Here’s How To Get More Women in Leadership

July 1, 2019, 3:32 PM UTC

Hello! Tamara El-Waylly, here. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about who makes it through the talent pipeline to the C-Suite, and why. Turns out, if we want a more diverse talent pool, we all have a role to play.

In case you missed it: This year’s Fortune 500 had 33 women listed as CEOs. Sure, it may be the highest number ever, but 6.6% isn’t exactly a total to be proud of. The disparity is simply representative of the fact that women still aren’t afforded the same path to success that men are.

Despite the gender parity efforts by companies across the country, promoting female leadership isn’t moving fast enough.

Working Mother Research Institute recently released a report  exploring exactly what obstacles are being overlooked. In a survey of 2,280 women and 749 men of different races, ethnicities, experience levels, and industries, the results highlight the different experiences of female and male professionals. 

Clearly, there’s an information gap. In 2018, for instance, 48% of men polled said they were given comprehensive information about their career paths to higher positions. Just 15% of women received the same. And while 54% of the men received advice from a mentor, only 39% of women did. 

“[M]any women don’t know what career paths they need to get to the top, don’t understand the importance of relationships with mentors and sponsors, and are not encouraged to take on revenue-generating jobs that are often requisite for the highest levels of corporate America,” said Subha V. Barry, President of Working Mother Media, according to a press release. 

On that last point: The study found that men are three times more likely than women to receive encouragement to apply for a role with profit and loss (P&L) experience—a crucial step for acquiring higher positions. And having that confidence matters: 80% of women who received such encouragement were more likely to try for a P&L position, compared to 51% who didn’t. The lack of support for women is only exacerbated by the fact that there’s also a dearth of role models for women to look up to. 

Because many jobs opportunities are discovered through connections, the fact that only 41% of women have a professional network to turn to—compared to 62% of men—clearly has an impact. Promotions come from that network as well, so it’s not a surprise that men are two times more likely to move up the ladder.

The findings show that gender parity initiatives aren’t focusing enough on helping female employees reach the top—and this gap grows when considering women of color. According to Working Mother’s report, though, multicultural women have higher aspirations: 48% stated their goal was to reach the C-suite level, compared to 37% of white women. They’re also twice as likely to aspire for a CEO position, and are more dissatisfied with their position levels, the findings show.

But the bar remains higher for women of color. One woman is quoted saying in the report, “We have to work harder. It keeps coming back. There is a real difference in expectations.” 

On Point

Thirteen-year-old Kiya Bruno performs the Canadian anthem for Toronto Blue Jays fans in Cree
Bruno is from the Samson Cree Nation in Alberta, and a beautiful singer in any language. But performing O Canada was a ground-breaking moment for fans of baseball and representation alike. Bruno was picked from hundreds of hopefuls and her performance was part of a spate of activities to acknowledge Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day which fell on the day the Jays played the Kansas City Royals. Wearing a Blue Jays jersey, she sang the anthem in both Cree and English. "I'm so excited. I'm so excited for our young people to really get out and sing in their language. And to have all of our people celebrate this day with us, it's priceless," Lorraine Cobiness, chief of Niisaachewan Anishinaabe First Nation in Northern Ontario told CBC News. CBC

Lil Nas X ends Pride Month on an out note
In a cagily worded tweet, the rapper asked his fans to go listen to a recent track for an important clue. “[S]ome of y’all already know, some of y’all don’t care, some of y’all not gone fwm no more. but before this month ends i want y’all to listen closely to c7osure,” he said, ending with a rainbow and sparkle emoji. While it took a minute for most folks to realize it was a coming out declaration, a lot of love flowed his way once they did. Click through for the lyrics and video that hid his identity in plain sight. Complex

Civil rights group to Facebook: You’re not getting the job done on hate speech
Yesterday, Facebook released the first major update as part of an ongoing audit of their work addressing civil rights and hate speech on the platform. “The audit is intended to create a forum for dialogue between the civil rights community and Facebook with the goal of informing the company’s examination of critical areas of concern,” the company said in a statement. Experts remain concerned. “A real civil rights audit should tell the public exactly where the deficiencies in removing hateful activity and hate content creators have been found and how they can and will be closed. The document released by the company falls far short of that need,” says Henry Fernandez of the Center for American Progress. Click through for more critique, it’s a bracing read. Gizmodo

Model Bella Hadid removed from ads following controversial social media post
She calls it an honest mistake. The model posted an Instagram photo showing her outstretched leg pointing toward an array of Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates airplanes. The problem: The planes showed an image of the country of origin’s flag — and pointing the sole of the foot toward someone is considered an insult in many parts of the world. Other social media users have been posting pictures of them throwing away Dior products with the hashtag #BellaHadidIsRacist. The model, who represents Dior in advertising, has apologized repeatedly. In response, Dior has removed ads which use her image from The Dubai Mall, and the Mall of Emirates has canceled a planned event with Dior over the incident. Design Taxi

On Background

There’s trouble in the bird-watcher of color community
At the center of the controversy is a YouTube series called “Birds of North America” hosted by a charmingly earnest naturalist named Jason Ward, who grew up poor and often homeless, in the South Bronx. (His love for birds was sparked by a random peregrine falcon encounter.) At roughly the same time, Rolling Stone released a similarly constructed YouTube show called  “Birding With Charles,” which also features a black host with special guests. But the Rolling Stone series, which is clearly playing for laughs, traffics in stereotypes offensive to birders of all hues, but black ones in particular. Rolling Stone says the similarity is coincidental, but Anna Holmes, the editorial director of which produces “Birds of North America,” says it’s still a problem. “It’s very important to me, and has been my whole life, to underscore that people who engage with natural world — campers, hikers, birders — are not just white people who wear Patagonia,” Holmes said. (In other news, Jason’s show is a delight.) New York Times

Why busing "failed"
Matthew Delmont, is a Dartmouth history professor and longtime expert on school busing in the U.S., skipped the second presidential debate. But his book, “Why Busing Failed,” suddenly became relevant again. “I was really surprised that school segregation came up as an issue,” he said of the now famous exchange on the subject between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.“It hasn’t shown up a lot in the last couple presidential cycles.” In this Q&A, he starts by addressing the idea that the federal government shouldn't have a role to play in school integration. “This sense that communities should only desegregate when they locally decide to do so is farcical,” he says. “It demonstrates a complete either lack of knowledge or willful misunderstanding of how race and school desegregation played out in the country.” Busing as a tactic to help kids of color largely succeeded. But as a political calling card, the term has been an abject failure. Chalkbeat

On being a black editor-in-chief
In this excerpt from her must-read new book, Elaine Welteroth, the former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, describes the pitfalls of being a powerful person of color in a majority culture media environment. It begins with a peek at the “POC C-suite sisterhood” and the first million dollar deal she brokered for the magazine, with marketing great, Bozoma Saint John. (Some of you may be tempted to stop reading there, the scene was that magnificent.) But her white employees or peers often felt triggered in the face of the progress she was making with powerful, black stakeholders. It felt like a takeaway. “This is your ticket. I saw it in their eyes,” one business side executive told her after a successful meeting. “They would do anything to support you. It’s just, that would never happen for a White girl like me.” Zora on Medium

Tamara El-Waylly helps produce raceAhead and assisted in the preparation of today's summaries.


"Thirty years ago, when I started working—literally the chances of me making it were worse than minuscule. We should be saying ‘hooray’ to the people of Xerox. We should be giving them a medal."

—Ursula Burns

Read More

Great ResignationClimate ChangeLeadershipInflationUkraine Invasion