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raceAhead: Sponsors Choose Proteges Who Are Like Themselves

Financial advisors walking outsideFinancial advisors walking outside
A new study shows that overwhelmingly, executives tend to sponsor people who look exactly like themselves.Fancy/Veer/Corbis Getty Images

New research from the nonprofit Center for Talent Innovation shows what we all suspected was true: Most executives choose to nurture talent who look like themselves in terms of race and gender, or as Bloomberg cheekily states, they pick Mini-Me.”

The numbers are significant. About 71% of executives have proteges of the same gender and race, and the vast majority reported their mentees had the same interests, management style, or skills. The survey comes from a poll of more than 3,200 white-collar executives.

It’s almost as if sponsors pick people who make them feel young again.

“This study reaffirms what we have seen play out again and again—white men overwhelmingly get the top jobs and the ‘hot assignments,’ because of their networks and sponsors,” says Ruchika Tulshyan, inclusion consultant, and author of The Diversity Advantage, Fixing Gender Inequality In The Workplace.

When sponsors choose proteges like themselves, it disproportionately harms women of color across the pipeline who are the least likely to be in leadership roles, she says.

There is, however, a systemic fix.

“Employers must match senior leaders with high potential employees from underrepresented backgrounds,” Tulshyan says. “There must be clear goals and accountability.” And sponsors must do the hard work of understanding why people are underrepresented in the first place. “Male leaders must understand why ‘leaning in’ doesn’t work for women, and white leaders must learn what are the challenges that people of color face at work.”

For Katrina Jones, Director, Global Diversity & Inclusion at Twitch, executives who want (or are being compelled) to do better should follow a three-step journey: Do the work, listen and learn, then amplify and support. You’re going to feel uncomfortable at times, but don’t let that stop you, she says. “Be honest about what you don’t know, be clear about what your intention is, and ask folks what you can do to make things better.”

In addition to studying the dynamics of white supremacy in the U.S. and beyond, Jones suggests taking inventory of your own experiences, to root out the quiet biases you bring with you into the workplace. “How diverse was your hometown? The schools you attended? What were your family’s views about Black, Latinx, and Asian people? How often do you socialize with people of color?” she says.

If you’re a white executive who has sponsorship responsibility, start your listening journey by joining affinity groups for underrepresented talent in your workplace. If you don’t, you’re missing an opportunity to understand what your company is like for people who are different than you. But you’re also missing an opportunity to network. “It’s a way to start building professional and personal relationships with people of color that are rooted in psychological safety and trust,” she says.

Bottom line, you can break the cycle by breaking the cycle.

“Every time you’re in a room, make note of who isn’t represented there,” says Jones. And remember, it’s all about empathy, says Tulshyan. “Developing this empathy is key because what worked for the white male leader to get ahead will not necessarily work for the woman of color.”

 

More encouragement from the experts:

Katrina Jones: Get the real background. Learn about racism in America (or your specific nation or region), how it impacts communities and people of color, and solutions for restorative justice to end “our nation’s original sin.” Use the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to discover potential areas of unconscious bias.

Ruchika Tulshyan: Learn how well-designed corporate sponsorship programs can propel underestimated employees ahead, and how they can positively impact women’s careers. (Also, find her excellent book here.)

 

On Point

Palantir’s diversity numbers are revealedThe good people at Reveal sued to get a copy of data-mining giant Palantir’s diversity figures from the company’s federally mandated EEO-1 filings. Palantir had balked at the request in a letter to the Labor Department, complaining that “competitors could identify where Palantir has made significant progress in hiring women and minorities and target recruitment strategies at specific job categories to steal this talent from Palantir.” Well, they needn’t have worried. Their 2015 numbers showed the company had no female executives and only one white woman manager. Other companies, like Oracle, have been making similar objections. “You could literally just log in to LinkedIn and find out,” says Y-Vonne Hutchinson, CEO of ReadySet, a diversity solutions firm in Oakland. “It’s far more likely that what they’re actually concerned about is that their numbers are disappointing.”Reveal News

Senator Kamala Harris set to enter 2020 presidential race
This is the logical end to her talk show and book promotion tour, and staffers indicate that she will probably announce on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, most likely in Oakland, Calif. But, it’s all still in process. Click through if you want to get more of a sense of the hand-wringing from the political horse race types: “Harris’ advisers want to avoid identifying her too closely with San Francisco, where she first made her political mark as a two-term district attorney,” reports CBS News. And then this: “San Francisco is viewed as a very nutty place by people outside of California, and frankly, by a lot of people inside California,” said one adviser.
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An evangelical group lobbies for LGBTQ+ people to be removed from anti-lynching legislation
The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously last month, was introduced by Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and makes lynching punishable as a hate crime. But Mat Staver, chairman of the evangelical nonprofit, Liberty Counsel, is lobbying House lawmakers to have the “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” language removed before taking a vote. “The old saying is once that camel gets the nose in the tent, you can’t stop them from coming the rest of the way in,” Staver said in an interview with a conservative Christian news outlet. Liberty Counsel opposes LGBTQ rights and is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
NBC News

Take a walk with Serena today
The great Ashley C. Ford visited the Greatest Athlete of All Time at her home and the two went for a walk, with daughter Olympia (who also speaks French) and her Yorkshire terrier Chip, in tow. The entire package is a delight, with wonderful photos and a short video of Serena trying kooky new things, like hula-hooping with a GoPro. But really the walk was about her own journey. “Venus and I started out being successful, continued to be successful, and we were also unapologetically ourselves,” she said. “We were not afraid to wear braids. We weren’t afraid to be black in tennis. And that was different.”
Allure

 

The Woke Leader

Michael Jackson once made a short film about race
Because I was still very much in my feelings over yesterday’s essay about Arsenio Hall and Luther Vandross, I went looking for more signs from my past. I’d completely forgotten about this short film that preceded—and actually explained—the music video for the song “Bad” from the 1987 album of the same name. Jackson plays a neighborhood kid who makes it to private school, only to come back to the ‘hood and be unable to hang with his boys. It was produced by Quincy Jones, directed by Martin Scorsese and features a young Wesley Snipes. (One of the backup dancers was my roommate, which made the whole thing a blur at the time.) But it appears Jackson was trying to really say something here. Prepare for some conspicuously nice prep school boys, codeswitching, late 80’s street fashion, and a subway dance-off for the ages.
YouTube

Financially vulnerable college students are going hungry
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A reminder that men think they’re helping women more than they are
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Fortune

Quote

Last week, a black professor told me he always asks his white students if they have ever heard racism called a sin in the pulpits of their churches growing up. The answer is almost always no. That will be absolutely key to a revival for racial reconciliation and justice — seeing racism as much more than political, but <em>rooted in sin</em>, repentance, morality, and faith.
Jim Wallis