Forget the 'glass ceiling.' Women of color face a 'concrete ceiling'

With Indra Nooyi st...

Posted: Aug 8, 2018 12:06 PM
Updated: Aug 8, 2018 12:06 PM

With Indra Nooyi stepping down at PepsiCo, the number of women CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies got even smaller.

But Nooyi's exit signifies another important development: one fewer woman of color in the C-suite.

Because there are already so few women at the top, the exit of every female CEO hurts the women working below. Fewer women in power means there are fewer role models for women climbing the ranks, and more pressure on the female CEOs already in the spotlight.

Even as female CEOs still fight to make the C-suite, the ranks are shrinking. Between 2017 and 2018, the number of women leading Fortune 500 companies dropped by more than 20%.

Boards are too risk averse

But while white women may come up against the proverbial "glass ceiling," women of color hit a "concrete ceiling," says Ilene Lang, interim president and CEO of Catalyst, a nonprofit studying women and work.

"The term 'glass ceiling' originated because you could look through it and see what was possible, but you hit against a barrier as you pushed up, so the aspiration was there and the expectation was there," she explains. "But think about a concrete ceiling — if you're in a bunker, you don't even know there's a sky out there. That's meant to be a very visceral metaphor."

Nooyi wasn't the only woman of color on the Fortune 500. Geisha Williams, CEO of PG&E Corporation, and Joey Wat, of Yum China Holdings, both lead companies on the legendary list.

Lang says progress has stalled for women of color in the workplace, particularly in promoting them from mid-level jobs to coveted corner offices.

"When you get to the more senior levels, that's where we still have the ceilings, whether they're glass ceilings or concrete ceilings," she says. "Thick layers of men, that's the problem."

Part of this stalling, Lang says, comes from risk-averse boards of directors. Some may only appoint a woman or a minority leader in times of intense crisis for the company.

But women at lower levels of the organization also need mentors (and, crucially, sponsors) to advocate for them in promotions and negotiations — and those supporters can be hard to find.

Employees can push back by forming groups

Research also shows white male managers may withhold help from other employees after a minority or female CEO takes control of the company. Part of this may be because that ascension triggers a set of unconscious biases, says Jim Westphal, professor of business administration at the University of Michigan. This means that for every step a company takes in a positive, diverse direction, other minority employees may receive less of the career mentoring or task-related advice they need to ascend the corporate ranks.

Luckily, Westphal says, employees can push back on this, by forming their own networks.

"There is an opportunity for minority leaders to compensate for their disadvantages by providing each other with help in a more strategic, organized way," he says. "Build up groups, formal groups or smaller social networks of others who are facing similar challenges, and exchange information in a strategic way to compensate for the lack of advice from majority white male colleagues."

We should also keep our expectations on the right people, says Lang. We shouldn't only expect women of color to promote women of color; we have to expect the same of male leaders, too.

"Why should three women who've been CEOs of Fortune 500 companies [be] the ones to promote women after them? What are those 475 men doing about succession in their companies?" she says. "Looking to women to fix this problem is not looking far enough. Women can't fix this problem if men don't get with the program, if they can't see women as capable, outstanding, excellent successors."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 94189

Reported Deaths: 2046
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin26706928
Ramsey10775319
Dakota7428125
Anoka6006133
Stearns395024
Washington373555
Scott253233
Olmsted238828
Nobles196116
Blue Earth16766
Wright16037
St. Louis155539
Carver13967
Clay137140
Rice13288
Mower13225
Sherburne113714
Kandiyohi9822
Winona87018
Lyon6784
Waseca6148
Freeborn5404
Steele5402
Benton5363
Nicollet52916
Watonwan5204
Crow Wing49418
Todd4882
Chisago4841
McLeod4782
Le Sueur4604
Otter Tail4304
Beltrami4135
Martin39410
Goodhue3609
Pine3190
Itasca31314
Polk3054
Douglas2972
Isanti2890
Becker2722
Carlton2631
Morrison2331
Dodge2320
Cottonwood2240
Pipestone22010
Chippewa2081
Meeker1982
Sibley1913
Wabasha1880
Brown1842
Yellow Medicine1762
Rock1660
Cass1654
Murray1632
Mille Lacs1583
Redwood1581
Unassigned15552
Renville1478
Jackson1451
Faribault1410
Swift1371
Houston1250
Koochiching1213
Kanabec1198
Roseau1180
Pennington1171
Fillmore1160
Lincoln1110
Hubbard971
Stevens971
Pope920
Big Stone810
Aitkin761
Wadena680
Wilkin633
Grant614
Lake580
Norman540
Lac qui Parle531
Marshall511
Mahnomen461
Red Lake441
Traverse290
Clearwater270
Lake of the Woods211
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 84671

Reported Deaths: 1303
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15779262
Woodbury535664
Johnson510027
Black Hawk447290
Linn3973111
Story342917
Dubuque317341
Scott297128
Dallas277138
Pottawattamie208938
Buena Vista198412
Marshall177734
Sioux15653
Wapello132857
Webster125114
Plymouth112220
Clinton111221
Muscatine110054
Crawford10775
Cerro Gordo105121
Warren9516
Jasper83332
Des Moines7748
Marion7567
Henry7305
Tama70831
Carroll6605
Lee6247
Wright5811
Dickinson5106
Boone5058
Bremer4887
Washington45611
Louisa42815
Mahaska40619
Delaware3973
Franklin34718
Floyd3423
Jackson3373
Winneshiek3306
Hamilton3223
Clay3194
Lyon3184
Benton3091
Winnebago30113
Hardin2991
Poweshiek2928
Buchanan2741
Butler2702
Jones2693
Clarke2653
Kossuth2650
Shelby2651
Emmet26110
Allamakee2596
Clayton2523
Sac2480
Cherokee2462
Chickasaw2460
Guthrie2446
Cedar2411
Grundy2193
Fayette2172
Harrison2143
Madison2122
Iowa2041
Mitchell1890
Humboldt1883
Palo Alto1880
Howard1876
Hancock1842
Calhoun1823
Mills1781
Cass1632
Monroe15710
Osceola1570
Pocahontas1572
Lucas1566
Page1540
Monona1501
Jefferson1381
Appanoose1363
Union1313
Taylor1271
Davis1244
Ida1201
Fremont1150
Van Buren1141
Keokuk1071
Worth1070
Greene1000
Montgomery925
Wayne862
Audubon821
Adair711
Decatur670
Ringgold502
Adams330
Unassigned70
Rochester
Broken Clouds
60° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 60°
Mason City
Scattered Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 64°
Albert Lea
Scattered Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 61°
Austin
Overcast
63° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 63°
Charles City
Broken Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 66°
One Last Mild Day
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events