August 15, 2003

Women of Color Make Gains in Employment and Job Status

Stubborn Patterns Still Persist Among African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American Women

WASHINGTON - A new U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) study, “Women of Color, Their Employment in the Private Sector,” reveals that women of color now comprise 14.5 percent of America’s private sector workforce, a major increase from a decade earlier. The employment of each group of women examined — African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American - grew during this period. Similarly, more women from all four groups obtained employment as officials and managers, though numbers vary widely by industry.

“Women of color have made noteworthy gains, both in terms of workplace numbers and status,” said Commission Chair Cari M. Dominguez. “Still, we see some stubborn patterns needing our attention. Too many women of color are concentrated in certain industries and appear to have plateaued in lower occupational categories. We are also mindful that women of color tend to file more charges of discrimination against a handful of industries.”

Of all women of color, African Americans continue to represent the highest rate of employment (7.6 percent of the total work force). However, during the past decade, they have made the smallest gains with regard to total employment and higher level positions - far below the growth rates of Hispanic and Asian women. Meanwhile, African Ame-rican women exceed their work force representation as sales workers, clericals and service workers. The Nursing and Residential Care Facilities industry employes the largest percentage of African American women, as well as the largest percentage of women overall.

The most dramatic improvement in overall employment was among Hispanic women (now 4.7 percent of the total work force), whose rate of growth exceeded 100 percent over the 10-year period. Additionally, the number of female Hispanic officials and manages improved at an even higher rate, more than doubling over the decade. At the same time, Hispanic women exceed their total representation as sales workers, clericals, service workers and laborers. Although the crop production industry employs the largest percentage of all Hispanics in the private sector and is male-dominated, it also employs the largest percentage of Hispanic women.

Asian women (2.1 percent of the total work force) reflect the most progress in attaining higher-level positions during the period studied. The number of female Asian officials and managers more than doubles, with a rate of change of 135 percent. Asian women exceed their total representation in three different areas along the employment spectrum: as professionals, technicians and clericals. The largest numbers of Asian women are employed in the Computer and Electronic Product Manufacturing industry, as well as in some retail industries.

The employment of Native American women increased only slightly in 10 years, from 0.2 to 0.3 percent of the total work force. Even so, the number of officials and managers within this group nearly doubled within the same period. Native American women exceed their total representation as sales workers, clericals and service workers. They are most frequently employed in the industries of Gasoline Stations and Apparel Manufacturing.

Data used in this study were drawn from two sources: the EEO-1 report, which is overseen by the EEOC and required annually of private sector employers with 100 or more employees and federal contractors with at least 50 employees and contracts of $50,000 or more, and the EEOC’s database for tracking charge processing activities. The full report is available on the agency’s web site at

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