Quantifying the Opportunity Gap

An analysis of the racial and gender opportunity gaps by level, industry, and location

The EEOC recently released representation data from 2009-2018, spanning levels, industries, and locations across the United States and broken out by gender and race. We analyzed that data to quantify the opportunity gap, giving you a snapshot of which protected classes are most affected, where, and in what industries. Check out our findings below.

What is the Opportunity Gap?

In a business context, the opportunity gap is the disproportionate access to opportunities—jobs, promotions, and other forms of advancement—available to certain communities. Opportunity gaps occur when groups such as women and people of color are hired or promoted at lower rates than their white, male counterparts.

Interested in learning more about the opportunity gap?


Register for our webinar,

Strategies to close the opportunity gap.

How Large is the Opportunity Gap for Non-Male and Non-White Leaders?

Our analysis shows that, after normalizing for available talent, in 2018 white men occupied executive and management positions at higher rates than any other group. But the numbers vary widely depending on the race and gender of those groups.

In the chart below, we quantify the opportunity gaps by calculating the rate at which white males hold executive positions (relative to their overall representation) and then comparing it to the rates of other groups.

A score of 2 means white men are 2 times more likely to be in an executive position than the comparison group, as is the case for white women. A score of 9.2 means white men are 9.2 times more likely to be in a leadership position than a member of the comparison group, as is the case for a Black women. Scroll to the bottom of this page for a more detailed description of our methodology.

Race-and-Ethnicity-Mobile
Race and Ethnicity

Explore the Opportunity Gap

The data can be sliced and diced even further than what's represented in the chart above. Use the table below to toggle between the executive and management opportunity gaps and to view gaps by gender, white vs. all BIPOC (workers identifying as anything other than non-Hispanic white), and both broad and detailed intersectionality of gender and race.

What Does Executive Representation Look Like Across Genders and Races?

In the previous charts we showed you the opportunity gap normalized by available talent. In the chart below, we show absolute representation in executive roles. You can see that white men make up 59% of executives, while Black women make up only 1.7% of executives.

Opportunity Gap by Genders and Races

When Will the Executive Opportunity Gap Close?

Opportunity gaps narrowed between 2009 and 2018 as more women and people of color rose to leadership positions. Using this data we are able to predict that—at the current rate of change—the executive opportunity gap will close first for white women in 2062, then for BIPOC men in 2107, and last for BIPOC women in 2124.

Executive Opportunity Gap Graph
Executive Opportunity Gap Graph- Mobile
graph legend

What Is the Executive Opportunity Gap by State?

Opportunity gaps vary significantly by state. For example, Iowa, South Carolina, and Mississippi have the largest opportunity gaps for BIPOC women, while Wyoming, Oregon, and Vermont have the smallest. Use the interactive map below to see the opportunity gaps of different groups for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Note: The EEOC suppresses small datasets, so intersectional views are not available for some smaller states.

What Is the Opportunity Gap by Industry?

Opportunity gaps also vary by industry. For example, women make up 79% of the workforce in Healthcare and Social Assistance, whereas white men make up only 13%. Yet, white men still represent 37% of executives. Use the interactive table below to explore the opportunity gap by industry.

Opportunity-Gap-by-Industries (1)

How Have Demographics Changed Over Time?

The table below shows changes in populations from 2009 and 2018. White workers had the slowest rates of growth, though they remain the largest individual group by a large margin. The biggest change is in workers who identify as multiracial, increasing from 0.8% to 2.2% in the private sector. The Pew Research Center shows this is due to both growth in the multiracial population as well as the likelihood that these individuals identify as multiracial rather than a single race/ethnicity.

Opportunity Gap by Race and Ethnicity
Opportunity Gap by Race and Ethnicity- mobile

How Are Different Groups Represented in Different Job Groups?

This table shows how specific communities are spread across job groups. For example, executives make up 1.6% of all employees, but 3% of white, male employees. The most common job groups are Professionals, Service Workers, and Office and Clerical workers, though this is not true for all groups. For Latinos, the most common job groups are Laborers.

Opportunity Gap Different Job Groups
Opportunity Gap Different Job Groups mobile1
Opportunity Gap Different Job Groups mobile-2
Opportunity Gap Different Job Groups mobile-3
Opportunity Gap Different Job Groups mobile-4

Definitions & Methodology

Below are definitions of many of the terms we used, explanations for where the data were limited, and a description of the methodology we used to calculate the opportunity gap.

What Terms and Definitions Did We Use?
We define executives as the EEO Job Group "executive/senior-level officials and managers," and managers as "first/mid-level officials and managers."

We sometimes refer to the EEO-1 data as the Private Sector, though certain groups are excluded: federal contractors with fewer than 50 employees, and non-federal contractors with fewer than 100 employees. Employers need not report leased, seasonal, or contract employees, meaning that the increasingly numerous gig and contract workers are not represented here.

BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and here represents any worker who identifies as a race other than Non-Hispanic and white.

EEO-1 reports require employers to report a binary gender, so any analysis of trans, nonbinary, or otherwise gender nonconforming workers is not possible using these data. The EEO-1 also does not publish data regarding other protected or historically underrepresented groups, such as people with disabilities, veterans, refugees, the LGBTQIA+ community.

How Did We Calculate the Opportunity Gap?
We quantified the opportunity gap by calculating how much a community is over-or under-represented in executive and management job groups by comparing their representation in that job group versus overall. We then compared that rate to the communities most over-represented in those groups: men for gender gaps, white employees for race gaps, and white men for intersectional gaps.

For example, women are 31% of executives but 48% of the workforce, so their relative likelihood of falling in the top job group is 0.65. Men, on the other hand, are 69% of executives and 52% of the workforce, so their relative likelihood is 1.33. We take the ratio of those two relative likelihoods to calculate the opportunity gap for women: 2.1.

Interested in learning more about the opportunity gap?


Register for our webinar,

Strategies to close the opportunity gap.