On Being of Color

Throughout this process, I have been able to find more resources geared toward people of color than any other identity. I suspect that race, more often than not, is a visible identity companies and schools actively work to diversify- more so than sex.


As a result, there are numerous fellowships, scholarships, preparatory programs and mentorship programs targeting racial minorities.


As we as a society lament the poor job we have done providing people of color with opportunities and resources, MBA programs and affiliated organizations seem to be stepping in to increase the presence of minorities in business.


Similar to being a woman, it is one thing to improve the pipeline and something completely different to ensure people of color are supported in their careers so that they can enter leadership roles.


As of February, there are only 3 black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.  That is not even 1%. This is the lowest number since 2002 and not a single woman is among them. The first and only black woman to ever head a Fortune 500 is Ursula Burns, she stepped down from Xerox in 2016.


In 2014 only 23 Fortune 500 CEOs were people of color. This is just over 4%. Updated figures will not be much better.


Apparently, at one point in history, there were 12 black CEOs on the Fortune 500 list, but ironically as we have globalized there is LESS not MORE of a focus on women and minorities. 


There are 28 million employees working at Fortune 500 firms, but only 3% of these firms provide diversity data. That means an astounding 97% of companies have yet to share how many people of color work for these firms and in what capacity. Yes, 20% of your firm may be black and Hispanic, but if they all work in back office administrative roles that don't really provide a runway to CEO...


We know diversity improves a company bottom line. McKinsey said so- twice! Back in 2015 and again in January 2018. Unfortunately, unconscious bias and the simple fact people are more comfortable working with and for people who look like them means that true diversity is a ways away.


Throughout the application process on forums, a term that I came across quite a bit was URM - Under-Represented Minority. The term refers to racial and ethnic minorities that are underrepresented in MBA programs in the US including: Black, Hispanic, Native American. Although Asian and Indian applicants are considered over-represented minorities, upon enrollment they are included in the minority statistics.


On average MBA programs enroll ~32% minority students. Unfortunately, I am skeptical of the percentage as schools may fail to clearly delineate between US minority and foreign students. No matter how you spin it even though minorities are 44% of the US millennial population and we're slated to become a minority-majority country by 2050, MBA programs and businesses do not reflect this reality.


Enter many different organizations.


The Consortium- is an extremely popular and unique MBA program for minority applicants. Available for round 1 and round 2 applications, the program allows applicants who fulfill the mission of the organization the ability to apply to up to 6 MBA programs for a low fee of $300 (versus $150-$250 per application), use a common application to streamline the application process including recommendations, and the opportunity to obtain a full tuition fellowship for the full two year MBA program. Once admitted as a Consortium fellow, you are invited to attend their extremely well-regarded orientation program (OP) for MBA students of color to network and recruit with companies over 5 days. The program is unique in many ways and being awarded the fellowship involves an NBA like draft lottery process.


The Management Leaders of Tomorrow (MLT) program offers an incredible pre-MBA program to those interested in applying to an MBA program a year or two from now. As I decided to pursue an MBA a few months before the round 2 deadline and didn't want to wait another cycle, I missed the MLT prep boat, but friends swear by the rigor and results! 


The National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) is an affinity organization which seeks to connect black business professionals. It is important to note that one does not have to fit any racial categorization to become a member- in fact, I first learned about the organization from two MBA candidates who do not identify as black. MBA candidates can become members for $45 a year and annual fees go up to $200 depending on career stage. Their annual conference provides networking and interviewing opportunities with top-tier companies and many entrepreneurs. It sounds like it is an extremely well-attended conference and interview spots fill up quickly with popular Fortune 100 companies. There are also scholarships ranging from $1k to $10k available from the organization.


The mission of the Toigo Foundation is to increase the number of minorities specifically in the world of finance. The $5k annual fellowship is only for MBA and dual degree minority candidates interested in pursuing careers in finance and they make a point of reiterating this point throughout their website. There are opportunities to network and learn more about finance opportunities including their annual Catapult conference 


Though a fellowship, scholarship, and internship are all fantastic, at the end of the day they are not the same as a job or a promotion once you get to a firm. I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about the pipeline vs. support conundrum.


The issue applies to any minority identity: It is one thing to create a pipeline to get you into a school or a firm, but something completely different to ensure you are successful, support your advancement and nurture your growth.


The pipelines which exist for MBAs and the other areas we seek to diversify are robust and hot to market these days. They get celebrity support and corporate sponsorships, BUT little is shared about what goes on behind closed doors. What infrastructure is in place to mentor and support the latest cohort of diverse candidates to ensure they succeed?


It is expensive to recruit and train any new hire so it makes great business sense to ensure new hires are provided with adequate tools once they arrive to propel themselves and their firms to success.


I am looking forward to asking potential companies about their hiring and support for new hires.