Women & Minority Leaders

Glass 2I was pleased and at the same time amazed to see this article pop up in my LinkedIn feed because the topic is one that has been discussed in one of my female groups several times over the past few years.  Being a group of gifted and successful women we've seen this happen too many times.

Coming from an African Caribbean background and having had this experienced myself, I am pleased to note that this phenomenon is not of my imagination.  When you see someone else making note of something you've often thought about, but held back on voicing yourself, it does bring some degree of comfort.  Note that that helps in any way to rectify the injustice of the situation one has experienced, but it is good to see this matter being noted and discussed at large.  I should not that the experience for me was quite a few years ago, but it still rankles when I think about it.

It is quite a known truth amongst the highly skilled professional black women that we are often offered difficult roles, amidst a failure to make us aware of the issues before we accept the role.  It's not always easy to find these things out before one is in the midst of them.  Then after we've worked hard, developed the team, train and coach individuals and to bring about the improvements required, the circumstance of the workplace can quickly change to one where excuses are given as to why 'things did not work out' with you and a white male is given a higher salary and the gift of an easier department to manage, the one you've worked hard to improve.

When I saw this article I made some calls to around 30 or more of my own contacts who are women and men from ethnic backgrounds to find out what their experiences have been in this area.  I was further amazed to discover that 90% of those I spoke to have been through similar situations.  I know that's not a huge scientific survey, but it speaks volumes to me. So again, it's not our imagination.

The tips given in the article from the Fast Company post are quite useful, but some are not always that easy to find out before hand.  The researchers Alison Cook and Christy Glass use the term 'glass cliff' and I would agree that this title fits what happens well, due to the usually abrupt way some of the departures are handled by CEO's or senior management teams in these cases.

The situation often leaves the individual in a bit of a quandary;  not knowing how to or if to discuss the issues openly for fear of repercussions, difficulty in finding other roles or the fear that others might not believe these things could happen at all.  Still others might think that one's feelings or impressions of the reasons for the outcome were just one's imagination.

It would be better if there was more honesty about why an individual was being given the role and the role made interim, short-term or contract.

Glass 3Another point raised by those I've spoken to myself about their experience is that one can feel quite alone.  This is a feeling I shared and the reasons that I have not discussed this issue more openly in the past myself until now, other than in my support group.  It could be that we have more psychopaths leading companies or sitting at senior and board levels than that we might wish to imagine.  I say that because invariably the decisions in these cases are made by the individual(s) at the top, but that's a topic for another article.  Clearly, however, the truth will always come out.

It's hard to believe this type of behaviour really still exists in the 21st century and after the so called work that has been done my government and other organisations on equality in the workplace.  It would be better if there was more honesty about why an individual was being given the role and the role made interim, short-term or contract. Both parties would leave relationship more amicably, without resentment and bad feeling.  Maybe even that might be too much to ask as it would imply a level of respect for women, minority leaders and their skills and abilities.  There I go ranting again.

But this does tell us a couple things:

Glass 2Women and Minority (I do prefer the term Ethnic) Leaders:

  • Are far more capable that they counterparts, if they are the best candidates for the more difficult situations, the fire-fighters, the company or department savers;
  • Their skills are continually being played down and ignored, after the job is done;
  • There is a lack of value for the important roles these individuals play within organisations;
  • There continues to be a lack of respect for women and people from ethnic groups at all levels;
  • They are still required to be 100% (or maybe higher) more capable than their counterparts and even then they are not considered worthy of senior level positions long term or investment.

The ugly truth is that there is still a lot more work to do at boardroom level in many companies across the UK and from this research in the USA also, although the USA does not surprise me.  I expect better from the UK.

No wonder more women and people from ethnic groups are starting and succeeding at running their own businesses and ignoring the old way of doing business.   I can see in the future a time where these same now senior people will have to look to these new organisations.  May that day be soon.

The link to this article I refer to is below.  What's your take on it?


Sandra Pollock,

Director, Open Mind Coaching UK

Business Coach, TV & Radio Presenter, Motivational Speaker

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