By Ellen McGirt
May 7, 2019

First the good news.

There’s been some much-needed progress in the representation of Asian women in corporate leadership. For their black and brown peers? Not as much.

This one of the big takeaways from Working Mother Magazine’s 2019 Best Companies for Multicultural Women, their annual list of the companies who are doing the most to hire and retain women of color.

This year’s top ten (in alphabetical order) are Accenture, ADP, Anthem, IBM, L’Oreal USA, New York Life, Procter & Gamble, Verizon, Visa Inc., and WellStar Health System.

The Working Mother Institute has crunched this data since 2003, and surveys companies with more than 500 employees. The companies in this year’s cohort employ 2.3 million people at 38,000 worksites in every state, in a wide variety of industries including the nonprofit sector.

Asian women have seen a steady increase in representation across the board, from managers to senior managers and corporate executives, and in jobs with the real juice – executives with P&L responsibilities.

But the numbers for all but Asian women begin to drop once people move past their first leadership jobs.

In 2019, 5 percent of front line managers were black or Asian, and 4 percent were Latina. But while the percentage stayed at 5 percent for Asian women when they moved into senior management, only 2 percent of senior managers were black or Latina. Then the big divergence: Some 4 percent of Asian women at the Best Companies are senior executives, compared to 1 percent for both black and Latina women.

One possible explanation for the disparity might be leadership training.

While the companies offering leadership training opportunities either formally or through employee resource groups increased this year to 17 from 14 percent, not everyone is taking advantage of them equally. Some 24 percent of Asian women participated in leadership development in the most recent survey year, as compared with 16 percent of black and 15 percent of Latina employees.

If I were running a company, I’d want to know why some talented women are taking leadership training and others aren’t. The leadership numbers drop too precipitously as women move up the ladder in all the demographic surveys I’m aware of for this not to be an obvious point of focus.

I have to think that making leadership development training relevant, attractive, and attainable for all underrepresented women will make a big difference in these numbers going forward. Particularly for first-time leaders who only discover the limits of their preparedness or the problems inside their company’s culture when they transition into the role.

CEOs need to step in, and it looks like they’re doing just that.

Among other moves, like building diversity into their succession planning, some 76 percent of CEOs are tying the compensation of all senior leaders to diversity goals, and in a big jump, some 70 percent are now reviewing supplier-diversity metrics, up from 52 percent the previous year.

Click here to review all the findings and the entire list of fifty companies.


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