the “concrete ceiling.” Senior-level women-of-color describe exclusionary and risk-averse organizational cultures as key barriers to career advancement. The women interviewed report that cultures where leaders take risks by mentoring women of color and providing them with high-visibility assignments will greatly improve their opportunities to advance.

Sponsors: AT&T, BP p.l.c., The Coca-Cola Company, DuPont, IBM, Kellogg Company, Motorola Foundation, and Nestle USA, Inc.