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Rosanna Durruthy | 24 February 2023

A third of Black professionals say they missed out on opportunities due to a lack of mentorship. GETTY IMAGES

Despite progress in diversifying the talent pool, the level of representation of Black talent in leadership positions remains astoundingly low. Today, only six Black professionals hold CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies–and only four percent of senior leaders at large companies are Black. In fact, McKinsey estimates that it will take 95 years for Black employees to reach talent parity across managerial levels in the private sector.

Ample research has also shown that companies with diverse leadership teams perform better both with talent and financials.

This Black History Month we must be aware of the barriers faced by Black professionals­–and the solutions for their lack of representation in senior leadership positions.

Why Black professionals are leaving the workplace

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a greater representation of Black executives leading organizations big and small. At the same time, we’ve also seen Black professionals–women in particular–at the edge of a “glass cliff,” a concept in which professionals are promoted into high-profile roles but, despite their merit, skills, experience, and knowledge, aren’t given the resources they need to succeed.

While promoting Black professionals might seem like a great retention and diversifying tool, companies often don’t set them up for success. Adequate support systems, such as mentorship, sponsorship, and learning and development are lacking.

We are seeing Black professionals leave the workforce for lack of competitive wages (46%), lack of professional development (25%), and lack of investment in DEI (17%). This is really where companies are left with the work that they need to do to fundamentally understand that without professional development, and true meaningful career growth, it will be very difficult for companies to retain the Black talent that they have.

Lack of access to mentorship and sponsorship

At the start of my professional journey, there were very few executives who shared my background or looked like me. Those who made it to the C-suite were near demigods and their shared experiences made it clear that the journey to the executive suite required more than mere talent to break through the “concrete ceiling.”

I’ve broken through the “concrete ceiling” in my career–and sat at the edge of the “glass cliff” in corporate America, wishing I had the support and resources to do my job well. I also struggled to break through the glass ceiling of middle management. The journey is never easy, but with support, inclusive spaces, and community, we can advance more and more Black professionals to senior ranks.

Our LinkedIn data analysis found that access to mentorship is a barrier to success, with over a third of Black professionals feeling they’ve missed out on career opportunities because of a lack of mentorship. This challenge is compounded by the fact that 33% of Black professionals reported having a hard time finding a mentor who truly understands them.

How companies can invest in Black talent

Acknowledging and understanding the current state, organizations should set out to spotlight the importance of Black leadership representation in corporate spaces and beyond.

This month, I encourage you to join me in celebrating the incredible Black talent in the workforce so that we can pave pathways and inspire change for the next generation of Black leaders.

Together, we can create a more inclusive and equitable future for all professionals in the corporate world and beyond.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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