Left Out: Why Workplace Diversity Matters

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It comes to no surprise that there’s a disparity of resources available to women. The conversation surrounding those disparities is often discussed in a very one dimensional manner, and concludes that all women are underpaid.  As more research studies begin to highlight the disparities faced in the workplace, we’re finding that African-American women suffer the most and not just as it pertains to wages. For many, the conversation includes workplace diversity, equal access to resources and job promotions.

Recently, The Department of Labor conducted a study that highlighted the wage gap and while millennial women are more educated (36%) than their male (28%) counterparts, there is still a disparity of resources and financial resolve available to them, especially African-American women. For instance, 29% of men demonstrate high financial literacy, which hails in comparison to the fact that only 18% of women demonstrate some form of financial literacy. If we look at how that looks across ethnic groups, we’ll find that African-American (49%), Hispanic (36%) and Asian (34%) women face higher rates of financial strain than males of the same ethnicity.

Attaining success for most African-American women appears to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand they’re taking bolder steps and embracing leading roles within their communities, corporate America, churches, government and schools and on the other, they’re being met with opposition due to discrimination or lack thereof workforce diversity. Barriers facing African-American women in business include negative, race-based stereotypes, more frequent questioning of their credibility and authority, and a lack of institutional support. Experiencing a “double outsider” status—unlike white women or African-American men, who share gender or race in common with most colleagues or managers—African-American women report exclusion from informal networks, and conflicted relationships with white women, among the challenges they face according to a study conducted at The Catalyst Research Center for Advancing Leader Effectiveness.

The Ariel Investments president spoke very candidly on the subject of race and the workplace. She too deals with the plight of being an African-American woman in the corporate world. This conversation was much needed as it addresses the fact that many companies lack the diversity needed to ensure equal access and advancement for African-American women and offers a solution to possibly combat the issue.

In addition to Mellody’s suggestions on how to address the lack of resources for African-Americans, we’re finding that more people are addressing the growing concern. This summer, a group of women took to Twitter to highlight the wage gap faced by African-American women, which birthed the #BlackWomenEqualPay hashtag. While these are just two instances of the issue being at the forefront of conversation, we must continue to acknowledge obstacles faced by African-American women in the workplace, so that we can change the culture at the leadership level to be a bit more diverse and inclusive.

tiana jorman

Tiana Jorman is the creator of the lifestyle blog, Tiana combined her unparalleled talent of writing with history and received a B.A in cultural studies.