Recently, a number of our clients—private equity firms, tech companies, and professional services firms—have asked us to design and deliver programs intended to invest in and develop leaders from underrepresented groups. So far, the focus has been on leaders of color and women, but of course many other marginalized groups could benefit from this kind of learning opportunity.
We are thrilled to be doing this important work and want to share some of the research that shows the challenges underrepresented groups often encounter, as we know many of you are thinking about and actively working on how to best support these leaders.
- Leaders of color face many barriers as they try to adhere to the maxim of “being authentic” in cultures where their authentic expression is not accepted.
- Research shows that women get a lower quality and quantity of feedback than men, reducing their access to the information that will most help them succeed and advance.
- Speaking of advancing, in the US (and likely elsewhere), political culture dictates that women should not want to advance or be “ambitious.” This New York Times piece explores this bias in light of the 2020 presidential election.
- Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in her article Cracking the Code That Stalls People of Color, argues that “‘cracking the code’ of executive presence presents unique challenges for professionals of color because standards of appropriate behavior, speech, and attire demand they suppress or sacrifice aspects of their cultural identity.”
- Women and leaders of color sometimes get labeled as having “imposter syndrome,” but often that is not accurate. What can look like imposter syndrome is often simply normal and appropriate discomfort from operating in an environment where role models are scarce, bias is plentiful, and support is absent.
- In fact, research out of Stanford indicates that confidence and competence are often confused at work and that confidence—which tends to be present in majority populations and higher socioeconomic class individuals—often leads to more opportunity and advancement, even when competence is low or absent.
While that sounds like a lot of bad news (and it is!), there is a real benefit to increasing the diversity and inclusion in our organizations.
Research shows that diversity leads to creativity, diverse leadership teams drive more innovation, and diverse organizations have higher profitability, stronger governance and stronger problem-solving capabilities.
If you’d like to talk about any of this research, or how we can help you think about and support the development of your leaders, please let us know.
The Boda team