White feminism

The term "white feminism" describes how gender equity and feminist efforts often focus exclusively on white women (purposefully or not), ignoring women of color and their experiences. [Wikipedia]

Hear it Firsthand

I (a young black woman) was waiting in the lobby at an industry conference. The person running the event - a white man - finally arrived and enthusiastically greeted my white, female coworker, ignoring me. I stepped forward to greet him, and his enthusiasm dropped. For the rest of the day he and the other members of his group (mostly male engineers) acted like I was invisible... 


... (continued from above) but, my white, female coworker - someone with a lot of experience who was well respected in the industry - was an awesome ally. She used every opportunity to center me and to make sure that I was acknowledged in the discussion and that I was given adequate time to speak when it came time for me to present. Her actions were subtle, but I noticed them and it was very encouraging. 

Facts and Data

  • Consider these two charts from McKinsey's Women in the Workplace report from 2016 and 2017. The 2016 chart doesn't include race, and reveals a major underrepresentation of women as one moves to the c-suite level. The 2017 report includes race, which shows that the underrepresentation for white women is really bad (31% to 18%), but for women of color it's a nightmare (17% to 3%). If we're not thinking about race, we're going to miss all sorts of important dynamics like these. [McKinsey]

This chart below is from the Kapor Center's 2017 "Tech Leavers Study" that investigated why people left tech jobs. Black and Latinx women found themselves facing much more stereotyping than their white and Asian female counterparts. It's important to realize that gender is not the only force at play in a woman's experience of her job. [Kapor Center]

Take Action

  • Include and expand gender equity efforts to include race (and other identities such as sexual orientation). Since conversations on gender equity that don't explicitly name race often focus on white women, make sure to include other dimensions of identity. Learn about experiences of women of all different races. You cannot be an advocate for gender equity if you're not an advocate for women of color.

  • Increase representation of women of color. Make sure you and your company include women of color on important committees, marketing materials, speakers, conferences, panels, etc.