Studies have shown that black women in the United States agree that their goal is to make it to the top of their profession, but only 4 percent of C-level positions in 2018 were held by women of color, compared to 68 percent held by white men and 19 percent held by white women. Women of color face different obstacles to their advancement than white women and even black men, such as microaggressions, double standards and unconscious bias. Managers can take the initiative to invite women of color on their teams to attend office gatherings and make it clear that they look forward to getting to know them better. They also need to give credit where it is due and call out instances where good work is being underappreciated or ignored. Managers must highlight the contributions of these women through formal and informal communication channels, so praise is “on the record.” Bosses should also push themselves to deliver feedback in a manner that shows they care deeply about their employees’ personal growth and advancement but are unafraid to call out the areas for improvement. When looking to fill executive positions, hiring managers should widen the candidate pool by assessing employees for potential, not just competencies and particular experiences or qualifications, as women of color may be excluded because they were not given the same opportunities as their white and male colleagues. Egon Zehnder has, for example, created a model that provides organizations with a systematic and objective way to evaluate curiosity, insight, engagement and determination, which it believes are the leading indicators of future competence in leadership roles. Tracking the performance of women of color and the velocity and rate at which they’re hired and promoted versus their peers is the only way to measure progress in creating a more diverse leadership bench. During exit interviews, managers also should ask why employees are leaving because these conversations could lead to new ideas on how to improve the overall employee experience before talent walks out the door. Companies and individual managers who want to create more diverse and, ultimately, more successful teams need to do more to ensure that diverse female talent isn’t left behind.
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