4 Fields With Shockingly Low Female African-American Participation

Worker in chemical plant
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In 2014, it's simply not acceptable to exclude African-American women, or men for that matter, from the workforce. Just ask Lorne Michaels, the creator and executive producer of "Saturday Night Live." After public attention swirled during the last six years over the lack of a female African-American cast member on the show, Michaels recently suggested adding one was a "priority" in an interview with the Associated Press. And so the show just announced it was hiring both a female African-American cast member, Sasheer Zamata, in addition to two black female writers, LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones, as the Hollywood Reporter first reported.

But how are female African-Americans faring outside the realm of elite comedy? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for this group of workers stood at 10.4 percent as of December, as compared to the national total of 6.7 percent. (African-American men have it worse at 11.9 percent.)

Crucially, as AOL Jobs has reported, the employment situation for both male and female African-Americans has suffered since the beginning of the financial crisis. For the women, the hurt has in part been caused by the fact that female African-Americans "tend to be overrepresented in the public sector, which has seen cuts," as Katherine Gallagher Robbins, a senior policy analyst with the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), a Washington D.C.-based advocacy non-profit organization, explained in an interview with AOL Jobs.

There are other sectors that tend to see overrepresentation of female African-Americans. This group of Americans makes up 6 percent of the national population, according to the U.S. Census. Yet according to the American Community Survey produced by the U.S. Census, African-American women comprise 21.5 percent of health care support jobs, or more than three times their overall population. Other occupations in which African-American have a large representation are as follows:

  • community and social service occupations, 12.0 percent
  • office and administrative support occupations, 9.0 percent

All these fields share the attributes of offering "not well-paid jobs with difficult scheduling," as Gallagher put it, as opposed to fields dominated by white men. Indeed, female African-Americans even comprise less than one-percent of the workforce in four job categories maintained by the American Community Survey. And these are categories that are often known to offer high-paying gigs as well. See below.

4. Architecture and engineering occupations

Share of African-American women in the occupation: 0.8 percent
Total number of workers: 2,356,540
Average annual income: $79,000
About: The so-called STEM professions are famously difficult for women. But leaders in the field like NASA have begun in recent years to actively recruit and promote women.

Find out more about architecture and engineering occupations.

3. Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

Share of African-American women in the occupation: 0.8 percent
Total number of workers: 427,670
Average annual income: $24,230
About: In such fields, women are given messages about what work women are supposed to do, and often such physical jobs are considered a "man's job," as Robbins put it. And so woman of color in such a field potentially has to confront a "double burden,"as Robbins said.

Find out more about farming, fishing, and forestry occupations.

2. Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

Share of African-American women in the occupation: 0.5 percent
Total number of workers: 5,069,590
Average annual income: $43,870
About: Such jobs often require no more than a high school diploma, but even among jobs available to workers without a college degree, men tend to occupy the higher-paying gigs. In comparison, the average salary for health care support operations workers is $27,780.

Find out more about installation, maintenance, and repair occupations.

1. Construction and extraction occupations

Share of African-American women in the occupation: 0.2 percent
Total number of workers: 4,978,290
Average annual income: $44,960
About: The percentage of all women working in construction has remained flat for 30 years. In 1983, the figure stood at 2.6 percent, just like in 2010, as the NWLC has reported.

Find out more about construction and extraction occupations.
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