Report: Black Professionals Stymied In Efforts To Reach The Top

A new study from researchers at the University of Chicago, under the auspices of the Center for Talent Innovation, finds that black professionals hold only 3.2% of all executive or senior leadership roles in the U.S. and less than 1% of all Fortune 500 CEO positions, despite comprising 12% of the overall labor force in the U.S.

Lack of ambition isn’t the issue, and racial prejudice more likely plays a role in the under-representation, the report finds.

The study found that black professionals are more likely than their white counterparts to aspire to a top job (65% vs 53%, respectively).

It also found that black professionals are nearly four times as likely as white professionals to say they have experienced racial prejudice at work (58% versus 15%). Regional differences are stark: 79% of black professionals in the Midwest say they have experienced racial prejudice at work, compared to 66% of black professionals in the West, 56% in the South, and 44% in the Northeast.



Representation of black professionals in leadership still lags far behind graduation rates. Black people account for 10% of all college-educated people in the U.S., and have for over a decade.  

The study also found wide perception gaps between black and white professionals on the dynamics at play. For example, 65% of blacks believe they have to work harder to advance up the corporate ladder. Just 16% of whites feel their black counterparts must do so.

Access to senior leaders (and possible mentors) is also an issue, with just 31% of full-time black professionals believing they have access to leaders versus 44% of white full-time professionals.

“We have long known that a truly diverse, inclusive and equitable culture is essential for us to succeed,” stated Michael Roth, Chairman-CEO of IPG. “That said, the results of the CTI Study insist we take a long, hard look at what we have been doing to study which of our programs are effective, and which need to be re-examined."

In addition to IPG, sponsors included The Walt Disney Co., Johnson & Johnson, Danaher, Morgan Stanley, Pfizer and Unilever.

The study included a survey of more than 3,700 respondents and several qualitative components. More on the effort can be found here.


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