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Black Women in the Workplace

2/1/2023 10:29:05 AM

Even though Black women have always had the highest levels of labor market participation regardless of age, marital status, or number of children at home, they statistically experience the most discrimination compared to others in the workplace.  

This prejudice dates back to the era of slavery. Not only is the high participation rate in the workforce by Black women due to the societal expectation that Black women are workers, but due to the discrimination Black men also faced in the workforce. Black men had lower wages and less stable jobs compared to white men, forcing Black women to join and stay in the workforce in order to help financially support their families, while white women’s already low participation rate diminished after marriage.  

Even after migration to the north in the 20th century, Black women were mostly only hired in low-paying domestic service and agriculture roles.  

And in corporate America today, Black women are still facing bias.  

A study done by Lean In examines the challenges Black women face in the workplace. One of the first findings from the study explains that Black women are less likely to be promoted to manager level positions. Lean In adds that even though women ask for promotions at the same rate as men, for every 100 men that are promoted to manager, only 58 Black women are promoted. And for every 100 men hired into a manager role, only 64 Black women are hired.  

And while white men make up 35% of the population, they have 57% of VP roles and 68% of c-suite positions. Black women make up 7.4% of the population, but only 1.6% of VP roles and 1.4% of c-suite positions.  

Not only does this bias affect when and if Black women are promoted, it also affects their confidence and support in the workplace. Lean In reports that Black women are less likely to have managers showcase their work, advocate for new opportunities for them, or give them opportunities to manage people and projects. Black women are also less likely to report that their manager helps them navigate organizational politics or balance work and personal life. In addition, Black women are less likely to even interact with senior leaders. Less than one quarter of Black women feel they have the support and sponsorship they need to advance in their career. Without this support from their managers, Black women are the least likely to excel. 

At Dress for Success Cincinnati, we know that when a woman has the opportunity to advance in her career and achieve her goals, it will have a profound impact on not only herself, but her family and community. For example, when a woman of color is in a leadership position, she can actively encourage and inspire other members of the organization to breakthrough to a higher level of management. Lean In found that among employees who want to be top executives, Black women are 50% more likely than men to say they are motivated by a desire to be role models for others like them.  

In 2022, approximately 40.55% of Dress for Success Cincinnati clients identify as African American. We recognize the bias these women face in the workplace, and we are working towards a world where women are empowered and confident in their work and in life, allowing them to excel and achieve their dreams. 

If you would like to participate in Dress for Success Cincinnati’s mission to help women in the community thrive among these obstacles, consider getting involved as a volunteer or making a financial donation to our organization.   

As a volunteer, you can assist with several initiatives, including sorting interview clothing for our clients, styling our clients, spreading your knowledge and expertise through speaking at one of our HigherHER Career Development Program sessions, and many more.   

Additionally, making a financial donation goes a long way in supporting our organization. Donations help fund our effective programs and services, which allow us to respond to the changing needs of local women. 


Banks, N. (2019, February 19). Black Women's labor market history reveals deep-seated race and gender discrimination. Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.epi.org/blog/black-womens-labor-market-history-reveals-deep-seated-race-and-gender-discrimination/#:~:text=Black%20women%E2%80%99s%20main%20jobs%20historically%20have%20been%20in,this%20work%20is%20associated%20with%20mothering%20more%20broadly. 

The state of Black Women in corporate America. Lean In. (2020). Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://media.sgff.io/sgff_r1eHetbDYb/2020-08-13/1597343917539/Lean_In_-_State_of_Black_Women_in_Corporate_America_Report_1.pdf