Five Tactics to Address the Systemic Issue of the Lack of Diverse Business Leaders, Part 2

You can never take your foot off the gas in executing diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Last week I wrote in part 1 (Huge Gaps in Diversity in Business Leadership – A Systemic Issue Needing a Systemic Approach)… questioning if we are really making any progress in the diversity of corporate senior leadership.  I had just read an article in the Triangle Business Journal that featured the CEOs of our area’s 50 fastest growing companies … and 88% were led by white men! I also shared some research by industry leading consulting firm McKinsey measuring the under-representation of women and people of color in management and senior leadership roles.

In this blog I propose five tactics to systemically address this issue:

1) Training and commitment of senior leadership. The very top leadership has to understand the extreme criticality of building a more diverse leadership team. They need to understand the changing dynamics of the talent pool and how it is much more diverse. If most of the people progressing into higher levels are white men, they will eventually run out of qualified leaders.

2) Robust investment in minority coaching and training. Due to Unconscious Bias, particularly the “Like Me” syndrome, it is far too easy for current leaders to mentor and teach people similar to themselves. This is not necessarily done intentionally, but is a natural human tendency. Deliberate thought has to be given, and intentional action taken, to provide mentoring and development opportunities for underrepresented minorities. Extra investment may be needed since it is more challenging for someone to lead a group of which they are not in the majority.

More programs are needed for diverse students to start building the talent pipeline earlier.

3) Building an earlier pipeline. Companies as a whole need to get more engaged in building a diverse pipeline of future talent at far earlier stages. Investment needs to be made in education at the elementary and secondary levels, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas which historically have seen less investment in education than affluent areas. Companies can encourage and even provide paid time for employees to engage junior high and high school kids in career discussions, sharing the wide diversity of vocational options and encouraging youngsters to further their college or vocational education. See my blog from last fall featuring an innovative organization (District C) working to build diverse future leaders.

4) Never let up. One issue that is slowing down progress and even at times leading us backward is lack of an ongoing continual commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. So often executives see a little progress (“we now have an African-American in the c-Suite, women in management has gone up from 18% to 20%”) and then the budget gets cut and work stops. Then things will take their natural course and revert back to the old pattern. Dr. Vida Robertson, professor at the University of Houston, often states “you can not take the foot of the gas or the vehicle will stop.”  In this case, since it is an uphill battle, the car will go backwards once you take your foot off the gas!

5) Enforce with incentives. And finally, senior leaders and boards of directors need to spend more effort in measuring diversity statistics and even tying part of executive pay to diversity metrics. But do be careful that the incentives don’t drive leaders to haphazardly promoting underrepresented groups to simply get their bonuses, but need to be accountable for doing the real work if grooming diverse, competent leaders.

The business world as a whole needs to invest much more to deliberate building more diverse talent and senior leadership that truly reflects the demographics of our country and individual communities.

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Blog author Stan Kimer is a diversity consultant and trainer who handles all areas of workplace diversity and with a deep expertise in LGBT diversity strategy and training and with a unique program for long term career development.  Please explore the rest of my website and never hesitate to contact me to discuss diversity training or career development for your organization, or pass my name onto your HR department.  [email protected]

Huge Gaps in of Diversity in Business Leadership – A Systemic Issue Needing a Systemic Approach, Part 1

Many people in the industry continue to state that our corporate leadership is getting more and more diverse, touting the increase in women, people of color and LGBTQ people reaching the highest echelons of business leadership. In addition to these optimistic statements being heard nationwide, they are frequently spread across my local area of Raleigh – Durham – Chapel Hill, North Carolina, often called the Triangle. We are a leading center for the high tech, health care, pharmaceutical and education industries.

So I was in for a shock when I received my November 22, 2019 Triangle Business Journal. This issue featured the 50 fastest growing privately-held companies in the Triangle with brief descriptions and photos of the CEOs. As I went through the first several, I noticed how all the photos starting looking similar; and then I decided to count them. These 50 fastest growing companies are led by 44 white men, 3 white women, 2 Asian men and 1 black woman. What extraordinary optics! I immediately reached out to share this with an area consultant I often collaborate with, Al Sullivan of Inspirus Consulting, to discuss these numbers.

Even as I was drafting this blog in mid-December, a New York Times article by Lauretta Charlton titled “Few blacks to be found at the top of the corporate ladder,” (link) also appeared in our Raleigh News and Observer. She reported that there are only four black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies (that’s less than 1%,) down from 7 less than a decade ago.

One recent report by the leading consulting company McKinsey & Company (link to the study) completed an extensive study across 222 companies employing more than 12 million people. Some of their findings include:

• Women remain significantly underrepresented in the corporate pipeline from the outset. Even though women represent 57% of college graduates, fewer women than men are hired at the entry level.

• White men are in 36% of the entry level roles. That increases to 47% of management, 61% of vice presidents and 67% of the C-Suite.

• Men of color are somewhat underrepresented compared to white men, 16% of entry roles, 16% of management, 11% of vice presidents and 12% of C-Suite.

• White women fare worse; 31% of entry roles, 26% of management, 23% of VPs and 18% of C-Suite.

• And women of color are far under-represented in leadership roles, declining from 17% of entry roles down to 11% of management, 6% of VPs and only 3% in the C-suite.

Is this what the C-Suite is supposed to look like in today’s world? (Photo in the public domain)

Another way of looking at the data is a percentage under-represented or over-represented they are in senior leadership compared to entry level jobs.

All things being equal (and we know they are not), the ideal fair state would be each particular demographic being the same percentage of the workforce across all levels from entry level to vice president to c-suite.  Looking at the data this way:

  • White men are over-represented in VP and c-suite roles by 91%
  • Men of color are under-represented in VP and c-suite roles by 38%
  • White women are under-represented in VP and c-suite roles by 42%
  • And women of color are under-represented in VP and c-suite roles by 77%!

Clearly we are not moving along in the area of diversity in career progression as we should. Why might this be happening, and systemically, what can be done?

And now  here is part 2:  Five Tactics to Address the Systemic Issue of the Lack of Diverse Business Leaders.

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Blog author Stan Kimer is a diversity consultant and trainer who handles all areas of workplace diversity and with a deep expertise in LGBT diversity strategy and training. Please explore the rest of my website and never hesitate to contact me to discuss diversity training for your organization, or pass my name onto your HR department.  [email protected]