Students and Alumni of Color (SAOC)

Monday, Apr 7, 2014
by site admin

SAOC Panel: “Extending the Anne-Marie Slaughter and Sheryl Sandberg Debate to Women of Color”

As part of  the Students and Alumni of Color (SAOC) Symposium 2014, GPN steering committee members attended the panel on “Extending the Anne-Marie Slaughter and Sheryl Sandberg Debate to Women of Color” that took place on Sunday, April 6. The current debate on how women can empower themselves, and on how the gender wage and leadership gap can be bridged has rarely been expanded to account for challenges that may be specific to women of color. Thanks to SAOC, this panel provided a platform for this very discussion. Panel speakers included Dr. Angélica Pérez-Litwin, Toni De Mello and Elizabeth Lindsay (filling in for Stefanie Brown James). The panel was moderated by Professor Julia Rubin.  Some of the key points specific to women of color that were brought up are as follows:

1. Leaning in has its limitations - Recounting her own experience, Dr. Pérez-Litwin pointed out that women do lean in at the workplace, but are challenged by the racial lens through which other people examine them. Social perceptions and ethnic biases act as barriers to promotion and leadership positions that women in general, especially women of color, face in the workplace. One example Dr. Pérez-Litwin gave was how people mistakenly judge an assertive Latina for ‘being difficult’ or ‘opinionated’. Another example from her own experience was the automatic ‘affirmative action reaction’ to her academic accomplishments. Companies need to lean in and promote women’s leadership in order for all women to circumvent barriers despite leaning in. 

Dr. Pérez-Litwin’s full article can be found here.

2. Offer multiple mentorships - Toni De Mello brought up the idea of assigning multiple mentors to women of color instead of just one mentor. Having multiple mentors offers different points of views that may be tied to different identities of the same individual. Furthermore, De Mello also pointed out the need for having mentors who are colleagues, and not just those who are ahead of you. Another crucial advice an audience member brought up was the importance of women who are accomplished or have made progress in their careers to be willing mentors to other women in their field and not feel threatened by other women’s progress, especially if it is a traditionally male-dominated area.

3. Gender wage differential has greater implications for women of color - Addressing the gender leadership gap and the wage gap is very important for women of color as women of color are more likely to be the sole breadwinners of their households. Hence, lower wages and salaries for women of color, on average, could mean reduced welfare and living standards for households of color on average.

Overall, it was a great panel on an important discussion that needs to take place more often. We thank the SAOC team for initiating it!