Unconscious Bias and the Shortage of Blacks in Top Management of Corporate America

Although African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans represent roughly 30 percent of the population, they fill only 3 percent of senior management positions at American corporations, according to Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a minority recruitment and development group. Don Thompson of McDonald’s is one of only six black CEOs of a Fortune 500 company. According to David Thomas, a Harvard Business School professor who studies the issue, “People of color who start at the same time as an equivalent white person have less of a chance of being at the top echelon in 20 years.” This writer agrees with President Barack Obama with regard to the topic of Blacks in the upper echelons of corporate management in America: “We must fundamentally change the way our Country does business”.

Unconscious biases and perceptions about African-Americans still play a significant role in employment decisions. Unconscious bias is defined as “social behavior… driven by learned stereotypes that operate automatically (unconsciously) when we interact with other people.” There is a practice that African-Americans are not seriously considered, groomed, or selected for high-level positions because of the stereotypical view (or unconscious bias) that those positions are considered “nontraditional” for African-Americans.

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