The Center for American Progress recently released a report on “The State of Women of Color in the United States: Although They’ve Made Incredible Strides, Many Barriers Remain for This Growing Population.” Women of color are a growing part of the U.S. population, but they still face considerable systematic disadvantages. While the report contains many facts and statistics, it does not address how we change the system and improve the status of women of color in the U.S.
The report notes that WOC are a large part of the U.S. population:
Today women of color comprise 36.3 percent of our nation’s female population and approximately 18 percent of the entire U.S. population. And by 2050 there will be no racial or ethnic majority among the general population of the United States. (p1)
Women of color are under-represented in national discourse on key issues affecting them, including: health, employment, education, etc. A few compelling facts from the report include:
– WOC make up 33% of the female workforce and are twice as likely as their white counterparts to be employed in lower-wage
sectors such as the service industry. (p2)
– In 2008 poverty rates among women were more than double for women of color compared to white women. (p2)
– While women of color represent 36.3% of women in the U.S., they account for 53.2% of uninsured women. (p4) (This may
change with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, i.e. Obamacare.)
– Of the 1,749 women in state legislatures, women of color represent 4.8% of state legislators and 20.1% of the female state
legislators. (p7) (Even though WOC are 18% of the population and 36% of women.)
The report concludes that as women of color continue to be a growing demographic we should not lump them into one monolithic category. Different women from different ethnicities have different experiences and perspectives. I completely agree, and I hope more research is done that segments answers so that readers can have a better understanding of the varying and nuanced perspectives of women.
It is heartbreaking to be reminded of these facts about the under-representation of women of color in the U.S. and the absence of their voices in policy making debates.
While the report mentions that women of color have “made incredible strides” and includes a few statistics about such progress – especially in the realm of education – the report does not address how to mobilize for increased wages, advocate for better job opportunities, receive better healthcare, become an elected official.
How can the position of women of color be changed in the U.S.? Grassroots advocacy and initiatives working to end systems of oppression are the best places to start. Individuals alone can only improve their position in society so far. And individual action rarely helps entire communities. Eliminating multiple systems of oppression – race, class, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, (dis)ability – is needed in order for WOC to make significant progress.
Your support of the Boston Women’s Fund helps fund grassroots efforts led by women and girls in the greater Boston area to dismantle systems of oppression and work towards a more just society. Through your efforts and the efforts of our grantees, we can and will improve the state of women of color in the U.S.