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A ‘concrete ceiling:’ Discussing barriers to women of color in the workplace, how to overcome them

Nicole Roach and Lorie Jackson discussed the barriers women of color face in the workplace - and how to overcome them - on Monday's St. Louis on the Air.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Nicole Roach and Lorie Jackson discussed the barriers women of color face in the workplace - and how to overcome them - on Monday's St. Louis on the Air.

Women of color will make up the majority of the female population in the United States by 2050 and yet they often face disproportionate barriers in the workplace, healthcare, educational attainment and other areas of life.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh spoke with two women trying to change that, ahead of a panel in late May that will continue the conversation on the subject. Lorie Jackson is the founder and president of Mosaic Ceiling, a non-profit dedicated to empowering women of color. Nicole Roach is the associate vice president for diversity and inclusion at Webster University.

The wage gap is one of the pressing issues that Jackson and Roach hope to move the needle on. While white women earn about 78 percent of what a man makes, African-American women earn 64 percent and Latinas earn 54 percent.

That’s not the only reason women of color are falling behind, however.

“It is not having influential mentors or sponsors,” said Roach. “There’s a lack of informal or formal networking with influential colleagues, a lack of company role models who are members of their own race or ethnic group, and lack of high-visibility special projects and assignments.”

Roach refers to the barriers women of color face in the workplace as multi-layered, saying there isn’t just one barrier to be surmounted.

“The glass ceiling women face, women of color don’t see the glass ceiling,” Roach said. “It is a concrete ceiling. That means it is a dead end. There is nothing more to aspire to, nothing more outside of what we already have. Those different barriers have an influence on those opportunities that we do or do not have.”

There are positive signs of growth, however: Jackson said that African-American women are the number one demographic group enrolling in higher education and the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States.

Jackson hopes to move the needle faster in regard to the wage gap, economic security, politics and healthcare through the founding of her non-profit, Mosaic Ceiling. With the organization, she offers workshops and speaking engagements with local women’s groups.  One of the workshops she offers includes helping women transition from the college world to corporate world by teaching insider language and other norms.   

Related Event

What: Breaking Down Barriers and Empowering Women of Color

When:  6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 25

Where: Lee Auditorium at the Missouri History Museum, Lindell and DeBaliviere in Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri

More information

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.