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Black Women And The Struggle In The Corporate World Continues

The Wall Street Journal reports that while more women of color have the ambition to reach the C-suite than their white counterparts, this isn’t reflected in the actual results, and a lack of mentorship may be to blame.

By Ryan Velez

The Wall Street Journal reports that while more women of color have the ambition to reach the C-suite than their white counterparts, this isn’t reflected in the actual results, and a lack of mentorship may be to blame.

“Everyone wants one person to break in and bring the rest of us along,” says Alissa Johnson, chief information security officer at Xerox, who previously was deputy chief information officer at the White House. However, the numbers are not on their side Black, Latina and Asian women still hold only 3% of C-suite roles, compared with 16.7% of entry-level roles, the study from LeanIn.org and McKinsey and Co found.

Notably, black women are most likely to say they don’t have interactions with top bosses, and only 23% say managers help them navigate organizational politics, compared with 36% of white women, according to the data. This hasn’t changed much in three years, calling the success of “diversity initiatives” and the like into question.

John Rice, founder of Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a nonprofit focused on increasing diversity at the top of the business world, believes that blind spots at the management level also play a role. He explains how some managers don’t realize that minority women often face extra hurdles to succeed, he says. In addition, many minority women are missing out on the little informal opportunities men have to network. A simple round of golf or drink after work can make all the difference. As a result, Rice says that managers need to be more explicit about what it takes to succeed rather than holding such information for informal situations. “They can make what we would call the ‘high-performance-bar playbook’ much more transparent.”

Some companies are already putting programs into place, exposing many unconscious biases in the process. Kim Crawford Goodman is chief executive of Atlanta-based Worldpay US, and has seen that people are unwilling to promote women of color due to the perception of it as a risk. Since taking over, she has had to urge employees not to promote based on common interests or personality types. Managers “have a tendency to take chances on people that are most like themselves,” Ms. Crawford Goodman says. At Comcast, male executives regularly attend and participate in gatherings designed to promote female executives.

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