Last year, Ketanji Brown Jackson made history as she became the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court. And while her experience, expertise, and skill all warrant her place there, none of this would have even truly been taken into consideration if President Biden hadn’t nominated her.
It can be somewhat bittersweet, as it plays into this ‘white savior’ narrative that without a public endorsement from a powerful White figure, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson would not have achieved this feat. However, the fact is that disparity still runs rampant, so while the battle against systemic racism continues on, it is so important for those White people who are in positions of power to wield this power responsibly.
The same idea is also true for the corporate world. On many occasions, I have noticed managers or executives taking certain members of staff under their wing. This “sponsorship” gives those staff members who have been selected by the executive access to more opportunities and more chances to climb the corporate ladder in comparison to their other colleagues.
Now the issue with this informal sponsorship is that it is riddled with disparities. Typically, it’s the same type of people who are being offered this advantage, but this trend goes relatively unnoticed. Employers identifying strong candidates and wanting to help them grow their career isn’t a bad thing, but there needs to be more diversity. Different types of people need to be given these opportunities to grow and accelerate their careers, not just from a social perspective, but from a business perspective as well.
Racially diverse companies have been proven to be 35% more likely to outperform other organizations. Having a C-suite that is comprised of the same type of people, with the same ideas and perspectives, will halt any opportunity for innovation to take place. Alternatively, being intentional about sponsoring different employees at entry-level and helping accelerate them to managerial roles will make all the difference to this. New ideas will be considered, new perspectives will be heard, and new markets will become accessible.
But much like Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s story, what we’re seeing in the world of work isn’t a lack of qualified professionals, it’s a lack of access. In the UK, Black employees hold just 1.5% of top management roles in the private sector, while in the US, Black workers make up 7.8% of management positions – compared to 83.6% of White workers. This highlights the importance of those that are in executive positions in a company, as they are the ones who are responsible for ensuring that their C-suites and boards are diverse and accessible to all, which directly links to the sustainability of their business.
As it stands, we have a way to go before opportunities are truly equal and accessible to all. So until then, it is crucial that those who have power are using it to make these opportunities more attainable. Much like President Biden using his platform to endorse Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, recognizing the power of diverse talent is step one; paving the path for this talent to thrive is the next step. On Black Leaders Awareness Day, this message is more important than ever to remember. If you would like to discuss how to start embedding diversity, equity and inclusion strategies into the fabric of your business, please get in touch with me at email@example.com