An Expedition to the Snowy Peaks: An Exploration of the Antecedents for and Barriers Against Executive Level Career Achievement of Black Men in the UK

Prof Doc Thesis

Hinkson, Cherrymia 2014. An Expedition to the Snowy Peaks: An Exploration of the Antecedents for and Barriers Against Executive Level Career Achievement of Black Men in the UK. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsHinkson, Cherrymia
TypeProf Doc Thesis

After nearly 40 years of Race Relations legislation, Black and Minority Ethnic people are still failing to occupy the number of boardroom positions commensurate with the percentage of the UK population for which they account (Race for Opportunity Campaign, 2009). Further, there has been virtually no ethnicity change in top management positions in the five years between 2007 and 2012 (Race for Opportunity Campaign, 2014). Indeed large organisations are almost exclusively White at the top with the enduring phenomena of ‘bunching’ of ethnic minorities at junior and middle management positions (Phillips, 2006). This research sought to focus on the Black male experience with the objective of identifying the underlying psychological issues leading to the systematic underrepresentation of Black men in the boardrooms of UK PLC. A two part sequential mixed methods study, integrating abbreviate Social Constructivist Grounded Theory and Q Methodology in one enquiry was employed to elicit the stories and subjective views of 28 men (14 Black, 10 White, and 4 Asian) in junior, middle or senior/executive management positions in the UK. The overall results of the study indicated that Black men face a number of barriers to the executive level success which are associated with their ethnicity and similarly, have less access to some resources recognised as antecedents for success. At the surface level, the results of this research imply that Black men have a lower propensity for executive level career attainment but further analysis revealed that two core constructs, Self-Efficacy and Attributions weave a path through the findings offering a cogent theoretical explanation for the phenomenon.

Probing deeper still, this investigation reviewed the existence of multifarious and complex, psychological factors operating to engender majority group prejudice against Black people in the form of unconscious bias, promoting White hegemony and a ‘White Standard’ for leadership which fosters stereotyping and attribution error. Trapped in the centre of this ‘circle of negativity’, Black men may enter a state of low self-esteem and learned helplessness, diminishing both their potential and proclivity for promotion. If this circle of negativity is to be broken organisations and society must face up to the nuances of 21st Century prejudice and adopt multipronged strategies and practical techniques for addressing them. This research is distinctive and advances the field of occupational psychology in a number of ways. It is the only research in the field of occupational psychology to focus on executive level achievement of Black men in the UK and thereby advances the limited body of work that differentiates between experiences of Black, and other ethnic minority men. In terms of research methodology, it provides a solid example of an integrated and synergistic mixed methods study. Most significantly, this study is the first to offer a comprehensive examination of a broad range of psychological phenomena interwoven in the Black male career attainment experience and in moving from analysis to solutions, offer a multi-lever approach to addressing underrepresentation of Black men in the board rooms of UK PLC and ultimately conquer Snowy Peaks.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintJun 2014
Publication process dates
Deposited18 Mar 2015
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