Report Spotlights Racial Gaps When Moving Up Corporate Ladder

Nearly three-quarters of all African-Americans and Hispanics work in frontline jobs — such as retail salespeople, store managers, and representatives working in call centers and collection operations across the country — compared with 58% of white employees, but are far less likely to move out of those types of jobs and up the corporate ladder, according to the results of a report released over the weekend by McKinsey & Co. All too often, the diversity initiatives put in place at companies fail at the lower employee levels because they do not focus enough on the professional development that those employees need to get the skills necessary to move up to better-paying jobs.

There are 95 million frontline workers in the United States, according to the survey, making up 61% of the total workforce, and 85% of those workers make less than $50,000 per year.

Only 42% of frontline workers said their company’s diversity efforts were effective, compared with 65% of those working at the corporate level. And nearly half of frontline employees don’t believe that their company encourages them to take advantage of work-life opportunities, such as leaves of absence and parental leave, without jeopardizing their employment or career advancement.

Less than 40% of frontline employees believe their employers take an “objective, empirical view of performance” when promoting workers to higher-paying positions. Eighty-four percent of African-Americans indicated a desire to be promoted, but just 62% of them actually received that opportunity, according to the report.

There is also a significant difference in how employees view their employers, depending on how they are paid. For example, 23% of hourly frontline workers unfavorably responded to the statement, “My coworkers treat one another as equals on a professional level” compared with 11% of frontline workers who are salaried. Seventy-one percent of salaried workers favorably responded to “My company treats employees fairly,” compared with 55% of hourly workers.

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