Executive presence is a concept that refers to the set of qualities, characteristics, and behaviors that signal authority, competence, and confidence in professional settings. From a Black perspective, executive presence is heavily influenced by systemic racism and bias in the workplace, which often leads to Black professionals having to navigate and conform to dominant white cultural norms in order to be perceived as having executive presence.
History and Systemic Racism
Historically, executive presence has been associated with traits that align with dominant white cultural norms, such as being assertive, confident, and able to communicate effectively in a specific style. These cultural norms are not necessarily inclusive of other cultural experiences, including those of Black professionals, who may communicate and exhibit confidence and assertiveness differently. Systemic racism in the workplace can result in Black professionals being overlooked for leadership roles or promotions because their executive presence is not perceived as fitting the traditional mold.
Impact on the Black Community
The impact of executive presence on the Black community is significant. Black professionals may feel the pressure to conform to dominant white cultural norms in order to be successful in their careers, which can result in a loss of individuality and cultural identity. Additionally, this pressure can lead to a sense of imposter syndrome and the feeling that one must work twice as hard to be recognized and respected in the workplace.
Impact on the White Community
The impact of executive presence on the white community is often unrecognized. Dominant cultural norms are often perceived as the default, and those who do not fit into this mold may be overlooked for leadership roles or promotions. This can lead to a lack of diversity in leadership positions and perpetuate systemic racism in the workplace.
Example and Influence on Culture
One example of the influence of executive presence on culture is the way Black women are perceived in the workplace. Black women may be perceived as aggressive or angry when exhibiting the same assertiveness and confidence as their white counterparts. This stereotype can perpetuate the idea that Black women are not suitable for leadership positions, which further reinforces systemic racism in the workplace.
Importance and Allyship
It is important to recognize the impact of systemic racism on executive presence and work towards creating a more inclusive and diverse workplace. Allies can support Black professionals by advocating for diversity and inclusion initiatives, acknowledging the cultural differences that influence executive presence, and challenging their own biases and assumptions about what leadership looks like.
- “The Bias Black Women Face with ‘Executive Presence’,” Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2013/08/the-bias-against-black-women
- “Breaking the Mold: Strategies for a More Inclusive Definition of Executive Presence,” Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/bonniemarcus/2020/02/25/breaking-the-mold-strategies-for-a-more-inclusive-definition-of-executive-presence/?sh=1b166f344d2d
- “The Myth of Executive Presence,” TEDxTalks, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYtS2O_q6-Q