Lower pay, more harassment: How work in America has failed women of colour

Getty ImagesBlack and Hispanic women are paid less than white people for the same work.

Work is failing black and brown women.

A new report from LeanIn.org and McKinsey found that women of colour make up an abysmal 4% of C-suite executives – while white women get 18% of exec roles and white men get 68%.

Not only are black and Hispanic women paid less than white women on average, studies find that they are more likely to work low-paying jobs.

Asian-American women, meanwhile, are most likely to get passed up for senior-level roles, and some ethnic groups (like Bangladeshi and Thai women) get paid much less than white men.


Read more:
Nearly 3 in 4 women in tech have mulled leaving the field, signalling the industry still has a gender diversity problem

Even worse: women of colour overall report higher rates of workplace sexual harassment and bullying.

Here are 10 ways that work in America is failing women of colour:


Black and Hispanic women are paid less than white people for the same work.

10’000 Hours/Getty Images

Black and Hispanic women are most affected by the gender wage gap, especially when compared to white men: black women make 67% of what white men earn, and Hispanic women get 58%.

Black women need to work an extra 233 days to earn what white men earn. Hispanic women, particularly Latinas, need to work 324 days.


And while Asian women are paid more than white women on aggregate, that differs if you break the number down depending on Asian ethnicities.

Bebeto Matthews/AP

Indian-American and Chinese-American women – who are part of the wealthiest ethnic groups in the US – out-earn white men, according to data from the US Census Bureau.

Yet if you look at other ethnic groups within the Asian-American community, there are far greater disparities: Burmese-American women make just 50 cents for every dollar that white men earn, and Thai-American women make 60 cents on the dollar.

Filipino-American women, one of the largest Asian-American demographics in the US, earn 83 cents for what white men earn, and Bangladeshi-American women earn 69 cents.


Black and Hispanic women are far more likely to work low-paying jobs.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Workers of colour – specifically, black workers, Hispanic workers, and Asian-American workers – are more likely to get paid poverty-level wages than white workers, according to a 2018 analysis by the liberal-leaning think tank Economic Policy Institute.

Black and Hispanic women are also overrepresented in low-paying work.

Black women, for instance, are more likely to work in food service, domestic work, and home healthcare – all some of the worst paying occupations in the country. They are additionally less likely to work in high-paying tech fields, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports.

Hispanic people, meanwhile, account for just 15% of all jobs, but make up 36% of all high school dropouts – a group that typically gets low-paying work. As a result, largely Hispanic women make up 43% of all maids and house cleaners in the country, according to a 2013 report from The Atlantic.


Black and Hispanic women are particularly vulnerable to unpredictable schedules.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Black and Hispanic women working hourly wages have the most irregular schedules, according to a New York Times article citing data from Shift Project. Workers of colour were 30 per cent more likely than white workers to have had a shift cancelled in the last month – even if both groups had the same work experience and education.

There are consequences from having precarious schedules: night shift workers and people who have irregular hours are also 33% more likely to suffer from depression. The children of these employees have worse behaviour and inconsistent child care, the Times reported.


Women of colour make up an abysmal 4% of corporate C-suites.

Getty Images

Just 1 in 25 C-suite executive-level managers is a woman of colour, a new report from McKinsey and LeanIn.org on the state of Women in the Workplace 2019 found. White women make up 18% of C-suite executives, while white men make up the vast majority at 68%.

Women of colour aren’t just greatly out-numbered at the top – they make up 18% of entry-level jobs, 12 percentage points less than white women. They then face greater challenges to getting that next promotion: McKinsey found that for every 100 entry-level men who are promoted to manager, just 68 Latinas and 58 black women are promoted.


Women of colour, particularly in the low-wage sector, are more vulnerable to sexual harassment and bullying at work.

Getty Images

Women of colour overall are more likely to report sexual harassment at work, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Gender, Work and Organisation.

Women of colour low-wage sectors are particularly vulnerable. Black women and Latinas working in fast food, for instance, are more likely to report negative sexual attention than white women.

Women of colour also face higher non-sexual harassment, like bullying. An analysis of survey responses from 800 employees found ethnic minority women suffered higher rates of harassment at work when compared to white people and men of colour.

Researchers hypothesised this phenomenon occurs because women of colour face a “double jeopardy” of being both women and ethnic minorities, groups more susceptible to harassment.


Read more:
American workers say jobs should do more to help them cope with mental health issues like depression and stress


Black women are more harshly evaluated than white workers and black men — and feel they are more likely to get passed up for promotions and better opportunities.

Reuters/Rebecca Cook

A Harvard University study found that black women are seen as less effective leaders than white women and white and black men.

Black women also get some of the least support from their managers and feel they are often unfairly passed up for better opportunities, Lean In and McKinsey found.


Black women get paid less money after graduating — and they have a harder time paying off their student loan debt.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

To attend four-year colleges, 86.6% of black students borrow federal loans, compared to 59.9% of white students.

Black students have a harder time paying them off, too: one in two black students defaulted on their student loans between 2003 and 2015, compared to just 21.5% of white students and 36.1% of Latino students.

Black women also take a longer time paying off their loans, research finds – in part due to making less money out of college. Black college graduates ages 21 to 24 earn $US3.34 less per hour than their white peers, reported Jillian Berman for MarketWatch, citing an analysis by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.


Founders of colour get less funding than white CEOs.

GettyArlan Hamilton (centre) of Backstage Capital

Starting your own business is harder if you’re a woman of colour.

Citing various sources, Entrepreneur’s Nina Zipkin reported that black women founders have gotten just.0006% of VC money since 2009. Roughly 1% of all Latino or Latina businesses between 2007 and 2012 used VC funding. And just 15% of investment professionals are Asian-American.

For this reason, Arlan Hamilton – one of VC’s only queer black women – started Backstage Capital, a firm that invests only in minority-owned ventures.


Asian-American women are passed up for senior-level roles more often than other ethnic groups.

Getty Images

Asian Americans are the least likely racial group to get promoted into tech management positions – despite being the most-likely group hired into entry-level positions.

For women, it’s even worse: out of all the Asian-American women working in tech, only 1 in 285 is an executive, a study from professional group Ascend found.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.