Most workplaces in the United States now know to at least pay lip service to gender equality and equal pay. Even so, progress is cripplingly slow; for example, 50 percent of men think women are “well represented” in leadership in companies if just 1 in 10 women are senior leaders.
Adding race into the mix makes for even more dismal results. According to the Women in the Workplace 2017 report published by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey, on the whole, women of color are severely underrepresented in leadership, falling behind white men, men of color, and white women in nearly every category of measured success.
According to results from the study, for example, Senior Manager/Director positions are occupied primarily by white men (54 percent), followed by white women (26 percent), and men of color (13 percent); bringing up the rear are women of color, who occupy just 8 percent of these positions.
Understudied are the impacts of these disparities on immigrant women in the workplace, many of whom are women of color, and who may have to overcome additional hurdles, like a language barrier.
Learning more about this issue is critical to economic and social prosperity in America, especially since the number of female entrants continues to eclipse their male counterparts. Since 1960, the female foreign-born population has increasingly exceeded the male population. Only 13 percent of these women work as professionals in the U.S., even though 32 percent of them worked as professionals in their home country.
Enormous potential lies in promoting opportunity for the increasing number of female immigrants, especially those already trained in professional occupations. In 2010, immigrant women comprised 40 percent of all immigrant business owners, and 20 percent of women business owners in general. In fact, immigrant women are more likely to own their own business than American-born women.
Immigrant women are also the drivers of naturalization in their families, and are increasingly the heads of those families. Between 1990 and 2015, there was a 192 percent increase in female-led immigrant households.
To ignore this powerful subset of women, or to fail to provide opportunities for these women to excel in the workplace, is short-sighted and foolish. Pursuing gender equality and diversity in the workplace makes for a more dynamic, prosperous, and welcoming nation for everyone. Let’s do better.