Harvard’s Just the Start: A Call For Black Female Leaders — Stephanie Bradley Smith, in New Thinking

3 min readMar 13, 2023
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Unfortunately, black females continue to be underrepresented in executive positions in various industries. According to a report by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, black women are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions, holding only 1 in 25 C-suite positions. The report also found that black women face unique and systemic barriers in the workplace, including bias and discrimination, lack of mentorship and sponsorship, and limited opportunities for advancement.

While progress has been made in recent years, there is still a long way to go in terms of creating more diversity and inclusion in executive positions. This year, Harvard University will make history by appointing Claudine Gay as the first Black female president of the nation’s oldest college. This led me to examine accounts for such minimal representation of Black women in positions of power, influence and leadership. I had the opportunity to write and share my knowledge in ‘New Thinking’.

Here are some excerpts from the article —

“Women of color account for 25% of law firm summer associates — students who are typically recruited by law firms. Yet fewer than 1% of law firm partners are Black women, which suggests that retention of talent, versus acquisition of talent, is the key issue.”

“Another oft-cited reason for a lack of Black women CEOs is that Black women tend to gravitate toward staff roles versus line roles that better prepare one for CEO ascension.”

“The overall low incidence of Black women in line roles can be attributed to the significant difficulty that women experience in obtaining developmental assignments that prepare them to assume higher level roles.”

“Labor availability and educational achievement are not lacking among Black women”

Data indicates that the intersection of race and gender may force some Black women into “out-group” status, making their inclusion in networks less possible than for their Black male and White female and male counterparts.”

“An area of critical focus must be Black executive women — who are lacking in neither availability, motivation, education, nor experience. The only thing lacking is the imagination and genuine intention on the part of organizations to expand the boundaries of leadership and who gets selected to enter the top ranks.”

Here is the full article.

Stephanie Bradley Smith is a business executive who specializes in the field of Human Resources and believes that the most crucial ingredient to success is talent. “You may have a genius idea, but without people willing and able to bring it to fruition, you’ll never achieve your goals.” Her areas of expertise are executive succession, leadership development, and organizational effectiveness.

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