citylimits12.30.20

By Jeremy Kohomban, Alastair Short, and Deborah Finley-Troup

This article originally appeared on City Limits. To view the original piece, please click the link below.

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We made the change by changing our culture—and how we worked—to intentionally identify, mentor, network, promote and hire individuals that improved our outcomes and enhanced the organization’s diversity.

We often hear managers report they interviewed a Black candidate, but “they weren’t qualified.” When it comes to hiring, Black Americans and other underrepresented groups face discrimination at every step of the employment process.

We also hear that the pool of underrepresented candidates ready for executive leadership is shallow and the pipeline narrow. We agree. But the problem isn’t with the candidates: people of color are often systematically excluded from leadership opportunities, despite one survey which found 52 percent of people of color indicated a strong desire for top leadership roles, according to a recent report released by the Building Movement Project, an organization based in New York City.

A 2018 NYC Services and NPCC report found that 70 percent of the city’s nonprofit CEOs and executive directors are Caucasian and only 15 percent are Black, despite Blacks making up 24 percent of the population.

According to the Building Movement Project report, institutional support—or the lack of it—is responsible for the gap between the desire of people of color to lead and realization of that goal. The report found that whites get mentored more often. Mentoring is key to advancement. “In 2016, 43 percent of respondents of color said they had a mentor within their organization, compared with half of whites. By 2019, the percentage of respondents of color saying so had risen to 48 percent—but an even larger percentage of whites—56 percent—said they had received internal mentoring.”

The fact is, little has changed in over a decade. In 2009, Philanthropy New York released a groundbreaking study, “Benchmarking Diversity, A First Look at New York City Foundations and Nonprofits,” which found that 70 percent of nonprofit executive staff were Caucasian. It’s clearly time we do more to invest in people of color and move the dial on organizational leadership diversity.