Last Updated Nov 10, 2008 9:21 AM EST
Not anytime soon, says Harvard Business Review editor Diane Coutu in a thought-provoking post, Does Obama's Win Extend to Business?
"His gains won't be replicated in the C-suite until there's some real shift in the culture of business," she says.Citing academic research, Coutu explores four factors that slow the progress of black executives toward the corner office:
- Competing Careers Until recently, minority up-and-comers were more attracted to careers in medicine and law than business.
- Mirror Image Psychologists tell us corporate power brokers tend to promote people who look like themselves (i.e. white men).
- Low Expectations White bosses can have lower expectations of black talent than white talent, leading to slower promotions.
- Feedback Failures Because of oversensitivity and and fear of being discriminatory, feedback given by managers to African-American executives, especially at the start of their careers, is more cautious, less direct, and slows down the development process.
The Business Case
In addition to aspirations of social equality, there is a much more pragmatic reason to promote racial diversity in organizations, according to research done at Harvard Business School: it pays off on the bottom line.
HBS Researchers Robin Ely and David Thomas found that racially diverse work groups are more productive when they choose to learn from members' different experiences, rather than ignore or suppress them.
Your opinion please. The United States can be justifiably proud to have broken the racial barrier in the White House. Do you think there is a similar barrier to be eclipsed in Corporate America? How do we go about that?
Professor Thomas believes one concrete action companies can take is to provide upper-management mentors and sponsors for minority executives. What are some other ideas?