Culture and Race – Two Important Factors in the Executive Suite

The fact that a significant part of the population in this country is African American is no secret. Yet, blacks continue to be classed as a ‘minority group’. This is leading to significant problems, not in the least because they are underrepresented in many different places, including the executive suite. And then, when an African American does get to top positions, others often don’t know how to deal with them.

Out of the few African Americans who have made it to the top, all say that race should be something that can be openly discussed. Charles Phillips Infor CEO has made it his affair to make sure that people feel they can discuss anything, including the sometimes sticky subject of race. As an African American himself, he knows that he is a true minority, not because of the color of his skin, but because of the high position he holds.

The Reality

Unfortunately, in corporate America, there really is no such thing as racial diversity, particularly in the higher levels of society. In fact, in the history of Fortune 500, there have only been 15 black CEOs, of which Charles Phillips is one. Five of those f15 are currently still in the CEO role, and only one of those is a woman, being Ursula Burns of Xerox.

Delving deeper into the Fortune 100 companies, only 4.7% of all members of executive teams are black, and even fewer are black women. But also for companies that don’t make the Fortune list, the figures are bleak. Nationally, there are some 16.2 management jobs, yet only 6.7% of those are taken up by African Americans.

A Frustrating Situation

More and more African Americans are getting frustrated at the lack of diversity in the corporate field, and they are dealing with this in different ways. Charles Philips, for instance, has started a philanthropic foundation with his wife Karen, through which they support various groups, including African American youths, to become involved in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields of work. Others still try to turn the tables around and consciously choose to only hire blacks. Others still believe their skin color has nothing to do with anything and therefore neither acknowledge nor ignore the fact that racial diversity needs to be improved.

Our country has tried to bring about more cultural diversity since 1964, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed. However, for all these efforts, it seems that little to no progress has been made. People like Charles Phillips and his wife, however, are making strong efforts to combat this, coming up with ways to ensure that disadvantaged communities, of which many are African American, are given equal opportunities to succeed and ae not left to feel like second rate citizens who have nothing to give to the world. Slowly but surely, people like Charles Phillips and Ursula Burns are changing the world for the better, creating a world in which the only thing that matters is a person’s skills, not their ethnic background.

 

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