As companies begin to make good on their D&I promises of the last month (and assess ideas/strategies), what are thoughts here on the viability/usefulness of mid-career diversity programs? Would they make a difference in accelerating black workplace and leadership representation? My initial thoughts below.

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Whether or not we believe it to be true, a lot of companies continue to tout that there is a pipeline problem — they claim to look hard for candidates and can’t find enough of them, resulting in fierce competition for a small pool. The largest companies are able to fill up entry level positions, but still claim to struggle when looking for mid-level and senior talent. Most of these large companies find their entry level talent through three highly limited sources — (1) target schools, (2) diversity networks, and (3) internship programs. Each of these sources serve to provide companies with a pre-selection benefit of some sort — with target schools, supposedly performance-based filtering from admissions criteria, with diversity networks, early access and a consistently reliable pool of candidates, and with internship programs, the ability to rigorously train early and assess the candidate before a long term commitment. Mid-career internships, apprenticeship programs, and “associate” programs not tied to college/MBA matriculation could offer a similar business case. There is already a precedent in Corporate America for this in “returnship” programs — programs usually focused on former military / public service or on parents looking to transition back into corporate roles after an extended period working in the home. Programs focused on creating specific mid career tracks for diverse professionals could follow a similar structure. Why this could work — 1. There is a huge population of educated, intelligent, high performing black/brown professionals working in other industries or in positions below their aptitude because they didn’t “fit the mold” after college or simply weren’t interested/aware of corporate roles. These professionals are now more focused, confident and less risky to hire, not to mention have unique skills/experience. 2. The concerns companies claim to have about name of school, gpa, major are no longer as relevant mid career, especially with the ability to filter based on intership and apprenticeship performance. Tech is a most obvious focal area here, where we know many black and brown students start in STEM and particularly computer science, before getting “weeded out” — but are fully capable if not for the way schools work against them. 3. Increasing mid career diversity would likewise lead to an increase in leadership diversity, perhaps most notably by replacing diverse employee attrition Thoughts? What am I missing / under-thinking?

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One area that newly came to mind is the supply demand problem with black talent in consulting at the higher levels. Anecdotally I see black partners successful within their networks of high ranking project sponsors on the client side who are POC or allies. To make room for higher numbers of us at the partner level, I think the C-Suite on the client side will have to come along on this D&I journey to increase receptiveness to black leadership in professional services. It reminds me of a buddy who started his own gig and hired a token white guy mainly for business development. The good news is that this groundswell is making faster progress.

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@OP Couldn’t agree more and I think you are right on with your proposed solutions. I believe that the mid-career is where a lot of us URMs hit a proverbial wall and get stuck. It’s where the lack of sponsorship, mentorship and targeted development really start to take effect and shows through attrition and missed promotions. It’s where “not knowing what we don’t know” and hampers us. We’re molded to put our heads down, don’t cause too much of a fuss and work twice as hard with the hopes we get noticed and promoted. But what’s missed in that is exactly how to play the “game” e.g. which roles, responsibilities and other maneuvers will actually set us up to get and succeed in the senior leadership roles. Plus, a lot of us are pushed into roles we’re overqualified or not deemed as pathways to leadership position early in our career and become type casted and pigeonholed with no true means to reset.

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