Problem 2: Higher Standards, Lower Ceilings


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For mid-career Black tech professionals, broken performance evaluation processes that lack transparency and oversight can lead to fewer promotions, pushing them to seek out alternative options. 

In the mid-career years, Black tech talent have typically found their stride, figured out how to “play the game” and code-switched just enough to be accepted as a “culture fit.” However, even the best social gymnastics are unhelpful when the managers involved lack inclusive leadership skills and an awareness of the biases they may bring to promotion and compensation decisions. 

For Black tech professionals, dissatisfaction with the performance evaluation process peaks at the mid-career level. These challenges with performance evaluation processes in tech are not unique to the Black experience. While as 71 percent of Black tech professionals are not satisfied with the methods their leaders have used or currently use to evaluate their performance, 64 percent of their non-Black peers are also dissatisfied. However, the lack of consistency, transparency, and structure in the performance evaluation process is associated with a more negative experience for Black professionals. They expressed less satisfaction with pay and saw fewer opportunities for promotion. Our data shows that only 29 percent of Black tech talent with 10 to 20 years of tech work experience are satisfied with the equality of their level of recognition and of the equality of their pay, compared to 47 percent of non-Black professionals. 

This sentiment is well founded: this same group of Black tech talent have been promoted almost half as often as their non-Black counterparts with the same years of experience, receiving 3 promotions on average over 10-20 years, while their non-Black peers have received over 5 promotions on average in the same career span. One focus group participant explained her experience by saying “I have struggled to have great managers. Some are actually blockers or tried to be blockers to my career. I can count on one hand the managers I’ve had in my tech career who have been helpful to my career. Managers have often not been very clear about the goals and expectations. And then focus performance evaluations on the mistakes rather than many successes and use that to justify promoting others instead of me – then I have find a new role again.”

Promotions over their careers are fewer among Black tech professionals at every level compared to their non-Black peers

Promotions over their careers are fewer among Black tech professionals at every level compared to their non-Black peers

Base: n=307 Black technology professionals, n=71 non-Black technology professionals 

Recent Russell Reynolds Associates research, Divides and Dividends: Leadership Actions for a More Sustainable Future, found that C-suite leaders themselves are aware that there is a problem with bias and favouritism in particular around promotions: 63 percent agree that leaders in their company show a bias or favoritism towards employees who are like themselves, and 62 percent agree that it is easier for individuals of certain ethnicities or backgrounds to get promoted than others, regardless of their capability and performance.  Among members of the Black tech community that we spoke to, not being a “cultural fit” in tech, particularly in small companies and start up environments, meant that you wouldn’t have a job in those organizations at all.

Across the tech industry, both Black and non-Black professionals believe that their leaders regularly exhibit inclusive leadership behaviors in some way, however, only 25 percent (of both groups) say that their leaders in the industry always lead with fairness, objectivity and transparency. In the guidance, we expand on how more widespread inclusive leadership development is needed to curb this evaluation and compensation bias among tech managers – leaving less up to “fit” and putting more on concrete measurements of performance and impact. 

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Problem 1: Information Disadvantage
Problem 3: Unequal Access to Essential Experiences




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Shaping the Future of Leadership for Black Tech Talent