In Focus: Black Business Leaders Hard to Find Among Business School Case Studies

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek April 19, 2017

​Less than 1 percent of the 10,000 case studies published by Harvard Business School feature black business leaders, said Steven Rogers, a former lampshade manufacturing executive who is now teaching at the school — even though black-owned businesses represent 9 percent of all U.S. firms, the Washington Post reported.

Black men and women leaders also are conspicuously missing from the CEO ranks of Fortune 500 companies, which is a list of the largest companies in the U.S. as compiled by Fortune magazine. There have been only 15 black male CEOs in the entire history of the Fortune 500, five of whom still hold the job, according to a 2016 Fortune article.

And black women CEOs are nowhere to be found, following Sam's Club President and CEO Rosalind Brewer's resignation in March after five years on the job.

Organizations that fail to have diversity among their leadership do so at their peril.

"If you're looking at making a hiring decision and you're looking at your entire leadership team and you have no diversity, I would argue that the bigger risk is to not bring somebody in who's diverse," said David Sutphen, managing partner at the Washington, D.C.-based Brunwick Group, in a Fortune video. He consults with companies on how to diversify their workforces.

"Because at the end of the day what that means is you're going to end up in a situation where you're not going to have enough different inputs to tackle complex problems."

[SHRM members-only toolkit: How to Build a Diversity Initiative from the Ground Up]

Only 2 of 300 Case Studies Read by First-Year Harvard Business School Students Include Black Executives
For the first time this spring, Harvard Business School students are learning about Valerie Daniels-Carter's career, co-founder and chief executive of one of the country's largest food service franchise operators— and those of other African American executives — in a new course focused exclusively on black entrepreneurship.
(Washington Post)

This Is the End of Black Female CEOs In Corporate America
Rosalind Brewer's retirement as CEO of Sam's Club signals the end of black women in the C-Suite at major corporations.
(Black Enterprise)

Why There Are No Black Women Running Fortune 500 Companies
Black women aren't just underrepresented in the highest levels of business leadership. As of January 2017, they are all but unrepresented.

Why Black Execs Are Leaving Your Company
Recruiting talent, particularly young, African American professionals, has become a top priority for many large companies. Companies need to think differently about how they develop black talent, factoring in the pressures they feel and the barriers they face. 
"The paradigm for coaching African American executives is wrong," said Dr. Lawrence James, Jr., a Chicago-based clinical psychologist-turned-leadership-consultant. African American employees, he says, face significantly different issues navigating the workplace. And companies tend to do a poor job identifying and developing their young, black talent. 

Getting More Black Women into the C-Suite
Black women are nearly three times more likely than white to aspire to a position of power with a prestigious title. And yet white women are about twice as likely as black women to attain one, according to a 2015 report from the Center for Talent Innovation, a nonprofit that promotes diversity, examined the issues facing black women in corporate America. Despite advances made by white women from middle to top management positions, the authors note that black women's advancement opportunities remain constrained in several ways.
(Harvard Business Review)

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