At the Black Women Lead Virtual Town Hall event hosted by the All In Together organization, I had an opportunity to speak on what companies are failing at on their quest to include Black women. Inclusion does not stop once the talent is hired, but rather, that is where it starts.
Watch the video or read my comments below.
“Companies are doing an amazing job hiring Black women or intentionally trying to acquire Black talent. The challenge that I’m seeing is that once that talent is on board, there has to be purposeful and intentional development and more importantly retention. A lot of companies, mine included, have these amazing diversity initiatives; they partner with HBCUs or other diversity organizations like women of color and Technology or National Society of Black engineers and we spend a lot of time and resources going to strategically identify an acquired talent.
“Here’s where the failure happens: we bring that talent on board and then the courting process sort of subsides and nine out of ten times that talent is going to be reporting to a manager who probably was not even involved in planning or designing that diversity initiative. Furthermore, if given the option of voting where the resources that were allocated to the initiative went, some of these managers would not choose the diversity-intentioned options. Some of them would put that much back towards product line development or some other way that they would assume is automatic. They don’t see the long term gain of investing in top talent, especially Black women so these women are usually reporting to someone who doesn’t have an appreciation for how they got there in the first place, and yet that manager is responsible for realizing the outcome that created the need for an initiative in the first place.
“It’s an absolute model for failure and as Black women, all women but specifically Black women, we are intelligent, capable and we absolutely know when someone is not going to invest in us. It does not take us having a degree in biomedical engineering or having 20 years of professional experience to know very early on whether or not someone is going to invest in you. So, we make a decision at that point to fight or flight. You decide that you are going at this on your own and you do things to advocate for yourself like putting networks together, identifying your own stretch assignments, ensuring you receive career development, and soliciting and finding your own sponsors. You either do this because you know that you’re not going to have that direct investment from your direct leadership or you choose to flight. I would say you vote and you vote with your feet because you go find another opportunity because it hasn’t worked out. We have to be mindful of this.”
About Niki: Niki Allen is the senior vice president of technology at Kohl’s. Niki emphasizes that technology is the basis of all successful organizations. She uses her background in data and analytics to strategize how to help businesses operate more effectively through the innovation of new technologies. As a transformational thought leader, she actively works to use technology to create a more diverse and inclusive future with greater opportunities for all.