Harvard Business School alumnae and co-authors Bonita C. Stewart and Jacqueline Adams published their 2021 U.S. Women of Color in Business: Cross-Generational Survey. Titled Untapped Women of Color: The Talent Force Multiplier, the new release, and third in five planned annual surveys, is unique in its analysis of the opinions and capabilities of women desk workers and students across four generations. The work also highlights new, evolving skills and attitudes that managers must develop to assess and motivate talent, across cultures as well as generations, in the complex post-COVID workplace.
About the survey
For the first time, the 2021 edition of the U.S. Women of Color in Business: Cross-Generational Survey compared and contrasted the experiences of 300 White and Black male managers with those of 4,000 women managers and desk workers across four races (Black, LatinX, Asian American and White) and four generations (Gen Z students [ages 17-24], Millennials [ages 25-39], Gen X [ages 40-56] and Boomers [ages 57-74]). The results underscore the need for a more nuanced appreciation of “generational diversity.” Stewart and Adams coined this original concept.
The new study analyzes the opinions, experiences and capabilities of women of color across four generations in today’s workforce.
In addition to including Black and White male managers, this year’s survey takes a deeper look at Asian American women desk workers. There were differentiating responses by the women’s countries of origin: China, Vietnam, India and the Philippines.
The author’s support
Co-authors Adams and Stewart, a Board Partner at Google’s Gradient Ventures, note that they truly appreciate Google’s support of their work. “The company’s sponsorship validates the originality and importance of our research,” they say. “We are also grateful for the ongoing expertise of our survey partner, Quadrant Strategies. We believe creating a talent multiplier requires building new management capability in the areas of Cultural Intelligence (CQ), as well as understanding Generational Diversity in the workplace.”
“The data leads the co-authors to the conclusion that great managers matter,” says Melonie Parker, Chief Diversity Officer at Google. “The underappreciated generational changes identified in the survey should encourage and challenge leaders to assess ‘untapped’ talent pools as a force multiplier for business success. At Google, we see this research as another lens to inform our ongoing work to build belonging, while providing exceptional thought leadership to all companies navigating the growing complexities of the workplace.”
Highlights from the new research include:
Despite promises of progress, despite disruptions to corporate recruiting, the co-authors’ chief performance metric–the Onlys–remains stalled, with almost half of Black and LatinX women continuing to report being frequently or always the only person of their races in professional settings.
More distressing is that the number of Black and LatinX Millennial Onlys has spiked: 55 percent for Black and 45 percent for LatinX.
The 2021 results show clear differentiations among Black and LatinX Millennial women. These are especially clear when it comes to confidence about the future, coping with workplace stresses and teaming up within the “sisterhood.”
This was a breakaway year for innovation among Millennials. This survey calls it “First to Know About Technology.” 44 percent of Black Millennial women desk workers said they are always the first to know. 42 percent for LatinX, 33 percent for Asian Americans and 38 percent for White Millennials.
Black and LatinX women reported that they are actively participating in the current startup boom.
32 percent of Black Millennial women said they founded or co-founded the company they work at. This is more than double the 14 percent in 2020.
As reported in 2020, Black women are more likely to be “side-preneurs” across all generations. This means they have a business they are working on outside of their desk jobs. 27 percent said they are side-entrepreneurs, as opposed to 16 percent LatinX. This is compared with 11 percent Asian American and 12 percent White women.
Acknowledging systemic racism
Millennial women are acknowledging systemic racism in the U.S. and are not shy about using their power to address it.
In 2021, Asian American women fell behind other racial groups, across all generations, in terms of career satisfaction.
Only 30 percent of Asian American women agreed that they’ve had the opportunity to do meaningful and satisfying work. This is down from 39 percent in 2020. Compare this to 42 percent White women, 47 percent LatinX women and 51 percent Black women).
Chinese American respondents, in particular, reported the lowest career satisfaction. Indian American, Filipina American and Vietnamese American women were comparatively more satisfied.
Only 17 percent of Chinese American women feel greatly fulfilled at work. This is compared to 33 percent of Filipina American women. Only 32 percent of Indian American women and 31 percent of Vietnamese American women.
Among the managers, the new data showed optimism and resilience among the Black men managers. This mirrored the responses of the women managers and desk workers of color overall.
The good news
In the good news category, there was a marked increase in “stretch assignment parity.” Male and women managers of all races reported strikingly similar opportunities in the last 12 months for “challenging work assignments that pushed you out of your comfort zone.”
But the data showed that parity has come with an apparent cost. Comparing their 2021 and 2020 responses, White male managers reported marked declines in career fulfillment. They also reported declines in their career satisfaction and their assessment of being successful. Yet, when asked about their compensation, White male managers said they earned almost three times as much as other managers. They are overshadowed by Asian American women managers in this metric. White male managers earned slightly less than twice as much as Asian American women.
The co-authors’ first survey, in 2019, informed the recommendations in their book, A BLESSING: Women of Color Teaming Up to Lead, Empower and Thrive.
The 2021 U.S. Women of Color in Business: Cross-Generational Survey was drafted by Quadrant Strategies between August and December 2021; it was fielded between January 4 and February 8, 2022. A total of 4300 respondents participated with a margin or error of +/- 1.49 percent. Respondents included American women desk workers and students across four races (Black, LatinX, Asian and White) and four generations (Boomer, Gen X and Millennial desk workers, as well as Gen Z students). The survey also included responses from 150 Black men managers and 150 White men managers. Their generations ranged from Millennial to Gen X and Boomers.
About the book by Stewart and Adams
In 2020, Bonita C. Stewart and Jacqueline Adams published their book, A BLESSING: Women of Color Teaming Up to Lead, Empower and Thrive, an optimistic and realistic analysis of Black female leadership. With a preface written by former Black Entertainment Television Chairman and CEO Emeritus Debra L. Lee and a foreword written by Kenneth Chenault, Chairman and Managing Director of General Catalyst and former Chairman and CEO of American Express, the authors provide tools, data and inspiration for entrepreneurial and corporate women of color as well as their allies—regardless of their race or gender. The book is anchored by the first of the coauthors’ proprietary surveys, the 2019 Women of Color in Business: Cross-Generational Survey.
Online access to the report: https://leadempowerthrive.com/research2021.
Want to read more about women in the workplace? Check out our article: How AI Can Solve the Gender Funding Gap.