Investigating black and minority ethnic leaders’ career experiences

Article: Reflections on the labyrinth: Investigating black and minority ethnic leaders’ career experiences

From Human Relations

Despite a continuing rise in the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) employees entering the UK workforce, their representation in leadership roles remains disproportionately low. BME employees comprise 12.4 percent of the total working population, 8.4 percent of managers, but only 5 percent of senior managers. This suggests a growing need to understand and support BME employees on their leadership journeys. The aim of this article was to give voice to black and minority ethnic managers who have successfully achieved senior management roles. It used semi-structured interviews and attribution theory to examine how 20 black and minority ethnic and 20 white senior managers from a UK government department made sense of significant career incidents in their leadership journeys. The findings support and extend current understanding of factors that contribute to differential career progression by identifying the importance of formal and informal organizational processes in understanding how to progress through the career ‘labyrinth’ to leadership roles.

Abstract

Black and minority ethnic (BME) employees appear to experience more difficulty reaching senior leadership positions than do their white counterparts. Using Eagly and Carli’s metaphor of the labyrinth, our aim was to give voice to black and minority ethnic managers who have successfully achieved senior management roles, and compare their leadership journeys with those of matched white managers. This article used semi-structured interviews and attribution theory to examine how 20 black and minority ethnic and 20 white senior managers from a UK government department made sense of significant career incidents in their leadership journeys. Template analysis was used to identify facilitators and barriers of career progression from causal explanations of these incidents. Although BME and white managers identified four common themes (visibility, networks, development and line manager support), they differed in how they made sense of formal and informal organizational processes to achieve career progression. The findings are used to theorize about the individual and organizational factors that contribute to the leadership journeys of minority ethnic employees.

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Article details
Madeleine Wyatt and Jo Silvester
Reflections on the labyrinth: Investigating black and minority ethnic leaders’ career experiences Human Relations August 2015 68: 1243-1269, first published on January 7, 2015 doi:10.1177/0018726714550890

 

 

     
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