This post is a reaction to Black Enterprise’s recent article on the state of African American women’s apparent inability to get the corner office in corporate America. The resource is a study from the Executive Leadership Council and the Executive Leadership Foundation.
I suggest you read the article first before you read my post so that you can get a better sense of the content.
In not so subtle ways the findings don’t say anything that I didn’t already know – but what really annoys me is how these findings don’t provide any meaningful insight into how Black women can push through the corporate America log jam…if they so choose.
Find a White Guy
According to BE, Black women severely lack “strategic” relationships in their relationship arsenal. Such relationships are defined as connections with senior level officers most different from themselves.
In other words, they don’t hang out with enough white men. BE tiptoes around the idea that Black women are probably not aligning themselves with enough of them (or anybody who matters) to make a difference in their career.
And, depending on where you are in the corporate food chain – you’re so far removed from them, your best bet is to hope they trip over you at the next all-staff meeting.
Get a Cheerleader
The first point was about finding a specific mentor. This second point is more about finding someone who can:
- Give you feed back
- Understand your strengths
- Scream your holy praises right through the glass ceiling
Essentially, existing in a professional vacuum is not ideal. Duh. We get that. Do the white men get to wear cheerleading skirts?
Hire a house manager – or find a house husband
Aiming for a cushy senior level position may demand that your strong black motherhood (or attempts at it) go out the window (I guess Michelle Obama is the only exception to this?).
Avoid the secretary route at all costs
I’m cheating a little bit here because this “strategy” (and the next one) come from an interview Workforce Magazine did with Carl Brooks, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council. I couldn’t get the link for it, so here is a portion of the interview:
Another problem for African American women is a misunderstanding of their capabilities. How do the jobs they hold influence that perception?
The advice in this research is that if you seek an operational position at the top level, you need to stay focused on that and not move so easily to staff or administrative positions in corporate America.
Your network already sucks
I’m sure Penelope Trunk would love this one. Brooks states that a Black woman’s network is highly social versus professionally strategic. Because this is so, Black women lack the options for opportunistic entry into valuable and professionally strategic relationships.
What is holding back African American women?
The networks for African American females were considered social than strategic. They know each other , they know the family makeup of each other, they socialize together. But they didn’t have the strategic ingredient that would allow them to advance and ask each other for support and endorsements. Without that, no one moves to senior levels in any corporation.
In short, your momma’s church friends, cousins, girlfriends at old jobs and your lunch buddy can’t do crap for you, jobwise that is.