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Putting Black females in the executive pipeline


In the corporate world–the land of office supplies, paper cuts and  ink stains–there has long existed a glass ceiling. At first glance, the  mailroom clerk sees the CEO chair within her grasp, just up the ladder  of success. But, alas, there is an invisible barrier. Maybe they are not  the “right” race or sex. Or both.

Many Black women who aspire to one day furnish an executive corner  office are faced with a “double outsiders” status in today’s  organizations.

“Right now there is only one Black woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company;  that’s Ursula Burns at Xerox,” Michael Dutton, director of  communications for the Executive Leadership Council (ELC) said. “Our  members have achieved success on their own terms, and ELC shares their  knowledge with leadership development opportunities.”

According to the Black Women Executives Research Initiatives conducted  by the ELC, there is a potential road map that can help Black women  executives prepare for “C-suite” roles.

“The C-suite is the staff of the CEO,” Dutton explained. “Those folks  (who) support the CEO’s decision process–the chief operating officer,  the chief financial officer, the executive vice presidents and the  senior vice president. The CEO is occupied with reporting to the board  of directors. It’s his staff that is managing the business and keeping  the CEO informed.”

One key finding from the research states that Black women executives  suffer from the lack of comfortable, trusted and strategic relationships  at the senior level with those who are most different from themselves,  most notably White males.

CEOs and Black women executives have different views about the quality  of the relationships between the two groups and about the Black woman’s  ability to network.

CEOs believe that Black women spend too little time developing strategic  relationships. They recommend that Black women be the first to forge  stronger relationships with White male executives and increase their  risk-taking, as well as make themselves more visible and valuable.

A third finding states that every aspiring executive must ask: “Do I  really want to do what it takes to compete for the top slot?” If the  answer for a Black woman executive is “yes,” she must have a plan to get  there and put that plan into action at each step of the way. That’s  where ELC comes in.

ELC is hosting a “Strategic Pathways” leadership development program  July 14 and 15 in Del Mar, Calif., and applications are due May 6.

“We had our pilot launch in 2010,” ELC’s Institute for Leadership  Development and Research program manager Nichele Lucas said. “We had 19  participants from all walks of business. The more we can get, the  further we feel our reach. Every person we touch can create a snowball, a  domino effect.”

“We want aspiring executives to know that they do have support,” she  added. “We understand their plight and what they’re going through.”

The two-day Strategic Pathways program is the shortest of the ELC’s  training programs. A second, “Strengthening the Pipeline,” will be held  in August in Miami for five days, and “Bright Futures” will be in the  same city for three days.

The Del Mar event is designed to assist mid-career Black women–managers,  senior project leaders, directors and new vice presidents–and create a  strategic plan for their personal and professional development.

“These women have been six to 15 years in their careers, and if they’re  20 years in, that’s absolutely fine, too,” Lucas said. “There is a set  of questions on the application to make sure that one of the three  programs is a good fit.”

“This is an opportunity for them to start their goal-setting, to measure  their next steps–where they are, where they’re going and where they  want to be.”

In addition to the classroom format sessions with trainers, there are interactive, experiential activities over the two days.

“What we don’t want to do is just have them sit and talk to them,” Lucas  said. “What the participants have to say is just as important as what  the trainers have to say. Having dialogues in class is critical to the  success of the program.”

“We look at their individual situations and development needs,” she  added. “What they walk away with, can potentially help them. They’ll  have something actionable to take back to their real work life.”

Networking–one of the areas the research found lacking–is also a focus.

“Leaving the program doesn’t stop the progress,” Lucas said.  “Participants stay in contact. They learn and grow from one another.  After the program, they feel like family. They have a lot in common,  they form amazing bonds and support and encourage and continually learn  from each other.”

During the program, participants will also have access to a panel of  experts, ELC members, who will lead discussions and share their personal  success ladder climbing experiences.

Creating and filling these leadership pipelines is exactly what ELC is  all about. According to the group the mission of the ELC is to build an  inclusive business leadership pipeline, and to develop African American  corporate leaders–one student and one executive at a time. Members of  the council work to achieve its goals through a variety of initiatives  and programs. All are supported by contributions to the Executive  Leadership Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, established in 1989 as  an affiliate of the ELC. The Foundation provides financial support for  educational and leadership initiatives developed by members of the  Council.

ELC membership consists of businessmen and women–mostly African American  executives who are CEOs or are working within two or three levels of a  CEO position.

“Ursula Burns is a member, as well as Clarence Otis, the CEO of Darden  Restaurants; and Bernard Tyson, president and COO of Kaiser Permanente,”  Dutton said. “Some of our members do participate in the main tent  event–the presentation to our participants.”

The ELC awarded Magic Johnson during its 2009 gala in Washington, D.C.  More than 2,200 people attended that annual event in celebration of  African American achievements in corporate America. Talk about a  networking event.

A committee of ELC members is now organizing a Black Women’s Leadership  Symposium, scheduled to take place in Chicago on July 18 and 19. As  details are fleshed out, they will be

Locally, the Black Women’s Network is celebrating 32-years of community  service in Los Angeles. They will be holding a regular meeting titled  “Networking is a Contact Sport” at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 9, at the  Inglewood Veterans Memorial Building, 330 Centinela Ave., Inglewood.  Call (323) 964-4003 to make reservations for this open event, which  includes a light lunch.

Sororities: building a future full of women leaders

Compiled by Brittney M. Walker
OW Staff Writer

Black sororities have a long history of training African American women  formally and informally for leadership roles. Below find a brief look at  what they offer.

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.
AMICAE–As early as 1940, graduate chapters of Zeta Phi Beta began to  realize the importance, prestige and good will of working with women  who, for various reasons, were not members of any Greek-letter  organization. Under the administration of Lullelia Harrison, the first  Amicae chapter was organized in Omaha, Neb., in 1947, making Zeta the  first sorority in the National Pan-Hellenic Council to organize an  auxiliary group. Zeta Amicae are affiliated through local chapters.

The purpose of the group is to assist and contribute to the efforts of  Zeta Phi Beta. Amicae members work as community advocates and leaders  for the organization.

Women can get involved by contacting a local Zeta chapter.

ARCHONETTES–High school-aged young ladies who demonstrate an interest in  the goals and the ideals of scholarship, sisterly love and community  service. They too work alongside Zeta members to serve the community and  act in leadership positions. Archonette groups are affiliated through  local chapters.

AMICETTES–Girls 9 to 13 years of age who are willing to strive toward  the high ideals of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and who demonstrate potential  for leadership in service to the community. Amicettes are affiliated  through local chapters.

PEARLETTES–Girls under 9 years old who are mentored by ladies of Zeta  Phi Beta Sorority Inc. to become outstanding leaders in their community.

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.
PHILO AFFILIATES–Since its inception, Sigma Gamma Rho has promoted unity  among women and for years many alumnae chapters worked with individuals  who were not members of Greek-letter organizations. These women were  organized into auxiliaries that had various names until 1954 when the  sorority officially approved the organized affiliate group and accepted  the name of “Philo” (meaning Friend) as their official name.

In 1980, the Philos were organized on a national level and have grown to  represent hundreds of women organized on a regional level as well. The  Philos have contributed countless hours of community service and  thousands of dollars to aid Sigma Gamma Rho’s aim to enhance the quality  of life within every community.

If you are interested in finding a Philo Club in your area, complete the  membership interest form below to receive more information.

RHOER AFFILIATES–A love for youth and the development of their full  potential was the primary motivating factor that inspired founder Mary  Lou Allison Gardner Little to organize Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.  Young people today face challenges that could never have been imagined  years ago, but such challenges provide the sorority with opportunities  to carry on Little’s vision.

Rhoers are young girls organized on a local, regional and national  level. The Rhoer affiliates are working to help other young people while  they learn about their heritage and develop leadership skills. Sigma  Gamma Rho is dedicated to helping Rhoers grow to be women of substance  dedicated to service.

If you are interested in finding a Rhoer Club in your area, complete the  membership interest form below to receive more information.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
DELTA ACADEMY–The Delta Academy was created out of an urgent sense that  bold action was needed to save our young females (ages 11-14) from the  perils of academic failure, low self-esteem, and crippled futures. The  Delta Academy provides an opportunity for local Delta chapters to enrich  and enhance the education that young teens receive in public schools  across the nation. Specifically, the sorority augments their scholarship  in math, science and technology; their opportunities to provide service  in the form of leadership through service learning; their sisterhood,  defined as the cultivation of service learning, and their cultivation  and maintenance of relationships. A primary goal of the program is to  prepare young girls for full participation as leaders in the 21st  century.

The Delta Academy has taken many forms. In some chapters, the academies  are after-school or Saturday programs. Others are weekly or biweekly  throughout the school year, and still other programs occur monthly. At a  minimum, chapters plan and implement varied activities based upon the  needs of the early adolescents in their areas. The activities  implemented most often include computer training, self-esteem and  etiquette workshops, field trips for science experiences and for college  exposure, and special outings to cultural events, fancy dinners,  museums, plays and concerts.

DELTA GEMS–A natural outgrowth and expansion for the continuation of the  highly successful Dr. Betty Shabazz Delta Academy. Delta Gems was  created to catch the dreams of African American at-risk, adolescent  girls aged 14-18. Delta Gems provides the framework to actualize those  dreams through the performance of specific tasks that develop a can-do  attitude. The goals for Delta Gems are:

* To instill the need to excel academically

* To provide tools that enable girls to sharpen and enhance their skills to achieve high levels of academic success

* To assist girls in proper goal setting and planning for their futures, high school and beyond

* To create compassionate, caring and community-minded young women by  actively involving them in service learning and community service  opportunities.

The Delta Gems framework is composed of five major  components–Scholarship, Sisterhood, Show Me the Money, Service, and  Infinitely Complete–forming a road map for college and career planning.  Topics within the five major components are designed to provide  interactive lessons and activities that provide opportunities for  self-reflection and individual growth.

Delta Gems, like Delta Academy, is implemented by chapters of Delta Sigma Theta.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
EMERGING YOUNG LEADERS INITIATIVES (EYL)–This signature program is  designed to impact the lives of 10,000 girls in grades six through eight  by providing leadership development, civic engagement, enhanced  academic preparation and character building. The increasing demands of  the 21st century mandate that youth be better leaders at a younger age,  making smart choices with positive consequences.

GLOBAL POVERTY–The goals for this initiative are to end hunger, preserve  the environment and empower women. The program provides food-production  skills and training in self-reliance through gifts of seeds, livestock  and training in environmentally sound agriculture. It believes that  education in sustainable food practices makes women equal partners in  ending poverty and hunger. Alpha Kappa Alpha continues its membership  and consultative status with UNESCO (United Nations Educational  Scientific and Cultural Organization). It has global partners for  self-help projects and awareness campaigns within the United States and  abroad.