Last week I attended a "thinkers" seminar on behalf of my employer. The audience consisted of mainly senior management and some 1st line level managers. As we were segmented into groups for various exercises I couldn't help but notice the racial demographics. Each group of five had one black person; the total number of participants were 29, 23 of those 29 were white and the remaining six were black. It's obvious we don't need a rocket scientist to decipher only 20% of the room containing management was black! Is this phenomenon new? Absolutely not; but is it tiring, Absolutely YES!
As I worked within my group I wondered about the other 20% and was curious did they too feel the disparity. Unfortunately these instances aren't new, however, I often self-examine why do they exist. We often here the term equal opportunity; if there is only 20% of blacks in a room of management, did equal opportunity really prevail? Does the term equal opportunity mean equal amongst blacks and not the position? Is it equal to a certain allowable number? The methodology surrounding the equal opportunity equation is one that leaves some serious bafflement. Unfortunately I do not have the answer; but I do know there is a problem. Ironically the thinker seminar was based on problem solving.
So, Corporate America here's a problem for you "Why are so many high level positions still held primarily by whites?" A couple of ways to solve this problem via the suggestions of the seminar was through mind mapping. As my mind maps to this problem here's what I came up with:
Segregated Education - Brown vs Board fought for equal education amongst races, but not amongst financial class. Once whites realized this they took they money and moved into all white neighborhoods. Legally from a taxation view schools that are housed in a district with a larger income tax distribution receive more funds, less teacher to pupil ratio and overall a nicer place to learn, hence enhancing the desire to learn, preventing drop out rates. Statistics show blacks/hispanics are poorer than whites; so if this doesn't change which obviously is affecting our education; are we doomed to always be the 20%?
Culture Differences - Black/Hispanics culture and needs are different from whites. We do not care about hiking, camping, what do to in the case of a bear interaction. These instances are not part of our normal lives. Therefore, answers to questions regarding hobbies during an interview or personal perspectives may not necessarily attract an interviewer. Yes, I know we can work around that but quite honestly the work around may seem inauthentic which ultimately discredits our chances.
20% - OK who's looking for us? Who thinks we're qualified? Are those in position considering candidates seeking us? Are they recruiting from inner city schools? Do they look in certain minority organizations? Where is the search coming from?
Using my newfound skills in addition to mind mapping the problem we're also supposed to define a viable solution that can be implemented and controlled. Based on the results of my mind mapping exercise very little can be done. I don't mean to sound gloom; however this is a truth. As a people; do we work 110% harder?; do we increase the “hard work” number to 200%?; what is it that we can do to double our numbers from 20%? The one thing we can do is provide awareness to the next generation. 20% may not seem like a lot but it's more than 1%, it's more than 5%, it's more than 10%! 20% is still not OK but it shows progress. I've been in Corporate America for 25 years and I do remember when I saw 5%. Being a young woman in a new world it really didn't appeal to me, but as I grew in ranks I began to understand the differences and applaud the strives being met.
My advise to you coming into this corporate world, do not become discouraged. Speak your voice, don't worry if you don't hike or battle bears, honestly if that makes a person then this world is more screwed up than we thought, LOL. At the end of the day you need to be yourself, there's a reason you were chosen. Examine and embrace that reason and keep moving forward as you battle this fight. As they say in boxing "may the best man/woman win!" Be the best you can be. I’m sure strives will continue and as the 20% rises you can be proud that your best resulted in much deserved progress!