Today marks a historic day. For the first time in the history of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, there is a woman and person of color at the helm. As an African-American woman leading one of the most prestigious business schools in the nation, Dr. Erika James recognizes the pivotal role she plays. She is a role model for young girls and women alike who aspire to executive level leadership positions. A recent report by the Center for Talent Innovation’, “Being Black in Corporate America,” found that diversity and inclusion efforts in America are by and large failing African-American professionals. To have a meaningful impact, Dr. James suggests that organizations look at points of opportunities for bias; that is, in recruitment, hiring, compensation, and promotion practices. Many organizations employ systemic practices of bias. For example, rejecting applicants based solely on the perception that the applicant’s name is too ethnic or paying women and/or minorities less money than their White counterpart for the same position, education, and experience level. As an employee, there are some things we can not change, but we can chart our own course. For those with an earnest desire to grow, we must position ourselves for stretch opportunities both inside and outside of the organization. We have to be confident enough to know that we already have all the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to excel in a particular role. What we don’t know, we have to be vulnerable enough to learn. Stand firmly and confidently in the belief that we are enough. We are smart enough; courageous enough; agile enough; committed enough; resourceful enough to get the job done. As Dr. James asserts, as women of color, we must bet on ourselves. I know I am. How about you?
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