Although many people continue to push for a post-racial America in which racial barriers continue to fall, it appears that progress still remains stalled for African-Americans in elite careers. An analysis from the New York Times reveals that black lawyers in Texas are finding themselves in a new-era struggle when it comes to race and professional growth.
Racial diversity efforts have apparently slowed at several elite firms and top companies across the nation. After Thompson & Knight’s Chief Diversity Officer Pauline Higgins left the Texan law firm in 2008, an associate who had less of a push for diversity recruits replaced her. With affirmative action now on testy grounds – due to a Supreme Court ruling on whether or not University of Texas can continue to use race as a factor for admissions policy – the question of how blacks are integrating into elite professions during the recession is beginning to be raised.
According to the New York Times, about 1 percent of America’s Fortune 500 companies have black CEOs. 3.2 senior executives at the nation’s top corporations are African-American according to an estimate from the Executive Leadership Council. Although 12 percent of the nation’s working population is black, certain divisions still remain homogenous. In regards to professions, 5 percent of physicians and dentists in the United States are black, a rate that has not increased since 1990 according to census data. Another profession that hasn’t seen racial growth is architecture: only 3 percent are black.
For lawyers, the number of minorities and women declined in 2010. Who is to blame? The recession has been considered a factor in the disproportionate amount of high-power positions held by blacks. Several companies have had to readjust budgets and cut back on diversity programs, making racial diversity less of a priority. Additionally, the move to ban race-based affirmative action has also created roadblocks for blacks to advance in certain professions. California, Florida and Washington did away with the policy in the 1990s.
Experienced African-American workers are not the only individuals experiencing stalls in their careers due to lessened diversity recruitment and professional development. As the recession forces companies to reduce diversity programs, fewer numbers of blacks are able to step into the pipelines for several professions. Middle managers and black executives are now worried that these declining numbers leave less of a diverse talent pool for future leadership roles.