Advancing

5 Lessons: What It Will Take to Promote More Multicultural Women at Work

The concrete ceiling. The double bind.

No matter what you call it, women of color still suffer when it comes to advancing in the workplace. A recent count found, for example, that while multicultural women represent 17% of all employees at the S&P 500, they hold fewer than 10 percent of manager positions, 4 percent of executive jobs and 0.4 percent of CEO posts. As for boards of directors, Catalyst reports that women of color hold 3 percent of board seats at Fortune 500 companies.

Abysmal.

But change can happen—and is happening. At the Best Companies for Multicultural Women, managers and executives are committed to changing the ratio when it comes to women of color.

To that end, here are five important lessons learned from this year’s winning Best Companies for Multicultural Women:

  • Mentoring. All 25 Best Companies now offer mentoring specifically targeted to serve multicultural women employees.
  • Sponsorship. Nearly 70% offer sponsorship targeted to multicultural women.
  • Recruiting. More Best Companies (84%) use outside recruiters to find multicultural women talent versus a year ago (76%).
  • Compensation. Nearly 70% of the Best Companies compensate managers for good diversity results, up from 64% of Best Companies last year.
  • Employee Affinity Groups. At the Best Companies, multicultural women post higher participation rates in network/affinity groups than any other employee group.

It is these types of policies — and investments — into female multicultural employees that has generated more advancement for women of color, including spots at the very top: At the Best Companies, representation of multicultural women on boards of directors increased to 8% this year after holding steady at 4% for three years. Multicultural women hold 14% of senior manager and 10% of corporate executive positions, too. In all, multicultural women make up 21 percent of the 2.5 million employees represented by this year’s winning class.

Have these Best Companies unlocked the full potential of women of color? No. But they are certainly light years ahead of most employers. These companies—including our top 5: Deloitte, Horizon Healthcare Services, Inc., IBM, Procter & Gamble and State Farm—know that diversity is key to growing their businesses.

Within three decades, racial minorities are projected to outnumber whites in the United States. Employers who don’t put diversity and inclusion top of mind now will miss out, now and in the future.

About the Author

Jennifer Owens is editor of Spring.St, the place for smart women. Formerly, she was editorial director of Working Mother magazine & founding director of the Working Mother Research Institute, home to the Working Mother 100 Best Companies and Best Companies for Multicultural Women, among other initiatives.