3 Things Holding Back Women of Color at Work — and 7 Things We Can Do to Get Ahead


Business women of color


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Ellie Nieves100
Women's Leadership Speaker & Coach
Pay equity is a key issue in the gender parity debate, perhaps because nothing tells the gender inequity story better than statistical numbers and dollar signs. Women in general have it tough, but women of color have it even tougher. Although women of color are ambitious, there are some stark realities that hinder their progress in the workplace:

1. Women of color get paid less.

Statistics show that the average working woman is paid 83 cents for every dollar that a man is paid. The reality is much more bleak for black and Hispanic women, who are paid only 65 cents and 59 cents for every dollar a white male makes, respectively.

2. They pay a social penalty when they ask for more.

For years, experts have argued that the reason women don’t get promoted or receive raises at the same rate as men is because they don’t ask. But, a recent study by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company on Women in the Workplace turns this notion upside its head. The study shows that women of all races and ethnicities negotiate at the same rate as their male counterparts. While women who negotiate for a promotion are more than twice as likely to get one, it comes with a price. Women who negotiate often receive feedback that they are “bossy,” “intimidating” and “too aggressive.”

3. They receive less support.

Interestingly, the Women in the Workplace study also found that women of color are far more interested in becoming top executives than their white counterparts. Despite their ambition, they are less likely to have managers who will advocate for them, provide them with stretch opportunities, give them career advice, defend their work and help them navigate organizational politics.

So, here's my advice for women of color on how to get ahead.

Don’t let the statistics and figures discourage you from putting your best foot forward. Here are some strategies to help you navigate in a challenging environment:

1. Be a top performer.

Your performance matters. Work hard to deliver excellent results.

2. Raise your hand.

Step up and volunteer to take on new projects. This is a great way to get on the radar screen of the top leaders in your organization.

3. Build your network.

Cultivate a well-rounded network of peers and senior leaders. Connect with the “movers and shakers” and the “rising stars”.

4. Be ambitious and go for it.

Be clear about your goals are and do the research to learn what is required to get there. Then go for it!

5. Talk about your accomplishments.

It’s not enough to do the work and keep your head down. Talk about your accomplishments.

6. Build your personal brand.

Develop a reputation as a person who works well with others, can lead a team effectively and gets the job done.

7. Leave to get ahead.

Sometimes the best way to fast track your career is to walk out the door and find a another opportunity that will take your career to the next level.
Ellie Nieves, JD, MBA, develops webinars, seminars, and coaching programs to help high achieving women show up, speak up, and step up in their careers. She is also the host of the Leadership Strategies for Women Podcast where she shares success tips to help women achieve more both personally and professionally. To learn more, go to:  www.EllieNieves.com.