The Teddy Bear Effect and the Black CEO Connection.
(ThyBlackMan.com) We have our first black president, something I thought that I would never live to see. But we can count the number of African American CEOs on one hand. I suppose that due to lack of knowledge I was really surprised at these numbers.
I was even more shocked to discover that the first black man did not become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company until 1999. That gentleman was Franklin Raines, the first black CEO of Fannie Mae. On July 1, 2009, Ursula Burns became the first black woman to head a Fortune 500 company known as Xerox.
CNN Money New York says that Don Thompson will become the first black CEO of McDonald’s on July 1st, 2012. That will make a total of six African Americans to actively hold CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies in the United States.
Thompson will join the ranks of CEOs Kenneth Frazier of Merck (MRK, Fortune 500), Kenneth Chenault of American Express (AXP, Fortune 500), Ursula Burns of Xerox (XRX, Fortune 500), Clarence Otis of Darden Restaurants (DRI, Fortune 500), and Roger Ferguson.
So why is the concept of Black CEOs such a rarity? Why are there not more African Americans in these positions?
Diane Coute of the Harvard Business Review’s editor gave her thoughts in Does Obama’s Win Extend to Business?
- There were more competing careers in the past because minorities were more attracted to careers in medicine and law than business.
- Those in power mainly white men hired those that look like themselves. She calls this the Mirror Image.
- White managers can have lower expectations of black talent than white talent, leading to slower promotions.
- Because of the fear of being discriminated against managers failed to give feedback to African American executives at the start of their careers.
Of course many will say that education and background plays a significant role as to why more blacks are not in the position of CEO. Some will also say that it is simply due to race. The question is will this ever change and how will this change occur?
In addition to fighting the factor of being born black, there is also an interesting school of thought held by some. This school of thought is called The Teddy Bear Effect or the Baby Face Effect.
There has been research by Robert Livingston (Management & Organizations) and graduate student Nicholas Pearce, where they examined the relation of face and race in corporate America.
Livingston and Pearce have defined the baby face as having a rounder face, larger forehead, smaller nose, larger ears and fuller, pouty lips. They’re all part of what Livingston refers to as “disarming mechanisms.”
“It’s any feature, trait or quality of a person that makes them appear to be less threatening and less hostile, and we believe that’s really critical for black males,” said Livingston, who has studied such areas as social inequality and institutional discrimination for nearly a decade. “Because the default, based on stereotypes in the society, is that many people perceive black males to be hostile and threatening. And so if you have some sort of feature that signals, ‘Hey, you don’t have to be afraid of me,’ or ‘I’m just like you,’ then that makes people feel more comfortable with these individuals in positions of power.”
After reading that statement I was reminded of the many issues that black men have to contend with regardless of their educational level or experience. So as always they have to prove themselves worthy of the acceptance of others.
I suppose if you are a black male and you want to become CEO of a major Fortune 500 company you may want to be a cuddly man and downplay your strong male energy. It appears that things will not be changing too soon for blacks in corporate America.
Maybe we should we aim at becoming CEOs of our own companies even if they are not of the Fortune 500, instead of focusing on those of others. Because it seems that regardless of how smart and talented our people we will still have to work harder to move up the CEO ladder and other executive positions for that matter.
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Staff Writer; Eleanie Campbell
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