Webinar: Best Practices on Moving Women of Color into Senior Leadership Roles

Tease: Dr. Amy Beasley, Inclusion Leader for North America at Dow, shared what the company is actively doing to advance women of color.

  • Carolynn Johnson, CEO at Fair360, formerly DiversityInc 
  • Dr. Amy Beasley, Inclusion Leader, North America at Dow
  • Anita Ricketts, Chief of Staff at Fair360, formerly DiversityInc

  Primary Tag: Webinar 

  Tags: Carolynn Johnson, Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Top 50, Karen Carter, Dow, Jim Fitterling, Amy Beasley, Anita Ricketts

By Sheryl Estrada 

By 2060, women of color are projected to make up the majority of all women in the U.S. ultimately becoming the majority of the workforce. Companies must start redefining what leadership in corporate America looks like.

Advancing women of color into senior leadership roles isn’t just the job of the women themselves.

“Yes, women, as well as men, must be intrinsically motivated to aspire to leadership roles and seize opportunities,” according to Harvard Business Review. “But companies also have a key part to play in fostering diversity in their leadership pipeline.”

At Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Top 50 companies, at least 14 percent of total management is women of color versus 9 percent for the national average. Dow is a Top 50 Company that moved up 13 spots this year to No. 37 and ranked on four specialty lists.

“On May 7 at the Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Top 50 announcement dinner, we had leaders from Dow in the room,”  Fair360, formerly DiversityInc CEO Carolynn Johnson said. “Karen Carter, the Chief Human Resources Officer as well as the Chief Inclusion Officer presented during our learning sessions. And then CEO Jim Fitterling participated in a fireside chat with me during the dinner.”

Johnson introduced Dr. Amy Beasley, Inclusion Leader in North America at Dow who participated in a Fair360, formerly DiversityInc webinar, “Best Practices on Moving Women of Color into Senior Leadership Roles,” which took place on May 14.

Beasley said that Dow participated in the most recent McKinsey Women in the Workplace Study and finding included that, like in most companies, women of color face the steepest drop-off going from entry level to Senior Vice President and the C-Suite, and men are significantly more likely than women to promoted from entry to manager as well as more likely to be promoted to Senior Vice President. However, Dow is doing well on attrition and external hiring — these are not clear pipeline dilutors.

“If we provide a culture and an environment where everyone can thrive, including women of color, and we provide a pipeline of women of color, and we make sure that pipeline is robust, we make sure women of color are ready, and we make sure that they are willing, they have trust in the organization,” Beasley said.

“And so for Dow, we know that we don’t have that robust pipeline for women of color. We’re working to improve that.

She shared insights on what Dow is actively doing to advance women of color.

Key Takeaways

  • Sponsorship of Women is Key to Addressing Pipeline Leaks
  • Reverse Mentoring
  • Sponsorship Circles

Sponsorship of Women is Key to Addressing Pipeline Leaks

Research shows that women report feeling over-mentored and under-sponsored. What happens is the mentoring or coaching, but not the advocacy, “what’s said in the room when you’re not there,” Beasley explained.

Women of color, in particular, find it even more difficult to win the support and sponsorship of senior leaders.

Sponsorship programs can specifically address barriers at each stage of the pipeline.

“We are super focused on sponsorship because we know that as effective advocacy by the senior leaders is the direct pathway to landing those most critical roles,” Beasley said.

Dow is building a suite of sponsorship programs:

  1. Sponsor to Success – Targets early career women; a one-one sponsorship relationship. Beasley commented that it’s highly successful.
  2. Advocacy in Action – Debuts soon, it’s a 15-month program that strategically pairs a cohort of 25 African-American proteges in mid-level positions with senior leader advocates. It utilizes strategic pairing methodologies.
  3. Empower – An 18-month formal sponsorship program led by Dow’s senior leadership focused on moving senior-level women beyond director level and all the way to the highest levels of leadership. It includes 20 high-performing /high-potential women, including women of color, and incorporates “sponsorship circles.”

All of the programs have key metrics to success.

Reverse Mentoring

At Dow, reverse mentoring opportunities exist “in Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) between our new career group, which is Rise, and our seasoned career group, which is called Climb,” Beasley said.

“What we’ve built into this process is recognizing that there are some very clear barriers towards effective sponsorship and one of them is a distinct lack of comfort with the relationship with someone who is different than you.

 “Another is inherent and unconscious bias. And then we still have opportunities for education and practice.

“All of those things exist. The advocate is coming in wanting to learn how and develop into an effective advocate. There is a key source of information about how to do that, and that’s the protégé.

“The trick, though, is to make sure there are structured ways for that to happen periodically throughout the entire 15 months and afterward so that we’re not just waiting for wrapping up the program for us to talk about, let’s debrief, let’s think about what we could have done better. And certainly, there’s value in that.” 

Beasley also mentions that there should be structured time for the protégé to address topics revolving around personal experiences.

Sponsorship Circles

Beasley said sponsorship circles, a part of the Empower program for senior-level women, versus one-to-one pairing, can do a few key things, including:

  1. Providing enhanced exposure.
  2. Expanding your support network.
  3. Minimizing and exposing potential biases.

Following her presentation, Beasley further elaborated on the work at Dow in a Q&A session moderated by Anita Ricketts, Chief of Staff at Fair360, formerly DiversityInc

To hear the full conversation with even more takeaways, listen here. (note: audio to come). For more on career advancement and advice, visit Fair360.com and Fair360.com, follow us on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, and check out more webinars like this.) 


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