RIBBA, URI kick off leadership program for BIPOC professionals

PROVIDENCE The Rhode Island Black Business Association and University of Rhode Island will next week kick off a program designed to advance senior leadership opportunities for Black, Indigenous and people of color in the workplace. 

With BIPOC employees facing increased barriers to executive positions, the Emerging Leaders Development Program was created “to get individuals ready to either take on additional responsibilities or to be ready to fill positions that are open in C-suite or executive levels,” said RIBBA Executive Director Lisa Ranglin. 

The program begins on Oct. 12. 

When conducting interviews to shape the program, which has been in the works since around 2017, RIBBA found that interviewees reported barriers such as a lack of advancement pathways or promotion opportunities compared to white employees, and less consideration for high-visibility projects or senior leadership roles despite qualifications.

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“I’ve spent over 20 years in corporate America,” Ranglin said, “and I understand the challenges of a person of color navigating a space where, in some cases, you don’t feel belonging, or you don’t feel a part of it because it lacks inclusion.” 

In these situations, “you may not be empowered enough to use your voice, drive changes and be impactful in the work you’re doing,” Ranglin added. 

RIBBA also drew from research such as a study published this year by the Rhode Island Women’s Fund, which found that just one in five C-suite leaders in the state are women, and less than 1 in 30 are women of color. 

The Women’s Fund provided $25,000 in funding for the program when was in its early planning stages, and the state Department of Labor and Training will fund the program itself through the Real Jobs initiative. URI will plan and provide resources for training.

RIBBA is also working to partner with companies across the state and show businesses that they could be overlooking qualified BIPOC candidates within their organizations, Ranglin said.

“We want to help companies find and support their colleagues of color,” Ranglin said, “and create an environment where not just some people feel like they have a pathway to career growth, but all employees do.” 

The six-month program was created for BIPOC professionals around 3-7 years into their career. Participants attend group workshops one day each month and work individually with an advisor throughout the month. 

Over 50 applicants applied, which RIBBA narrowed down to its first cohort of 25 professionals. The participants come from various sectors, including higher education, banking, municipal departments and nonprofits.  

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.

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