Racial disparity in the workplace: Why minorities rarely make it to executive levels

Given the current circumstances in America and many countries across the globe, it’s apparent that racial inequity is an issue that has persisted for centuries. Racial disparity presents itself in so many different facets of society and the workplace is no different. It’s no secret that the corporate world has a diversity problem. Most companies want an environment where innovative and exciting ideas are brought to the table with an equal opportunity to succeed, however, a lack of diversity stops this from happening in so many situations.

When it comes to the corporate world, 7 in 10 senior executives in the fortune 500 are White men. There is a lack of Black and female representation in executive positions, but in the past few years, the efforts to bring more women into executive positions have progressed, while efforts to increase racial diversity have not been so successful. Studies have shown that efforts to increase racial diversity are not making enough progress or are ineffective overall. Businesses that are seriously dedicated to improving equity and inclusivity in their workplace need to intervene because the measures they’re currently taking do not work.

Although the Black population is approximately 13 percent in the US, only 8 percent of people employed in white-collar positions are Black. As you look more closely at higher levels this number begins to fall dramatically, especially when moving from management to the executive level. The discouraging numbers and lack of effort in many businesses drives Black employees to abandon the corporate world and start their own businesses instead. Companies are noticing a higher turnover rate in Black professionals because millennials are more likely to leave if they feel underrepresented in the workplace than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. Black millennials identify more closely with their race and feel that they should be able to bring their authentic selves to work. If they feel like there isn’t a fair opportunity for advancement, then they are more likely to withdraw and look for opportunities elsewhere.

The experience a Black person has in the corporate world is often markedly different from others may experience. Black professionals are more likely to report that they have felt undermined, silenced, categorized as unintelligent or lazy, etc. For this reason, fewer Black people are able to climb the corporate ladder when compared to their white counterparts because of this inaccurate perception. Companies often hire Black people at the entry-level to fulfill their diversity quotas, but they need to go further by pushing Black people past entry-level positions. Companies claim to invest in diversity initiatives, but the main beneficiaries of these efforts are mainly White women and few of these women use their position to advocate for other minority groups.

The success achieved in addressing gender discrimination in the workplace will not work to address racial inequity, mostly because white employees typically do not understand the challenges their Black co-workers face as well as understand the issues faced by women. In order to make progress with addressing racial inequity at the entry, middle management, and executive levels, companies need to educate their workforce. Eliminating the inherent biases in the corporate world is only the first step in tackling racial disparity in the workplace.


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