Knowledge Center

The first longitudinal look at the experiences of women of color in the workplace, this study reveals factors that influence career advancement and retention. This study follows the career movement of respondents from Catalyst’s initial women of color study, Women of Color in Corporate Management: Opportunities and Barriers.

Impetus: The purpose of this study is to gain insight into career issues for women of color.


A longitudinal panel design was used to track respondents to the Women of Color in Corporate Management study, conducted in 1998. Three hundred sixty-eight survey respondents completed the survey in 2001.

Findings: On the whole, the individual women of color in this sample experienced positive career growth over time. Since the time of their participation in the initial study, 57 percent were promoted at least once, and on average, the respondents’ incomes rose almost 40 percent. The respondents employed several key strategies to succeed—with a greater emphasis in 2001 than in 1998 on the importance of networking and mentoring. The number of women of color with mentors has increased substantially—from 35 percent in 1998 to 58 percent in 2001. Also, significantly more women who had a mentor in 1998 had at least one upward move, compared to those without a mentor. Furthermore, the greater the number of mentors there were meant the greater the number of upward moves. The study found that open, inclusive work environments were more successful at retaining women of color. Finally, the study found that women of color were less hopeful about their career prospects than they were in 1998; respondents report a decline in opportunities for members of their own racial/ethnic groups to reach senior leadership levels.

Sponsors: McDonald’s Corporation, The Gillette Company, Goldman Sachs & Co., IBM Corporation