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Challenges of Women of Color

“If you take, for example, the law firm that is white-male-centric and that women, in general,
have a difficult time, then women of color will have a more difficult time. There seem to
be more perceptions - either in terms of women of color’s goals, desires, motivations, and
in some cases, their abilities - that make it more difficult to navigate workplace and
to find people who can appreciate what women of color are doing. We have had a more
difficult time, in terms of getting people to advance women of color”

Senior partner, black man

Women and people of color generally are considered to face unique challenges in acquiring power and influence in corporations. Thus, the ways in which women succeed in gaining real power at work can be contrasted and compared greatly depending on particular case.

Anyway in the modern workplace both men and women got used to sharing the working space, ideas and expectations. The conditions should be equal to everyone. It is no longer surprising that the woman can be promoted to the higher echelon of power in some particular company alongside the male colleagues. According to Muoio: “In fact, more people in the United States now work for women-owned businesses than for the 500 biggest public companies” (Muoio, 1998). So, why is it so that there is still so very much tension observed between men and women at work? Perhaps, it was set historically and traces back into the past, when it is impossible to ignore a million years of history - in the living room or at the office, no matter.

However, females succeeded in acquirement of the power in the working place by means of acting in different natural to them style. “It’s dangerous to generalize, but there are differences between men and women in management style - not in skills but in style (Muoio, 1998). Indeed, notwithstanding all the bias and stereotypes concerning female work performance and the way they behave, females in many cases even overdid the men.

It is important that it is much more difficult to gain recognition for the women of color, even harder than for males of the same color. Gender, alongside sex discrimination are inseparable issues of one and the same problem. “It’s no secret that women and minorities are underrepresented in the executive ranks of American business. Women hold just 19 percent of senior officer positions in corporate America, while ethnic minorities of both genders hold just 16.7 percent of the top spots – about one leadership position in six” (U.S. Census Data, 2000).

More than that, the sources claim that “even the well informed might be shocked to learn how few women of color have achieved senior executive status in the United States. Though minority women make up 13.4 percent of the U.S. workforce, they hold only 1.6 percent of corporate officer posts at 429 Fortune 500 companies who responded to the survey” (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2003).

Thus, it is obvious that the women of color are deprived of the governing positions in average. Sure thin, there are lucky exceptions, but still they are minor in comparison with the dominance of the white males and females in the same position. It is a very unjust matter of facts of the business life that females of color have more barriers than the white workers to overcome. They are considered to need “to be attuned to themselves” and the people around them to succeed and be promote. This means first of all using “emotional intelligence” is essential to find the right leadership or communication style for every situation.

The challenged part of the working community – women of color are to obtain the necessary advancement in the companies they are working for. In such a way women of color need to specifically articulate, express their own authentic leadership style and voice. The condition of their success is the need of understanding the political landscape within their organizations and its unwritten rules. In addition, they must keep their own perspectives, ambitions, professional goals and sense of self. Having a mentor – it need not be a woman of color – helps. Having channels of communication to the highest levels and the support of a direct superior is critical.

It is wise to note that the women of color who managed to succeed in business are considered to take the ownership particularly for their own advancement. This particularly often begins by personal development crafting plan and sharing it with the management. Most senior executives tend to understand ambitions. Those who are on board, but with management diversity will certainly support career ambitions of the executive, when they combine company goals with personal growth.

However, again appealing to the statistics, the majority of surveyed women of color executives when asked about the career prospects were not so optimistic. Many believe that they must move out to move up. “Census figures confirm that women executives of all colors are leaving the top ranks of American business in droves. They held 32 percent of top jobs in 1990, but only 19 percent of such positions in 2000. This is a dangerous trend” (U.S. Census Data, 2000). Hence, it is obvious that the ways women and people of color generally face unique challenges in acquiring power and influence in corporations.

However, there are cases of success. I believe with appropriate social attitude to the following minority and governmental support it is possible to increase the number of people of color on the leading positions in higher national and private structures. Industry has to act in order to create the inclusive corporate cultures and diverse management teams that are needed to lead tomorrow’s organizations to promote women of color to leadership positions, threatens morale, growth and productivity.


Muoio, Anna. Women and Men, Work and Power. January 31, 1998.

Analysis of U.S. Census Data by Peopleclick Inc. Share of women and minorities in CEO, CFO, president and vice president positions, 1990 vs. 2000.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2003.

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