This op-ed is the second in a series of LeanIn.Org on the state of women in the workplace.
Today is Black Women's Equal Pay Day. This means that black women had to work all of 2019 and so far into 2020 to earn what white men earned last year alone – four months longer than white women had to work to achieve the same goal. During a black woman's career, the wage gap is almost $ 1 million in lost revenue.
That is a great injustice. It is also part of a much bigger problem.
For five years, LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company have run Women in the Workplace, the largest study of the state of women in corporate America. Year after year, the data tell the same story: the workplace is worse for women than for men, worse for women of color than white women, and especially for black women, in many ways, it's the worst.
At the moment when our national discourse has finally turned to the systemic injustices that black people face, it is important that we look closely at what is happening in the workplace. For many black women, work is another area where they encounter inequality and discrimination.
To understand the depth of this issue, you should consider the findings from the Women's Workplace Study last year. Black women are underrepresented at all levels in America. The gap is largest at the top: only 1
Whether you get up for work often depends on who masters you. For many black women, it feels like no one is doing it. Black women are less likely to have leaders who advocate for them. They receive less sponsorship (the informal support senior employees provide promising junior employees). And 59% of black women say that they have never – not even – had an informal interaction with a senior manager in their company.
All of this contributes to a workplace where black women regularly handle respect and micro-aggression. Men are more than twice as likely to be confused with someone at a much lower level. It is more likely that employees than other employees will hear people surprise about their language skills or other abilities. And for half of the black women who are the only or one of the only women in color on their teams, being at work means feeling careful and alert.
Finally, there is enlightenment. More than 80% of white employees consider themselves allies with people of color at work, according to new data from Lean In and SurveyMonkey. But only 45% of black women say they have strong allies at work. And fewer than 40% of white employees say they have ever spoken out against racism at work.
This data on black women's experiences at work should ring alarm bells in every C-suite; we have presented it in a new report: The State of Black Women in Corporate America. Businesses need to move fast to change things for the better. What better day to take hold than Black Women & # 39 ;s Equal Pay Day?
Business leaders should make a public commitment to do more to promote black women. Then they must embrace an intersectional approach. The challenges black women face are rooted in a combination of sexism and racism, so any attempt to support them must take both into account. For example, companies should track representation by gender and race combined and set employment and promotion goals for women in color and black women. Right now, only 7% of companies set employment and marketing goals. It leaves many black women and other women of color at least somewhat invisible, which is exactly the problem companies have to solve. And that intersectional approach should be used across the board: for compensation, access to mentorship and sponsorship, and other factors that affect employee success and satisfaction.
Companies must also work to create a culture where black women are meaningfully included and welcome. Educating employees about sexism and racism – and giving them the opportunity to speak up when they see them – is crucial. But rooting out bad behavior is not enough. Companies must proactively cultivate good behavior – for example, by requiring training in lighting that teaches white employees how to fight for colleagues of color.
For years, Lean In has encouraged employers to make their jobs equal for women. We know from our data that the only effective and lasting way to do this is by centering the women who are most marginalized. If employers want to make women better, they must make black women better.
Raena Saddler is the CEO of LeanIn.Org. Rachel Thomas is a co-founder and CEO of LeanIn.Org. Their new report is State of Black Women in Corporate America.
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