IPG, Center For Talent Innovation Release Study On Being Black In Corporate America
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Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG) joined the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) in unveiling the results of a new study that examines the challenges faced by Black professionals. Being Black in Corporate America: An Intersectional Exploration surveyed 3,736 full-time professionals of all races, and found that today’s diversity and inclusion efforts are largely not working for African-American professionals. Serving as a sponsor of the study was IPG, a company with brands that include Acxiom, Avrett Free Ginsberg, Campbell Ewald, Carmichael Lynch, Craft, Deutsch, FCB (Foote, Cone & Belding), FutureBrand, Golin, Hill Holliday, Huge, ID Media, Initiative, Jack Morton, MAGNA, The Martin Agency, McCann, Momentum, MRM/McCann, MullenLowe Group, Octagon, R/GA, UM and Weber Shandwick.

The research demonstrates that Black professionals are more likely than White professionals to be ambitious, and they are more likely to have strong professional networks. Despite these assets, Black professionals hold only 3.2% of all executive or senior leadership roles and less than 1% of all Fortune 500 CEO positions, despite comprising 12% of the overall labor force in the U.S.

“We have long known that a truly diverse, inclusive and equitable culture is essential for us to succeed,” noted Michael Roth, chairman and CEO of IPG. “That said, the results of the CTI Study insist that 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. At IPG, we poll our employees each year through our Climate for Inclusion survey to understand the effectiveness of our D&I offerings. This helps us address pain points like those uncovered in this research. At IPG, we will continue to focus on D&I, to ensure that our efforts are as effective as possible, that sufficient resources are allocated to them, and that they materially benefit all populations,” he said.

The study also uncovered 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.  

“Underrepresentation of Black talent in professional, managerial and leadership roles is a persistent legacy issue for corporate America. Most companies, like IPG, are searching for more insights to turn around disproportionate under-representation,” commented Heide Gardner, SVP, chief diversity and inclusion officer, IPG. “Being involved in collective actions, including funding research like this CTI study, and tackling tough and uncomfortable topics is paramount for change.”

Being Black in Corporate America: An Intersectional Exploration found that, in the workplace, Black professionals are more likely to encounter injustices and micro-aggressions than any other racial or ethnic group. They are less likely than their White counterparts to have access to senior leaders and to have support from their managers. Yet few White professionals see what their Black colleagues are up against. Sixty-five percent of Black professionals say that Black employees have to work harder in order to advance, but only 16% of their White colleagues agree with that statement.

The study recommends that companies conduct audits of how Black employees are doing, and how they are feeling, and then take steps to address “mismatches in perception of racial equality” between employees of different races. Doing so will lay the necessary groundwork for the company’s diversity and inclusion programs to be more successful.


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