Stuck In The Middle

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Representation has been the key performance indicator for companies to measure success in the advancement of all employees, especially women and people of color, for decades.

Diversity MBA Benchmarking has watched the trends in the past several years of what has been going on in the middle ranks and noticed that people of color are still facing slower growth in the management ranks.

Interestingly, the share of management roles held by white females and males is decreasing: approximately 66% in 2014, down from 75% in 2013 and 77% in 2012. So at least the trend is going in the right direction, but that still leaves only 34% of people of color in the management ranks. One might ask, how this is possible, or when the balancing act stopped. There are many contributing factors. Let me share a few in no particular order:

  • The impact of organizational transformation, which results in downsizing or rightsizing — whichever term suits you
  • The impact of merger and acquisition activity, particularly when companies are acquired or merged with an organization that has no diversity strategy
  • The impact of people hiring people who look like themselves; the perpetuation of unconscious bias in hiring and advancement practices

Ultimately, the impact in the middle is that people of color remain the slowest group to be advanced. Ironically, while today African Americans (13 percent) are the largest group in the middle, Hispanics are the fastest-growing group in the middle (9 percent); and Asians are the second largest group (10 percent) in the middle. Other groups have nonexistent-to-minimal representation.

When I addressed this trend with some of the Fortune 50 multinationals, they were not surprised at the numbers, and they recognized that they have to implement innovative and out-of-the-box tactics to get the folks in the middle noticed and positioned for advancement. In some cases, informal positioning is a strategy, because some leaders in key roles don’t fully understand that intentional strategies for advancement of people of color are a necessity; and not just a nice thing to do.



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Pamela McElvane
Pamela McElvane
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