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Catalyst Study Finds Women of Color Under-Represented in the Managerial Workforce

Women of color make up 23 percent of the U.S. female workforce, but only 15 percent of women in managerial level positions in the private sector, according to Women of Color in Corporate Management: A Statistical Picture, the first quantitative study of African-American, Hispanic, and Asian/Other women managers in the private sector, released by Catalyst today and based on an analysis of U.S. Census data for 1994-5.

African-American women are the most under-represented women-of-color subgroup in private-sector management, according to the report—they comprise slightly more than 12 percent of the female workforce at large but only 7 percent of the 2.9 million women managers in the private sector. Similar but less marked under-representation holds true for the two other subgroups of women of color studied: Hispanics and Asian/Other.

"Catalyst finds that having the figures in hand is always the first step on the road to change," said Sheila Wellington, president of Catalyst, an organization that works to advance women in the workplace. "This report will serve as a benchmark for the business community in their efforts to ensure fairness and equality of opportunity."

The report confirms an often assumed wage gap between women of color managers and white women managers, but also reveals a wide gender gap in earnings for private-sector managers. For every dollar white male managers make, white women managers make 59 cents, and women of color, on average, earn two cents less. The report demonstrates, however, that each women-of-color subgroup occupies a distinctly different level on the pay scale. Asian/Other women earn the highest median weekly earnings of any group of private-sector female managers: $593. White women managers in the same category earn an average of $528 and African-American women, $514. Hispanic women earn considerably less—$423 a week. The report suggests possible reasons for these rankings: the concentration of women of color in less lucrative industry sectors and professional fields; the incidence of Asian/Other women in higher-paying geographical areas; and the varying educational attainments of each group.

The statistical analysis of census data was prepared by the Institute for Women's Policy Research. In addition to documenting women of color's low representation in management and the management-level earnings data, Women of Color in Corporate Management: A Statistical Picture also examines other aspects of private-sector management demographics, such as educational levels, family characteristics, and incidence of foreign birth.

"This is the first time anyone has focused attention on these data," said Katherine Giscombe, Ph.D., the project director for the Statistical Picture, as well as for Catalyst's upcoming full-scale national research project, the first to study the career mobility of women of color in corporations, due out in 1998. The two-year study, funded by the Ford Foundation and a consortium of 17 major companies, will "examine the story behind the statistics in the report released today," Dr. Giscombe said.

Catalyst is the nonprofit research and advisory organization that works to enable women in business and the professions to achieve their maximum potential and to help corporations and firms capitalize on the talents of women. This report was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.