Over the last year, women have left the workforce in unprecedented numbers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. And if you are a Black or brown woman, chances are you fared even worse.
This year, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day falls on Tuesday, and it means Black women must work an extra 214 days to catch up with what white, non-Hispanic men made in 2020 alone. Across industries, Black women are paid only 63 cents for every dollar made by white men, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
But let’s remember that the workforce wasn’t equitable in many industries for women of color, even prior to the pandemic. And the groups that are often hit the hardest during a crisis, tend to take the longest to recover. Despite the challenges that many women of color face in the workplace (the lack of sponsorship, upward mobility barriers, and the wage gap), I’m optimistic about our future.
Companies and organizations now have a unique opportunity to play a vital role in evening the playing field for women of color. Here’s how:
Inclusive hiring practices
Only one in five C-suite executives at Fortune 500 companies is a woman, according to a 2019 McKinsey study conducted in partnership with LeanIn.org, And for women of color, it's even more isolating, with just one in 25 in C-suite roles.
Despite this current reality, there's good news: Companies can change and implement hiring practices that center on Black and brown women that have not been prioritized in the past.
I am not suggesting preferential treatment. What I am recommending is for companies and organizations to be intentional about having a diverse slate of candidates for all future positions at every level. And in addition, a diverse hiring committee should be formed to participate in the interview process. So much bias happens during the hiring process, and by modifying current hiring practices that might skew heavily to one demographic, gender, or race, implementing an equitable hiring framework will inevitably benefit the recruitment and advancement of women of color.
As we mark Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, it should be a reminder to all companies that they must work to find an equitable solution.
The answer is simple, it won’t happen if companies don’t prioritize equal pay for all women. A first and important step is for all companies and organizations to conduct annual or quarterly pay audit reports and make them available to their employees.
Between 2016 and 2020, only 22 percent of companies reported performing salary audits, which can be used to assess any differences in pay related to gender and race. If we want to recruit and retain women of color, then we have to make sure there are no signs of wage theft practices.
Equipping our managers to be successful
I teach a course at New York University focused on talent development, which is centered on a curriculum that prioritizes how to make team environments psychologically safe and as diverse as possible.
It can be a challenge for managers to provide everyone on their team a safe environment to do their best work if they aren’t aware of the language and cultural differences each person brings to the table. And in most cases, managers will be tasked with having a difficult conversation that might include race.
With that said, managers should not be able to opt-in to equity. That means choosing not to discuss topics because they aren’t comfortable or trained in how to engage with people on their team, can no longer be permitted.
Managers must demonstrate equity, it can’t be a choice. For example, if a woman of color on their team has racialized concerns, it’s important their manager is equipped to be an active listener and exercise their conflict resolution skills. But in many cases, managers have not been trained in conflict resolution and tend to dismiss any racialized claims by women of color--because they haven’t experienced it themselves. And when women of color are not heard or invested in by their managers, the result tends to be losing their diverse talent.
Most people don’t leave their jobs because of their day to day duties, they tend to leave because of who they report to. I believe companies and organizations have another unique opportunity to not only invest in the women of color in the workplace, but also providing their managers with the tools to be successful
The future of work can be successful for women of color if companies and organizations are willing to partner on the road to success.
Minda Harts is the CEO of The Memo LLC and an award- winning and best-selling author of "The Memo: What Women of Color Need To Know To Secure A Seat At The Table." Minda is a Professor at NYU Wagner and hosts a live weekly podcast called "Secure The Seat."