January 20, 2014 — As someone who cares deeply about the career prospects and overall well-being of women of color, I’m frustrated that US businesses routinely overlook this vital demographic. As a group, “women of color” includes African-American women, Latinas, and Asian women—and, according to a recent report, it’s a group that will make up 53 percent of the female population of the United States by 2050.
We know that there have been improvements over time for women of color, but many gaps still remain. Research shows that fewer women of color than white women cite exclusion from professional networks as a barrier to success—but also that women of color interact with a narrower range of colleagues in the first place. We know that more women of color than ever before have mentors, but also that their mentors and sponsors lack influence. And white women are still likelier to be given key career-advancing assignments.
Catalyst research shows that most organizations’ D&I policies have benefitted white women more than they have women of color. Organizations committed to creating inclusive workplaces must craft strategies that focus specifically on women of color and work harder to close these troubling gaps.
In today’s world, nearly all corporations and firms conduct at least some of their business in other countries. When US-based organizations expand their global reach, it’s just as crucial for them to “globalize” their diversity and inclusion efforts as it is to update and broaden their business strategies.
All companies must strike the right balance between the needs of their local subsidiaries and their larger global vision. Yet when US organizations craft “global” diversity and inclusion strategies, they often cast too wide a net by focusing on women in general. When global inclusion programs focus on all women—which, in practice, usually means white women—women of color fade into the background.
Smart business leaders won’t risk squandering the ever-growing and senselessly under-utilized talent pool that women of color represent. Their businesses, as well as the future of women of color in the Unites States, depend on it.