EEOC: Women of Color Still Have Workplace Challenges

August 1, 2003 ( - Women of color have made gains in the workforce, but still face significant hurdles, a new government study said.

The study by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Women of Color: Their Employment in the Private Sector , found that women of color now comprise 14.5% 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, the EEOC found. Similarly, more women from all four groups got jobs 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,” Commission Chair Cari Dominguez said in a statement. “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.”

African Americans continue to represent the highest employment rate among the groups studied (7.6% of the total workforce). However, during the past 10 years, 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 American women exceed their workforce representation as sales workers, clericals and service workers. The Nursing and Residential Care Facilities industry employs the largest percentage of African American women, as well as the largest percentage of women overall, according to the EEOC.

Dramatic Improvement

The most dramatic improvement in overall employment was among Hispanic women (now 4.7% of the total work force), whose rate of growth exceeded 100% over the 10-year period. Additionally, the number of female Hispanic officials and managers improved at an even higher rate, more than doubling over the decade. Like the African American women, Hispanic women exceed their total representation as sales workers, clericals, service workers and laborers.

Although the crop production industry employs the largest percent of all Hispanics in the private sector and is male-dominated, it also employs the largest percentage of Hispanic women.

Meanwhile, Asian women (2.1 % of the total workforce) reflect the most progress in attaining higher-level positions during the period studied. The number of female Asian officials and managers more than doubled, with a rate of change of 135%. 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% of the total workforce. 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 at .