Though the last couple of years have wrought a number of flashy initiatives aimed at increasing gender and racial equality at certain companies, men continue to own the lion’s share of leadership roles in the U.S. And while women at large are languishing in general staff roles, women of color are suffering in particular.
Black, Hispanic and Asian women hold just 3% of board director roles at Fortune 500 companies, according to “Barriers and Bias: the Status of Women in Leadership,” a new study from the American Association of University Women. That’s in part because few women of color can even snag a job at Fortune 500 company, where they make up 17% of the workforce. Once in, a minuscule 4% are able to rise up to managerial or executive posts.
“Many thousands of books and articles offer theories about the nature of the problem and advice to individual women on how to stand up, step up, lean in and make their voices heard,” reports the study. “But the leadership gender gap is significant, persistent and systemic. Individual choices alone simply will not solve the problem.”
The project looks at several available studies along with its own analysis to answer questions about why the gender leadership gap exists, what initiatives are effectively curbing it and what steps should be taken to lower the barrier to entry for women.
“The leadership gender gap is significant, persistent and systemic. Individual choices alone simply will not solve the problem,” the study reports.
Whatever the reason for these discrepancies, it’s not for lack of qualifications. Evidence shows that more women in the U.S. obtain bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees than men. However, while more women of color are likely to hold a degree over men of color, according to the Census Bureau, women of color still only make up 23% of all college students. That’s a significantly greater percentage than the number of women of color in leadership roles.