This report includes a wealth of data from a recent survey, followed by a multifaceted analysis, including solutions for creating workplace cultures where Black employees can succeed.
Despite billions spent on diversity and inclusion, new research from the Center for Talent Innovation finds that Black professionals face prejudice, a lack of support from managers, and a cycle of exclusion that keeps them from the C-suite.
Corporate America still needs to awaken to the challenges faced by Black professionals, according to a new study “Being Black in Corporate America: An Intersectional Exploration” released in December by nonprofit think tank the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI).
According to the survey, Black professionals are more likely to encounter prejudice and micro-aggressions in the workplace than any other racial or ethnic group. They are less likely than their White counterparts to have access to senior leaders and to have support from their managers.
Yet few White professionals see what their Black colleagues are up against. Sixty-five percent of Black professionals say that Black employees have to work harder in order to advance, but only 16% of their White colleagues agree with that statement.
And while many will find the results consistent with past analysis, “The data behind this study is important,” says Pooja Jain-Link, one of the top researchers on the study.
Some findings of the report:
- Blacks represent less than 1 percentage point (0.8%) of Fortune 500 CEOs. “With Blacks making up 10% of college graduates, you would think there would be 50 Black CEOs. But there are only four,” Jain-Link said, referring to Lowe’s, TIAA, Merck & Co., and Tapestry.
- Only 3.2% of executives and senior manager-level employees are African American.
- Black professionals are nearly four times as likely as White professionals to say they have experienced racial prejudice at work (58% versus 15%). Regional differences are stark: 79% of Black professionals in the Midwest say they have experienced racial prejudice at work, compared to 66% of Black professionals in the West, 56% in the South, and 44% in the Northeast.
- 43% of Black executives have had colleagues use racially insensitive language in their presence.
- Nearly 1 in 5 (19%) Black professionals feel that someone of their race/ethnicity would never achieve a top position at their companies, compared to only 3% of White professionals who feel this way.
- Black women are less likely to have access to the same support and advocacy as White women. For instance, 35% of White women have individuals in their networks who have advocated for their ideas and skills, compared to 19% of Black women.
The study also covers solutions to the issue, which include:
Audit (gaining understanding of Black employees through interviews, focus groups, surveys, etc.),
Awaken (Consider the culture you grew up in, get in touch with your own experiences of “othering,” assess your own privilege, check your mindset and motivations and commit to speaking up) and
Act (scale the conversation slowly, set the ground rules, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, don’t interrupt, generate awareness and empathy).
“I think that intentionality piece is critical,” Jain-Link said. “Large employers are more likely to mirror the systemic issues of society at large. Smaller companies can be a bit more countercultural and create that sense of trust and belonging you can’t find elsewhere. So, for large companies to create that, they have to put in the work to make that happen.”