The two biggest drivers of a talent pipeline are hiring and promotions, but for women of color in the workplace, studies have shown there are challenges to advancement.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal study, women now lead 167 of the country’s top 3,000 companies. That number has doubled from a decade ago, but it is still under 6%. The issue lies within the pipeline that leads to the top. Though women receive promotions and fill executive seats, they’re cut off from the positions that are traditionally stepping-stones to CEO.
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To address these prominent issues in corporate America, DiversityInc CEO Carolynn Johnson created DiversityInc’s Women of Color and Their Allies event, which debuted on Oct. 2, 2018. The purpose of the event is to allow a safe space for executives to share personal experiences as well as create a collective understanding of best practices, such as mentoring and sponsorship, that will advance women of color. This year’s event will be held Nov. 4.
Stemming from the first event, Johnson created a webinar series to continue the discussion about allyship to women of color.
In one of the webinars, “White Women Who are Intentional Allies to Women of Color,” Chris Crespo, Inclusiveness Director at EY (a member of the DiversityInc Top 50 Hall of Fame), talked with Johnson about her role as an ally and the inaugural Women of Color and Their Allies event in 2018.
“At the event on October 2, it wasn’t just a lot of African American women, and Latinas, and Asian-American women in attendance, also the people in the room were folks who consider themselves allies to women of color,” Johnson said. “The managers of women of color were there. People that are engaged in the mentoring and sponsorship relationships were there.”
Johnson discussed the importance of intersectionality in supporting women of color. She said race and gender representation should be addressed simultaneously, and not as if one is more important than the other.
“Although gender diversity seems to be prioritized over racial diversity, it really should be addressed equally,” Johnson said.
Mentoring and Sponsorship
Mentoring and sponsorship are key to developing diverse talent, but oftentimes people of color are left out of conversations regarding this kind of support from higher-ups.
Crespo said, “When you look at [EY’s] people of color research, it shows that when we are sponsoring people of color, that they’re 22% more satisfied with the sponsorship that they get, in part because they’re not expecting it. Now that’s kind of sad when you think about it from a couple of different perspectives. For starters, we should all expect it. And at the same time, you can have a much greater impact with an even less investment if you look at it in that respect. That can really move people forward.”
Crespo recommended sharing information about the importance of mentoring and sponsorship and to help leaders understand that small efforts to support diverse talent have significant effects.
The leaders went on to discuss how allyship is symbiotic. “White women being intentional of sponsoring women of color actually benefits us both in many ways,” Crespo explained. “And not only does it help us to build those stronger relationships, but we often are really learning from each other based on the experiences that we’ve already been through and, in some cases, it’s gotten through, not always in the best of ways, but at least — maybe we are seeing how we have gotten through them.”
Crespo mentioned EY holding events that focused on allyship among women. She said people often stereotype women as being hostile toward one another in the workplace, so it was important for them to engage in conversations that demonstrate their solidarity and support with one another.
“And we saw some benefits of doing that because when you have — when you bring women together, even in a room, sometimes — I’ll just say that we have a reputation for occasionally being catty or having higher expectations of each other than even we do others,” Crespo said. “And we need to sometimes call that out as well as part of this and make sure that we are having the conversations in the first place but putting ourselves into positions that we can have the conversations to start with.”
Sheryl Estrada contributed original reporting for this piece.