Can A Sista Get Some Help? Black Women Less Supported At Work

Can A Sista Get Some Help? Black Women Less Supported At Work

A new study is shining a light on the issues black women are dealing with at work.

According to Women in the Workplace 2017, a comprehensive study of gender issues in corporate America, women of color face the most obstacles and receive the least support.

The report, part of a partnership between Lean In and McKinsey & Co., says women of color have a “steeper path to leadership” and that things are “particularly difficult” for black women.

In terms of support, black women report the lowest numbers across the board when asked about the help they receive. Specifically, only:

  • 31% say managers advocate for them for an opportunity
  • 35% say managers give them stretch assignments
  • 36% say managers provide advice to help them advance
  • 23% say managers help them navigate organizational politics
  • 28% say managers defend them or their work

Those numbers are all lower than the percentages reported by Latina, Asian, and white women. Black women are also the most likely to report never having senior-level contact.

(Source: Women in the Workplace)


The issues are definitely not in our heads. The study found the rate of promotion for black women is 4.9%, compared with 5.8% for Asian women, 6.0% for Hispanic women, and 7.4% for white women.

Women of color are the most underrepresented group in the pipeline. They make up 19% of the U.S. population but just 6% of vice presidents, 4% of senior vice presidents, and 3% of C-suite roles.

And the attrition rate—the reduction in workforce, primarily due to resignations—is higher for black women than any other group of women.

Black women’s outlook on the workplace reflects these harsh realities. Only 48% believe they have equal opportunity for growth as their peers. Just 34% feel promotions are based on fair and objective criteria. And even fewer, 29%, agree the best opportunities go to the most deserving employees. Again, those numbers are—across the board—lower than Latina, Asian, and white women.

Perhaps that’s why fewer black women, at 44%, than other women of color aspire to be a top executive. It may also be why they’re more likely to consider entrepreneurship, with significantly more saying they plan to strike out on their own when they leave their current job.