Laura Morgan Roberts - Faculty & Research - Harvard Business School
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Laura Morgan Roberts

Visiting Scholar

Journal Articles
  1. Beating the Odds: Leadership Lessons from Senior African-American Women

    Laura Morgan Roberts, Anthony Mayo, Robin Ely and David Thomas

    Any list of top CEOs reveals a stunning lack of diversity. Among the leaders of Fortune 500 companies, for example, just 32 are women, three are African-American, and not one is an African-American woman. What’s going on? The authors studied the careers of the roughly 2,300 alumni of African descent who have graduated from Harvard Business School since its founding, focusing on the 67 African-American women who have attained top positions in corporations or professional services firms. These women thrived, they found, because of three characteristics that are key to resilience: emotional intelligence, authenticity, and agility. The women were adept at reading interpersonal dynamics and managing their own reactions; crafting their identities; and transforming obstacles into opportunities. Beyond personal strengths, the authors say, another factor was critical: nurturing relationships with mentors who recognized the women’s talent and made it their business to support them. The insights gleaned are important not just for African-Americans and women; they’re essential for any manager who recognizes that an organization’s diversity is its strength.

    Keywords: Leadership; Diversity; Race; Gender; Personal Characteristics; Relationships; Success;


    Roberts, Laura Morgan, Anthony Mayo, Robin Ely, and David Thomas. "Beating the Odds: Leadership Lessons from Senior African-American Women." Harvard Business Review 96, no. 2 (March–April 2018): 126–131.  View Details