Even in the age of Obama, and with America soon to become a majority minority country, Corporate America is still one area where minorities often run into the infamous glass ceiling.
Statistics often tell you an important story about the struggles people from black, Latino, and Asian backgrounds face as they try to adjust to an environment that is predominately white and male.
According to statistics from Diversity Inc., in 2007, people of color headed only 14 Fortune 500 companies. Malcolm Gladwell, author of the book Blink, also points out those ethnic groups may face another problem. In his book, Gladwell notices that height and race can be an issue too. He states that a large number of CEOs are white males who are over six feet tall.
However, Mala Subramaniam, president of MKTinsite, a company that provides market research and corporate training to large companies such as Blue Cross and IBM, says Corporate America is beginning to open up to minorities and afford them more opportunities.
Subramaniam, who is of Indian descent, has more than 25 years experience conducting corporate training. One of her specialties is helping Indian technical workers develop skills that will help them succeed in Corporate America. “The environment has significantly improved since the '80s. There are many role models of rising stars in Corporate American among minorities.”
Subramaniam advises ethnic minorities to take a proactive approach to break into the executive suite. “Minorities should focus on their goals, strengths and accomplishments – what they have, and not on the hostile environment. What you resist will persist. I am not saying, you run away from hostility, or pretend it is not there. Acknowledge the existence, but do not dwell on it. Then it becomes like a child throwing a temper tantrum – attention makes it grow bigger.”
Subramaniam also says that ethnic groups should try to find a unique career path, and then develop their skill set.
“Find your niche and leverage your strengths to boost your career,” Subramaniam explains. “I am a leadership trainer and coach. I sense the resistance, but I have found my niche, and I put all my strengths and efforts into succeeding in this corner. If I focus on, 'Oh! I cannot compete with the big boys' in large training firms, in Corporate America where I lack the typical image, then I will lose.”
“The Little Black Book of Success,” authored by Marsha Haygood, Elaine Meryl Brown, and Rhonda Joy Maclean, offers several practical tips for African-Americans negotiating Corporate America. In the book, the authors advise black women on how to deal with office politics, racism, and sexism, as well as how to determine the difference between church values and work values.
One of the authors' key pieces of advice is that black women should always try to mentor other young people when they have made it to the top. The book also offers important lessons about finding a mentor, making a quick pitch, networking, and expanding your horizons.
At the book launch party, Haygood said, “It (racism and sexism) exists, so you just have to get over and around it. You cannot let racism and sexism, hold you back.”