Leadership Among Women and Minorities

The fact that Americans elected Barack Obama the first African American presi- dent of the United States in 2008 was remarkable in both historical and current contexts. Look at the leaders of America’s Fortune 500 companies at the midpoint of 2019, and you’ll find that a mere 6.6% of the CEOs are women—the highest percentage ever (the number is somewhat higher in the health care industry, gov- ernment, or educational institutions). Look at the percentage of African, Latinx, and Asian Americans in the top ranks of the same organizations, and you’ll see that they don’t fare any better (in 2019, there were only three African American CEOs, less than 1%).


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Despite progress that has been made in entry- and middle-level positions, working women and minorities who seek positions of leadership have still not fully broken through the “glass ceiling”—a barrier so subtle that it is transparent yet so strong that it keeps them from reaching the top of the hierarchy. Indeed, women may also encounter “glass walls” that keep them from moving laterally within an organization—for example, from positions in public relations to those in core areas, such as produc- tion, marketing, and sales. Still others characterize women’s path to leadership as a labyrinth—an organizational maze that women must navigate on the indirect, complex, and uncertain path toward leadership.

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