Black Executives Face Greater Obstacles on Career Ladder

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Just four of the chief executives running America’s top 500 companies are Black, yet the pool of highly educated, experienced Black professionals has never been greater. Black professionals who make it to the C-Suite are rarely given the profit-and-loss positions that serve as stepping stones to the top job. Here are some of the reasons why.

1. Black employees face more obstacles earlier in their careers.

A substantial body of research shows that people tend to view Black professionals more negatively, regardless of their qualifications or actual work performed. “We don’t get a presumption of competence,” says Orlando Richmond Sr., a Jackson, Miss.-based partner at law firm Butler Snow. A 2019 study of racial bias in hiring for postdoctoral positions revealed Black applicants were rated less hirable, likable, and competent than white, Latino or Asian applicants. A 2017 study examining callback rates for Black job applicants found discrimination levels haven’t improved in the past 25 years.

2. Diversity efforts are often focused on recruitment rather than retention.

Many companies tend to emphasize diversity in recruitment but overlook retention and advancement, researchers and executives say. Michael Hyter, chief diversity officer at recruiting firm

Korn Ferry,

says that by the time companies are trying to promote people at the managerial level, they have often already lost key talent. Among all U.S. companies with 100 or more employees, Black people hold just 3% of executive or senior-level roles, according to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data. More than a third of Black professionals say they intend to leave their company within the next two years, with many mentioning isolation and workplace hostility, compared with 27% of their white peers, according to Coqual, a think tank focused on workplace diversity.

3. Many Black professionals lack access to senior managers.

Relationships play a large role in career-building. A 2019 Korn Ferry survey of Black executives holding profit-and-loss roles found that 86% said having a sponsor—someone who supported and helped advocate for them when opportunities came up—was indispensable to their career progression. But CEOs, recruiters and senior executives say that Black professionals often don’t have the relationships that are pivotal to advancement. Fewer Black professionals have access to senior leaders at work than their white peers, according to the Coqual study. The same study also found that fewer Black professionals have managers who give them growth opportunities than their white peers.

Read the original article by Te-Ping Chen here.

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