WOCA 2022: Research on the Challenges and Solutions for Women of Color in the Workplace

The gender pay gap and lack of sponsorship and belonging – women of color face many challenges in the workplace. 

At the 2022 annual Women of Color and Their Allies event held in Louisville on Sept. 21 by Fair360, formerly DiversityInc in conjunction with Humana, leading academic researchers shared scientific evidence on the experiences of women of color at work and what interventions can be put in place to address the issues. 

Researchers put to the test if the motherhood penalty – the phenomenon in which women’s pay decreases once they become mothers – applied to women of all races. 

“For white women, there is a motherhood penalty such that they are significantly less attractive to recruiters,” said Sreedhari Desai, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior & Crist W. Blackwell Scholar University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  “For Black women and East Asian women, disclosing motherhood seems to be a bit of a perk. But sadly, when it comes to Latin American women, the motherhood penalty is the hardest and strongest for them.”

Mentorship and sponsorship can be game changers for women of color, but research found that they often face challenges in obtaining mentors and sponsors. Dr. William Luse, Assistant Professor of Management & Leadership, College of Business and Public Management University of LaVerne, cites intersectional invisibility as one of the barriers. 

“The idea is that being both a woman and being an ethnic and racial minority, the people you’re interacting with don’t know how to label you or classify you,” he said. “Because of that, you practically don’t exist to them or they don’t view you as a full person.”  

Black and Latinx women experience mistreatment at work and if the behavior is prolonged, it can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a lack of belonging in the workplace. 

“To increase employee engagement for Black women and Latinx women, create peer networks to foster more social support which research has shown significantly impacts PTSD symptoms,” said Erica Johnson, Ph.D. Candidate in Organizational Behavior Case Western Reserve University.  “Include Black women and Latinx women in change management decisions, make sure that they’re in on decisions and to foster a sense of well-being and belonging for Black and Latinx women, make sure that they’re valued, make sure that they’re heard and show that you care.”

Watch all the sessions from our 2022 Women of Color and Their Allies event here!