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A new study presents a grim reality in terms of upward mobility for Black people in corporate America. Researchers found that it could take 100 years for Black staff to be equally represented in management roles throughout corporate America in contrast to their white peers.

The study conducted by McKinsey, a corporate consulting firm, concluded that Black people represent 7 percent of managers, compared to 66 percent for white Americans, 15 percent for Asian Americans and 8 percent for Hispanics.

Two main reasons account for this lack of equity among leadership roles. A high number of Black workers hold positions in low-paying retail or food service jobs, offering less pathways for advancement and higher wages. Secondly, geographical evidence shows that most Black Americans don’t live in regions experiencing high growth rates due to development and technology booms. A majority of the nation’s roughly 15 million Black staff live in the South and the Northeast.

“Almost 60 percent of the Black labor force (11.8 million people) is concentrated in the South, compared with just one-third of the rest of private-sector workers,” the study states. “As a result, companies located in states with low Black populations—for example, much of the West and parts of the Midwest and Northeast—will need to think differently about how they effectively attract Black talent.”

High populations of Black Americans live in the South and Northeast due to chattel slavery, where Africans were forced to labor in the rice, cotton and sugar fields in the Americas. During the Great Migration, Black people fled mostly north, but also sought out the midwest and west, in order to escape the brutalization of the Jim Crow South. That particular violence included physical, emotional and economic adversities.

“Conversely, Black workers are underrepresented in industries such as information technology, professional services, and financial services—all sectors that typically have relatively higher wages and job growth.”

As a result, the study suggests companies need to invest in program tracks that recruit, groom and promote Black talent. Corporations should also consider opening services and/or operations within regions in the South or Northeast.

While the study documents a powerful and important aspect of the Black labor force rooted in the framework of slavery, it also spotlights the ways systemic racism continues to impact the well-being of Black people in America.

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