The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Meeting of May 23, 2007 - Achieving Work/Family Balance: Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities

Statement of Anika K. Warren, Ph.D, Director, Catalyst, Inc.


Good morning, Madam Chair, Madam Vice-Chair and Commissioners. On behalf of Catalyst, I extend my sincere appreciation to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“Commission”) for the invitation to provide a statement on work-life experiences of Women of Color (“WOC”). My name is Dr. Anika Warren and I am Director in Research at Catalyst, Inc.

Catalyst is the leading non-profit corporate membership research and advisory organization working globally with businesses and the professions to build inclusive environments and expand opportunities for women and business. As a Director in Research at Catalyst, I am a member of our Women of Color Issue Specialty Team and our Diversity and Inclusion Action Council. I also lead and support research projects focused on organizational change and effectiveness, people of color/visible minorities, and women in leadership.

For over 10 years, Catalyst’s research on WOC in professional and managerial positions has been designed to address workplace issues affecting WOC. Our WOC research complement our research on women in leadership and organizational change and effectiveness by examining the impacts of race and ethnicity in addition to gender on individuals’ career advancement, perceptions of workplace inclusiveness, retention, and other factors important to business organizations. This year, the Catalyst WOC research stream is examining variation among Asian/Asian American/Pacific Islander women, Black/African-American women, and Hispanic American women/Latinas in Professional Services. We are also examining Visible Minorities in a study entitled Career Advancement in Corporate Canada: A Focus on Visible Minorities. Based on research findings from our WOC in Professional Services study, Catalyst researchers will examine work-life issues and manager-subordinate relationships among these important employee populations.

In this statement, I will draw on Catalyst research, workforce statistics, and the extant literature on work-life experiences of WOC to inform the business case for focusing on WOC as well as to substantiate the need for organization practices that promote the interests of diverse populations of employees (e.g., women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers, physically challenged employees, aging populations). After highlighting key terms, trends, and issues impacting the work-life experiences of WOC, I will describe four organizational practices recognized for enhancing workplace experiences and advancing professional interests of WOC.

Understanding Key Terms and Concepts

In response to emerging labor force trends over the past 40 years (e.g., technological advances, corporate globalization, workforce diversification), work-family dynamics have received increasing attention in Corporate America, academia, and the media. Yet, little attention has been given to the unique work-family experiences of diverse populations of employees such as WOC.

In a statement of this nature, it is important to begin with a common understanding of key terms that define the work-life experiences of WOC. In this statement, the term Women of Color will refer to women of African, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latin, and or Native American/Alaskan Native descent who reside in the United States. The term WOC is of particular importance in the U.S. because it represents distinct manners in which gender differences intersect simultaneously with other factors (e.g., race, ethnicity, social economic status, caste, culture, language, migration status, etc.). Thus, the term WOC reflects the unique and often complex experiences of oppression and privilege that some women encounter as a result of living in a society dominated and defined by those who are demographic opposites, White men. Although the term WOC does not always allow us to examine variation within each racial or ethnic group, it does provide us with a common language to discuss shared experiences among women in the U.S. of Asian/Pacific Islander, Latin, Native American/Alaskan Native, and or African descent.

Understanding how different cultural perceptions of work and family roles influence the interests and needs of diverse employee populations is an essential first step in the development of effective and inclusive work-family practices and policies. As most of you are aware, work-life conflict (also known as work-family conflict and work-life role strain) occurs when inter-role challenges increase as the demands of a particular role make functioning in another role more difficult, especially when the role is mutually incompatible (Noor, 2004; Voydanoff, 2004). Conversely, work-family facilitation (also known as work-life balance and work-life effectiveness) is a type of synergy in which resources associated with one role enhance, mobilize and or make participating in another role easier (Voydanoff, 2004).

In general, the terms work roles and family roles are presumably defined as patterns of behavior associated with functioning in the paid labor force as a worker and functioning in the home environment as a caregiver to others, respectively. However, as a result of the broad definition of family, as defined by collectivist cultural norms that are often representative of WOC, the family caregiver role, is more broadly described as a role where a girl or woman takes care of the emotional, familial, and financial needs of people who are biologically related (e.g., parents, immediate and extended family, blood kin), as well as people who are not biologically related (e.g., mates, friends, and non-blood kin) (Boyd-Franklin, 1991; Dumas, 1985; McAdoo, 1998; Phields, 2002).

Informing the Business Case with Workforce Statistics

Only a paucity of literature exists on the work-family experiences of WOC. However, the extant labor force participation data indicate that WOC, including those with children, have historically and consistently participated in the United States labor force at higher percentages than their White female counterparts. A thorough examination of statistical data on labor force participation rates and family characteristics reveals that from 1890 to 1970, WOC worked in the U.S. paid labor force at higher percentages than did White American women (Allen, 1979; Harley, 1990; U.S. Department of Commerce, 1975). More recently, in 2005, 62% (9,014,000) of African American women, 62% (7,839,000) of Latinas, and 58% (3,002,000) of Asian American women participated in the U.S. labor force (U.S. Bureau of Labor Force Statistics, 2006). Similar data on Native American/Alaskan Native women tends to be unreported or underreported and, as a result, accurate data on this group of women could not be obtained. However, reported data on Native American/Alaskan Native women between the ages of 25 and 54 indicate that women represented 48% of the total Native American/Alaskan Native population in the U.S. labor force in 2005 (Catalyst, 2006; U.S. Department of Commerce, 2005). Given that total U.S. labor force participation of women in 2005 was estimated at 46% (Catalyst, 2006; U.S. Department of Commerce, 2005), it appears that WOC continue to participate in the U.S. labor force at higher rates than their White female counterparts.

In support of labor force participation data, some scholars suggest that WOC have performed work and family roles simultaneously as a result of their historical experiences of gender, racial/ethnic and economic oppression (Warren, 2005). Others further suggest that some WOC’s ability to effectively manage work-family conflict is the result of their ability to survive challenging situations with limited resources (Warren, 2005). Historically, working WOC have been disproportionably represented in low-wage support roles and or low-level positions such as administrative assistants, sales workers, and service providers.

Today, WOC are the fastest growing segment of the workforce. They are earning undergraduate and graduate degrees at higher rates than many other demographic groups and are increasingly gaining employment as managers. However, in the 2005 Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners of the Fortune 500, WOC only represented 1.6 percent of corporate officers in 2005 and held only 3.1 percent of board seats in 2006. Specifically, Black/African American women, Asian/Pacific Islander women, and Latinas/Hispanic women represent 0.9%, 0.4% and 0.3%, respectively in 2005.

The aforementioned data tell a compelling story; suggesting that despite trends in workforce participation and educational attainment, WOC are not receiving equal opportunities for advancement, which has direct implications on their ability to manage work-life conflict effectively. That is, if WOC are disproportionately represented in low-wage support roles or are not receiving equal opportunities for advancement, they are more likely to have fewer financial resources to provide for their families and more likely to have less workplace flexibility to manage their caregiver responsibilities. As a result, organizations are not maximizing the resources of a diverse talent pool or making the financial gains of which they are capable.

Building the Business Case with Research Data

Percentages alone do not permit one to understand the work-life complexities and diverse experiences of WOC. Many unanswered questions still remain. Following are a few questions that illustrate aspects of the vicious circle experienced by working WOC as well as many of their White female counterparts who live in the U.S.

The development of effective work-life practices and policies requires an understanding of how organizational, familial, and cultural complexities intersect. For example, low-wage jobs often lack adequate health-care benefits, vacation time, sick days, and the flexible work arrangements that often facilitate work-life effectiveness. As a result, work-life conflicts are potentially more severe for low-wage workers than they are for higher wage workers. If a child or elder is sick, has multiple doctors visits or arrangements for a care provider breakdown, a woman in a low-wage or low-level job might miss work and potentially a day’s pay and, in some cases, she may ultimately lose her job; thus, exacerbating her potential work-family dynamics and increasing her work-life stress (psychological well being) (Albelda, 2003).

Given that WOC are more likely to be economically disadvantaged and more likely to provide higher levels of care to multiple family members, work-life policies and programs must pay particular attention to the needs of employees who are economically disadvantages and or culturally diverse (Fredriksen-Goldsen & Farwell, 2005). Data on work-family conflict among working women who are of middle class or higher suggests that WOC who have economic advantages have fewer challenges juggling work and family than do other populations.

For instance, in a 2001 Catalyst study Women in Law: Making the Case, we found that the only area in which WOC law graduates were more satisfied than their White women was work-life balance. That is, while 57 percent of WOC law graduates indicated that work-life balance was difficult, 70% of White women law graduates expressed difficulties with work-life balance. These findings support other research results suggesting that if WOC are given greater opportunities for professional and financial advancement, they are capable of managing work-life conflict—especially if organizational practices, programs, and policies are in place to facilitate their professional success. Thus, attending to such nuances is of utmost importance when looking at WOC or determining strategies for minimizing work-life conflict.

With regards to WOC, a global comparative study on work-family stressors, well-being, and work hours of three cultural regions, found that participants from the Latin region reported working the most hours, having the most children and experiencing the highest level of job satisfaction (Spector et al., 2004). In that study, being married and having more children was positively related to well-being for participants from the Asian region.

In a U.S. based study, experiences of racial or ethnic bias in the workplace were associated with higher levels of work-like conflict than other job stressors (Enchautegui de Jesus, 2002). According to a few Catalyst studies, Women of Color in Corporate Management: Three Years Later (2002), WOC experience the following institutional barriers at work: (a) lack of influential mentors and sponsors, (b) limited access to informal networking opportunities with influential colleagues, (c) lack of role models of their racial/ethnic groups, (d) too few high visibility assignments, and (e) gender and race-based discrimination that hinders their professional advance.

Conversely, other researchers have found that WOC experienced work-family conflict related stress at work, particularly WOC in more senior positions (90% of senior leaders and executives and 70% of directors and managers) (Center for Women Policy Studies, 1999). Work-family conflict among women in this study was also reported as interfering with their personal development and familial relationships. WOC in this study also reported that they were treated differently by their supervisors when requesting leave for family reasons than were their White female colleagues.

The aforementioned results suggest that family responsibilities discrimination (FRD) may be further complicated for WOC because of the combination of stereotypes associated with how their perceived gender, race/ethnicity, and social economic status influences their work and family roles and responsibilities. For instance, maternal wall stereotypes and benevolent sexism (as defined in statements from the Commissions April 17, 2007 meeting) not only influence perceptions of what it means to be a “good mother,” but they also challenge a woman’s ability to function simultaneously as a “good employee.”

Although most work-family research has focused on White American women and/or dual-career couples (Barnett & Hyde, 2001), those research results have the potential to inform practices, programs, and policies designed for all employees. Researchers who examine work-family conflict have found that:

(a) employees who work in a family-supportive environment are more likely to make use of available benefits, (b) supportive work environments have been associated with less work-family conflict, (c) work-family policies and organizational support are necessary but not sufficient at reducing work-family conflict (d) flexible work schedules are associated with less absenteeism and greater job satisfaction, (e) relationships among work-family conflict and undesirable work-related outcomes such as employee turnover, (g) reduction of work-family conflict and enhancement of work-family facilitation requires a range of work resources, and (h) sources of work-family conflict include workaholism, toxic work cultures, sleep deprivation, alcohol, travel and the email paradox.

In sum, WOC are more likely than their White female counterparts to encounter negative biases about their demographic groups (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, social class) and more likely to experience institutional barriers. They are also less likely to conform to U.S. mainstream patterns of motherhood—suggesting that stereotypes and barriers pose work-life challenges for WOC that are uniquely different than those of other demographic groups. Therefore, the development of effective and inclusive work-life policies and practices should include the needs and interests of historically underrepresented employees (e.g., women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender workers, physically challenged employees, aging populations).

Improving Work-Life Effectiveness through Organizational Practices

In this statement, I have shared some of the terms, trends, and issues associated with work-life experiences of WOC. Now, I would like to provide the Commission with some organizational practices that promote the interests of WOC. I will start with PepsiCo, an organizational practice that was honored at the 2007 Catalyst Awards Dinner.

In brief, the Catalyst Award honors innovative approaches with proven results—organizational practices that address the recruitment, development, and advancement of all managerial women, including WOC. In celebrating an organization’s success, Catalyst provides corporations and professional firms with replicable models to help them create initiatives that are good for women and business. In 2007, Catalyst celebrated its 45th anniversary and 20th Awards anniversary; recognizing four corporate initiatives that advance women and business. This year, Catalyst presented the 2007 Catalyst Award to The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., PepsiCo, Inc., PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Scotiabank.

PepsiCo The PepsiCo initiative, the WOC Multicultural Alliance (“The Alliance”), serves as a strategic support and resource group focused on attracting, retaining, and developing WOC in the middle and senior management ranks at PepsiCo. The Alliance has four priorities: enlisting support and awareness; building a sense of community; educating and developing; and increasing representation and improving retention. Major activities include Power Pairs®, a program that builds authentic relationships and advancement opportunities for WOC through facilitated dialogues with immediate and skip-level managers; a national leadership development conference; and regional networking events.

The Alliance's impact is far-reaching. It creates a culture of authenticity and honesty that permeates relationships among WOC and their peers and managers, it calls attention to the unique experiences and needs of working WOC and it showcases workplace dynamics and solutions related to the intersection of gender and race. PepsiCo supports the Alliance by creating accountability at all levels, with specific ties to the bonus pay of senior executives who are involved in Alliance efforts.

The tangible success of PepsiCo's WOC Multicultural Alliance is clear. For example, at the senior manager/director/VP level, representation among WOC increased from 4.0 percent to 6.8 percent from 2002 to 2006. In addition, turnover for WOC who participated in Power Pairs® is half of that of those who have not participated.

In addition to the PepsiCo Alliance, other companies, such as Xerox, IBM, and JPMorgan Chase have developed organization practices catering to specific racial and ethnic groups and to the unique challenges experienced by WOC and other diverse populations of employees.

Xerox In 1986, Xerox established the Black Women’s Leadership Council. The mission of the Black Women's Leadership Council is to serves as a catalyst to advance professional development and address issues unique to Black women in the Xerox work place (BWLC, 2007). Specifically, the Black Women's Leadership Council forges partnerships with senior management that facilitate the hiring, retention, and development of Black women while also satisfying business needs (BWLC, 2007). In conjunction with the Balanced Work Force Strategy, the Black Women’s Leadership Council has had a significant impact on the representation of WOC in senior management at Xerox.

IBM Like their Black female and Latina counterparts, many Asian women report that diversity efforts have not attended to the unique needs of their diverse racial group (Catalyst, 2003). In trying to meet the needs of its diverse Asian populations, IBM created the Asian Executive Task Force, which is one of eight task forces designed to represent different constituencies within the company. Since its inception in 1995, the Asian Executive Task Force has focused on creating and maintaining an IBM culture and environment in which Asians feel welcomed and valued; thus, maximizing their career potential and aspirations and developing relationships with Asian marketplaces. Programs that address these issues include a Quarterly Skills Conference Call, with topics such as mentoring, career development, and the art of small talk. The Task Force is also involved in networking and leadership building programs and has partnered with LEAP (Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc.). LEAP is a Leadership Development Program that provides Asian employees at IBM the opportunity to build skills for success in business, network, and develop leadership competencies. In total, approximately 100 to 150 employees per year participate in this five-day residential program.

JPMorgan Chase To address some of the micro-inequities highlighted in this statement and in other literature on historically underrepresented groups such as WOC, JPMorgan Chase partnered with key academic institutions and consultants to develop a program called “Micro-Inequities: The Power of Small.” This program is a leadership initiative focusing on the impact of “micro-messages” in the workplace. Its premise is that each of us sends thousands of powerful, yet subtle, messages to our colleagues every day—messages that have a strong impact in shaping others’ abilities to perform at the top of their game (Catalyst, 2003). These micro-messages can be as subtle as a supportive head nod, a disapproving head turn, a casual wink of encouragement, or a blank look of indifference. When a manager communicates different messages to different people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or organizational level, these messages can affect things such as productivity, morale, turnover or work-life effectiveness. Participants in this program learn strategies on how to become aware of micro-inequalities and how to discuss and address micro-inequalities. Participants also learn ways to use positive micro-messages to drive performance.


On behalf of Catalyst, it is our sincere hope that this statement serves as evidence that more research is needed to better understand the complex interactions that contribute to the work-life experiences of WOC. Tapping into diverse talent such as WOC through effective and inclusive organization policies and practices is a competitive advantage that attracts, retains, and advances employees while also facilitating the business success of the organizations of which they work. Knowledge of similarities and differences in occupational, marital, financial, parental, and social demands of working WOC and other historically underrepresented groups has the potential to inform policies and practices on work-life effectiveness and on other critical topics affecting women and business. In conclusion, it is essential that organizations recognize that work-family dynamics impact every employee and every organization.


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