Training Black Women to Have It All

Laysha Ward

Training Black Women to Have It All

Laysha Ward, board chair of Executive Leadership Foundation, is seeking to fill the pipeline of corporate leadership with African-American leaders.

Published July 24, 2012

(The Root) -- According to the Executive Leadership Council, an organization focused on increasing the number of African Americans at the senior level in Fortune 500 companies and on corporate boards, the numbers are grave: Of the more than 35,000 senior-executive positions either at the CEO level or those one or two levels below CEO within Fortune 500 companies, it is estimated that only 3.2 percent -- or fewer than 800 -- are black.


And when it comes to CEOs themselves, just six in the country are African American -- and only one of those, Ursula Burns of Xerox, is a woman.


Laysha Ward, board chair of Executive Leadership Foundation, says that the statistics "definitely can change, they must change and they will change." The Root caught up with her after the ELC's ninth annual Women's Leadership Forum and Black Women on Power discussion series, an event that offers leadership-development opportunities to its 200 high-potential African-American female members with the explicit goal of increasing their ranks in high-level positions in corporate America.


Ward, who is president of community relations for Target, told The Root about the research-based lessons that the high-powered executives learned during the forum, why she thinks the ELC's ambitious goals for corporate boardrooms are attainable (and even inevitable) and why she doesn't worry about whether she and the women she works with can "have it all."


The Root: Why is an organization like the ELC necessary?


Laysha Ward: The numbers tell the story. Fewer than 1 percent of corporate CEOs are African American, and only one is a woman. We've been working for more than 25 years now to fill the pipeline of corporate leadership with African-American leaders, and we've made some progress, but we have a very long way to go.


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(Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

Written by Jenée Desmond-Harris,


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