American Express Stock – Why Black Workers Are Still Underrepresented in Management Roles
Black employees are leaving early-career jobs in high numbers—often, they say, because they feel little support or opportunity to advance, according to new research by McKinsey & Co. Black workers make up 12% of entry-level jobs, but their numbers shrink to 7% just one step up the career ladder into first management roles. The share of Black people in the general population is 13.4%. The survey results suggest that one reason for the lack of headway is that companies’ efforts have benefited a relatively small pool, and failed to address the issues fueling attrition among Black employees.
1. Support and advancement
Some Black employees feel that once they are hired, it can be more challenging for them to rise through the ranks with little support, leading to higher rates of attrition. “It’s not just about hiring 10 extra people from a historically Black college,” says
a senior partner at McKinsey and the firm’s diversity and inclusion chief. “It’s also about creating a culture that if you recruit them that they want to stay.” Half of Black employees surveyed by McKinsey said they feel they receive little or no support to advance their careers, compared with an average of about 40% for all other groups. When it comes to factoring in race, 48% of Black employees perceive that their race makes it harder to achieve their career goals, nearly twice as much as other minority groups.
the former chairman and chief executive of Aetna who currently sits on the boards of
, Johnson & Johnson and American Express Co says a big flashpoint is the first opportunity to break into the management ranks, where too often, he says, he has seen hiring bosses rely on their comfort level or preconceived ideas of who is the right fit rather than a talent-management approach that applies the same rigor and objective criteria that companies use to launch products.
2. Inclusion and individuality
Black employees surveyed by McKinsey were less likely than their white peers to say they feel they can speak up, present ideas or share details about themselves and their lives outside of work. Many companies in recent years have tried to address the lack of diversity when hiring and promoting, but such moves often have limited impact, some executives say. Herb Dyer, the former chief operating officer of a Seton Family of Hospitals, says one point in his career, a white supervisor assumed he had been a professional athlete. Dyer, who is a Black man, also said that in performance evaluations colleagues occasionally gave feedback that suggested he was intimidating. “It super bothered me because I thought I did all the right things in being respectful, treating people well,” says Dyer, who now has his own consulting firm. Nick Ragone, executive vice president of Ascension, the parent company of Ascension Seton, formerly Seton Family of Hospitals, says the organization condemns “all forms of racism, discrimination and injustice as we work together to ensure our associates and patients are treated justly and respectfully.”
Some Black professionals say they often feel the burden of being a standard-bearer for their race. Karen Henry, 53, said she was the only Black attorney in the national law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP’s L.A. office when she joined. “I told myself that if I mess this up, they’re never going to hire another Black lawyer,” she said. Her focus on perfecting her legal skills may have hurt her opportunities to network, she says. She wrestled over asking for help: “As an African-American attorney, do I really want to step up and say, ‘I’m having trouble with this’?” She instead turned to an outside mentoring network for midcareer women, whose guidance helped her boost her profitability. The relatively few Black professionals who make it into upper management fare better at promotions than those in earlier career stages, the McKinsey data shows. In the first half of 2020, Black men, in particular, were promoted at higher rates than their white peers to senior positions, with the exception of executive teams. Still, the gains are uneven, partly because the numbers are so small. Virtually no Black women at the senior vice president level were promoted during that same period within the two dozen companies McKinsey studied.
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