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Women of Color Making Gains in US Workforce

Hispanic women see greatest increases over last decade 

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Women of color now comprise 14.5 percent of the American workforce, according to a new study from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The study, "Women of Color: Their Employment in the Private Sector," indicates major gains in employment for women of color over the past decade. 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.

"Women of color have made noteworthy gains, both in terms of workplace numbers and status," said Commission Chair Cari M. Dominguez in an EEOC press release. "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 at 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 American women exceed their work force 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.

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 managers 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 doubled, 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.

Native American women saw their rate of employment increase 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.

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