How to Champion Black Women in Leadership

How to Champion Black Women in Leadership

We all understand the business benefits of cultivating a diverse workforce. But your diversity initiatives won't produce results if they don't facilitate fair and equal opportunities for underrepresented employees to move into leadership roles.

Black women are the most underrepresented group in corporate America. The higher up the corporate ladder you go, the less representation Black women have.

Black women make up 7.4% of the US population, but only hold 1.6% of VP roles and 1.4% of C-suite roles.

Compare that to white men, who only make up 35% of the US population but hold a staggering 57% of VP roles and 68% of C-suite roles. And though there are 37 women CEOs in the Fortune 500, none are Black.

Here at Mogul, we’ve spoken with thousands of executive leaders to help build diverse teams. To celebrate Black History Month, below are our five ways you can better support the advancement of Black women in your workforce.

Provide ownership opportunities

Black women are less likely to receive access to senior leaders at work. Fifty-nine percent report never having interaction with upper management. 

That lack of facetime makes company leaders less likely to advocate for Black women when considering who to lead projects. Because of this, Black women are far less likely to be involved in important company policy changes or new business strategies.

Senior leaders must actively create opportunities for Black women to have project ownership and autonomy in company initiatives. 

Autonomy is vital for career advancement. Taking the lead on projects gives employees the chance to showcase their talent and be seen as valuable stakeholders in the business. 

Update hiring practices 

By now, you've heard about unconscious bias. We all have biases, and the only thing we can do is learn to mitigate them the best we can. 

Unconscious bias plays a significant role in obstructing Black women's ability even to receive an interview (it can also cause nightmares in your recruiting).

When developing your hiring practices, the goal is to stop bias at every inflection point. 

Here are a few proven solutions that will help overcome bias:

  • Develop a diverse hiring team
  • Offer unconscious bias training for hiring managers
  • Provide hiring managers with specific review criteria 
  • Set goals for hiring managers to deliver diverse candidate slates
  • Make resumes and candidate skill assessments anonymous

Additionally, consider incentivizing hiring managers to meet diversity targets. Less than five percent of companies financially incentivize leaders who meet diversity goals. 

Hiring for diversity is an active process. Work with your hiring managers to set progress benchmarks to ensure you're on track and adjust as needed. 

Create support programs

Though many corporate diversity initiatives focus efforts on gender or race, few combine both. Inclusive initiatives should go beyond representation metrics and include supporting existing teammates. 

This means offering sponsorship and professional development programs. Create Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to give the Black women in your company more support and enhance their voices within the organization.

ERGs can be a force in shaping company norms. They are a safe space to speak up about issues and allow members to band together to bring around change. 

Additionally, ERGs develop mentorship initiatives. Many Black women have never received mentorship.

In a survey of U.S. law firm employees, 62% said the lack of an influential mentor was a major barrier to their advancement. ERGs can be invaluable in providing a space for mentorship relationships to develop. They are also great for business.

To help organizations leverage their ERGs, Mogul founded International ERG Day, occurring annually every November 17th. We hope you join us for the next one to celebrate and come together to enhance your ERGs.

Normalize allyship and feedback

People don't leave jobs; they leave managers. An employee's relationship with their manager is one of the most significant factors for their success. Managers should be committed to inclusive leadership.

.Company leaders should champion a culture of accountability. Normalize speaking out against discrimination and advocating for Black women colleagues. 

Create policies that emphasize the ways employees can safely support each other as allies. That could look like leadership training, ways to formally report incidents, and updating company culture policies.

As you build measurable DEI initiatives, seek continual feedback from your Black teammates. And make sure to listen to that feedback and not dismiss it out of hand.

Communicating with your team transparently on what you are working on lets your employees know that you are aware of your biases, are willing to learn, and perhaps most importantly: are willing to take action to be better.

Standardize promotions

Many promotions rely on a manager's subjective opinion. Subjective evaluations often lead to discrimination, favoritism, and nepotism. 

When Black women don’t receive opportunities to showcase their abilities in the first place, it makes advancing through the ranks that much more difficult. 

Make it a point to meet with your employees (especially those in minority groups) and talk about their career aspirations. Find alignment with their goals and create a career plan for their advancement. 

During the promotion review process, create standardized criteria. For example, match the employees' skill sets with the minimum requirements of the new role. Use a weighted scale for experience or tenure and base performance in two or three recent review cycles.

Ultimately, applying standardized promotion policies assures that everyone who performs well will be properly rewarded. 

Be the champion for your employees

As leaders, allies, and teammates, we need to work together to champion the advancement of Black women in the workplace. It’s our job to create a world where there are no longer firsts or onlys. This is how we unlock the world's greatest potential.

Looking to hire more Black women? Mogul’s diversity recruitment platform makes it easy to ensure diversity throughout your hiring process. We’d love to help you be successful in your DEI efforts -  get in touch!