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Black Female Executives in Corporate America Essay

Black female executives are a symbol of what determination and hope can achieve that despite the odds and perceptions, people can achieve anything they set themselves on regardless of their cultural backgrounds. Reaching the top for these women has been a journey which dates back way before slavery when women lived and followed the African traditional settings which governed every aspect of their lives. In this setting, the women were subordinate to their men and their duty was to look after their families.

Evolution has since changed these perspectives after the civil war that liberated the black people such that they were able to own property and even work in state organizations. In addition, the African people had the power to be educated. Over the years, African women have continually struggled to be the best academically as well as professionally such that they have even outshone their fellow men. “By 1994, there were more black women as compared to the black men who were employed especially in white collar jobs in corporate America (Tucker, 1994).

” Thanks to institutions like Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there has been significant growth of blacks taking up leadership roles in corporate America (Benjamin, 84). In the managerial positions, black men are slightly more than the black women but still the number of women in managerial positions between the years 1982-1992 had increased by 64% (Tucker, 1994). This positive figure has encouraged other black women to undertake leadership roles hence adding up to the increasing figure.

Black women representation in the corporate organizations cannot be compared to the rise of white women in the top managerial positions whose numbers have increased over the last decade. This is illustrated by 32% of white women managers who were executive leaders as compared to 14% African American women in similar positions who earned less than them in the year 2000 (Ely, 2003). This shows that as much as the black women are making it ‘big’ there are several factors that hinder their rise to such positions.

“By the year 2001, African American women remained in the shadows and remained invisible hence they were ranked in the corporate businesses either according to gender as well as race (Bell & Nkomo, 2003). ” Reasons for lack of black females in executive positions Though there are a few known black women executives in the corporate world it does not necessarily mean that they are not learned enough or that the positions are limited. The major issues limiting the black woman from getting to the top of the corporate ladder are gender and race.

Certain stereotypes which are mostly negative are likened to the black female. “They are considered to be aggressive and very direct (Caver, 2002). ” Such characteristics make them unsuitable for leadership positions in big organizations hence limiting their chances of advancing their careers. Black women are not exposed to educational opportunities like their male counterparts as well as white people. This is because most of them come from poor backgrounds and therefore their education is limited up to a certain level when the funds they have can allow.

That is why they usually get casual jobs and work as subordinate staff in organizations. Another issue that has contributed to the lack of black females in executive positions is the perception that such positions are the strongholds of men hence organizations mostly employ male colleagues. These factors make it harder for the black women to be promoted to executive positions as they are not only judged by the way their race but also according to gender. Challenges the black women executives face The rise of the women in the corporate world does not really mean that it is all rosy at the top.

Though the experience is rewarding some of them are frustrated. The few African American women in executive positions are faced with several challenges in the course of their work. They have to continually convince people and prove to their colleagues that they have what it takes to run organizations. To begin with their salaries are low as compared to those of their fellow black men in similar leadership positions. Most of the African American women in the top managerial positions are considered as vulnerable employees.

They are given those positions that can be easily scrapped off when the company restructures itself (Tucker, 1994). They do not therefore get the chance to play major roles in organizations especially in terms of decision making as sometimes they do not have jobs to do. This makes them feel inactive and feel as if they were just put in those positions to enhance the good image of the companies they head as being good an equal employer. “Some companies just put the women up there so that they can show their corporate allies that they are not biased against any race or gender (Lamont & Molnar, 2002).

” • Lack of strategic relationships Relationships define how people will relate with each other in the organization. When the black women are not supported by their employers, then it becomes hard for them to relate with them in proper ways and this affects their work relationship. The relationship between black and white women in the workplace is also strained. This is because white women do not interact often with black women on organizational matters hence they have little knowledge on some of the racial perspectives; the black women have to deal with.

“They feel white women do not care about black women issues and concerns (Caver, 2002). ” This has made the black women feel betrayed by them and no wonder they do not relate with them well (Bell & Nkomo, 2003). This scenario has strained communication between the two groups and they never engage in constructive activities. They have been reduced to clicks that support their own members and rarely will they support the promotion of the opposite colleagues to such leadership positions.

If the black women cannot relate well internally with their colleagues, it is therefore hard for them to form corporate relationships with people from other organizations as well as their clients as they do not have people within the organization to link them to other business relations. • Lack of mentoring and support African American women are never mentored; and if, on a limited scale. “This is because they are thought to have nothing in common with their white counterparts as well as black men (Caver, 2002).

” Moreover, it is difficult for the black woman to fit in the white male-oriented ‘positions’ which is limited by the negative, historical, sexual racism between black women and the white men (Benjamin, 2005). For this reason, they do not get to improve on their leadership skills hence it is hard for them to be promoted to higher positions. In addition, when other people will start performing better than them, they are said to be incompetent and therefore they risk losing their jobs. The society is also not showing support for the black women corporate leaders who have managed to beat all odds and be the best.

This is more so seen in the African American community where people think that they use their high positions to intimidate them. No wonder it is hard for them to find suitable husbands as the males feel threatened. • Trust issues The few black women executives who are there are not trusted to make strategic and informed decisions by other colleagues in the workplace and that is why they have to struggle so much to build this trust which takes a long time. This is why some black women who can no longer cope with the pressure resign from their jobs. This has led to an increasing number of black women quitting their jobs.

This is why the CEO as well as other colleagues in the workplace are left to wonder if race determines commonality or whether gender connects across racial lines and if the black women have their own leadership style that helps them navigate in the hierarchy (Bell & Nkomo, 2003). • Lack of access to business development opportunities Leaders need to continually sharpen their skills so that they are able to tackle problems that arise in the business cycle. Black women are usually sidelined in major activities and this limits their chances of growth in terms of acquiring skills and building strategic alliances.

For example, a project may be designed which may entail people going for training but surprisingly, countable black women; if any, will be short listed. This makes them feel like an extra burden to the organization. • Balancing work and personal life Just like all women, African American women have to place their families before everything else. They therefore have to ensure that they balance their personal lives as well as their works lest they fail in all of them. Sometimes it is not easy as in every place they are faced with issues and sometimes they do not have colleagues whom they can turn to for help.

Impact on the black female work population The statistics might show that black women positions in leadership positions have increased but the experiences of African American women in such positions reveal another thing. Some women have said that they have watched their subordinate colleagues some who are not qualified be promoted to higher ranks while they, who have served the companies for longer periods, are stagnant in the same positions. “In addition, when they give ideas on anything, they are not taken seriously and this is adding up to their frustrations (Hesselgrave, 2009).

” Such scenarios have made them feel diminished, have low self esteem and not feel like part of the organization. This has made them emotionally as well as psychologically disturbed as they cannot come to terms as to why so much hatred and seclusion is still in the society. The lack of back women executives in corporate America is not doing much to encourage young black women professionals to take managerial careers. They see on a daily basis on how their fellow black women in the corporate world are treated and nothing much is done to solve the issues.

Some black women have had to succumb to offering sexual favors and bribes if they really want the positions. Such negative factors make the young ladies not wanting to be in such vulnerable positions hence they will opt to choose careers that they find pleasure in. Another impact is that organizations have been divided along racial and gender lines when ‘their own’ are not promoted to executive positions. This has inhibited progress in the organizations as decisions can not be made effectively because employees are not communicating and they are not performing well at their work because their issues are not being addressed.

“This has also brought in unhealthy competition in the workplace as the different groupings of people have to find fault in each other so that they can use the raised issues as an excuse to make them appear better so that they can be favored (Ivancevich & Gilbert, 2000). ” In some instances, it has led to the formulation of policies which the minority group in this case, the African American women, use to give them an edge over other colleagues. Recommendations Women of all races play a major role in corporate organizations and that is why they should be encouraged to take the top most leadership positions if they are qualified.

Some of the factors that need to be considered in promoting African American women in leadership positions include: ? Encouraging more black women to pursue leadership positions Educating and sensitizing the young black girls at a young age is important so that they take up leadership courses. This will make them more open minded at an early. The Federal State therefore should ensure that there is equitable distribution of resources such that black children can access proper schools like the rest of the children in major cities.

African American women also need to be trained on political skills so that they are able to lead people in the proper manner thus become competent. ? Equal treatment Affirmative actions and the formation of women movements have played a vital role in rallying for equal treatment of women. More needs to be done so that the women can feel like they are part of the organizations they serve. The managers should therefore diversify employee groups and continually monitor to see how they are progressing and help then overcome the challenges they face.

“The top managers should also be able to identify black women who are skilled and help them grow within the organizations they head (Lamont & Molnar, 2002). ” The human resource heads should therefore ensure that they recruit they staff equitably and not based on any kind of biasness so that when it comes to making decisions or selecting the right candidate for a particular top office, all the people will be represented therefore the right candidate will be chosen regardless of their back grounds. ? Respect and trust

Respect starts with an individual when they identify their needs and they treat others the way they would like to be treated in return. Respect is a very important virtue that should be in every code of conduct since it determines how people will be treated. “Sometimes when white male superiors and black female subordinates as they are trying to amend their relationships they are faced with difficulties because of the lack of basis for identification which is mainly attributed to the fact that the motives behind them are not sincere (Thomas & Gabarro298). ”

Without respect, then there is no trust as individuals will not trust people who treat them badly. People therefore need to learn to respect black women because it is the only way that will help them salvage their relationships, ease communication and enhance understanding each other so that productivity of the company can improve. It is also advisable to find trust agents if the matters in the organizations are too complex for the members to solve. Having an independent party helping employees and management to solve their problems will be good as they will not be biased.

? Educating the other employees on the negative effects of discrimination is also a positive step towards creating room for black female executives. Conclusion Operations in organizations are changing slowly by slowly to accommodate cultural diversity and people are beginning to embrace the work done by the black women as well as other minority groups. Black women executives nowadays can be found in almost all departments in the workplace and have even gone a step further to head multinational organizations.

“Even in the wake of civil rights and women movements which have helped bring about gender equality, black women executives still face many challenges. African American women need to work harder to face out racism especially in this ever changing diverse world (Burk & NCWO). ”These women need to be supported in the work they do rather then being put down as they are also human and they deserve respect just like other individuals in similar positions in the society. Corporations therefore need to change their cultures and philosophies so that they attract more black women and retain them.

Black women also need to show that they deserve the executive positions by being passionate about the jobs and ensuring that they are qualified for the positions.


Bell, E. L. J. & Nkomo S. M. (2003). Our Separate Ways: Black and White Women and the Struggle for Professional Identity. Harvard Business Press, 5, 239, 5 Benjamin L. (2005). The Black elite: still facing the color line in the twenty-first century 2nd Ed. Rowman & Littlefield, p. 70 Caver K. A. (2002). Leading in black and white: working across the racial divide in corporate America.

John Wiley and Sons, 78, 80, 81 Ely R. J. et al. (2003). Reader in gender, work, and organization, Wiley-Blackwell, 2003 p. 343 Hesselgrave B. (2009). Business and economics. Under the Glass Ceiling? Throw Stones! Retrieved on April 2, 2009 http://www. miller-mccune. com/business_economics/under-the-glass-ceiling-throw-stones-1023 Ivancevich, J. M. & Gilbert, J. A. (2000). Diversity Management: Time for a New Approach Journal of Public Personnel Management, Vol. 29 Lamont, M. & Molnar, V. (2002). The Study of Boundaries in the Social Sciences Annual Review of Sociology journal, p.

12 National Council of Women’s Organizations & Burk M. (2005). 50 ways to improve women’s lives: the essential women’s guide for achieving equality, health, and success World Library, 2005 p. 124 Thomas, D. A. & Gabarro J. J. (1999). Breaking Through: The Making of Minority Executives in Corporate America, Harvard Business Press, Tucker S. H. (1994). Black women in corporate America: the inside story; executive women discuss real-life workplace issues that face black women today Retrieved on April 2, 2009 http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m1365/is_n1_v25/ai_15643636/

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