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McNair to co-host national forum on executive-level career opportunities for women of color

October 12, 2019

Anita Estell, Civic Engagement and Leadership Institute for Everyone
Michael Tullier, APR, Tuskegee University Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Leaky Pipes promo imageOn Wednesday, Oct. 16, Tuskegee University’s president, Dr. Lily D. McNair, will join other leaders from Fortune 500 companies, historically black colleges and universities, the federal government, and the U.S. Congress to identify barriers and broker solutions to recruiting, retaining and advancing high-potential women of color into C-suite positions.

The one-day event — led by the Civic Engagement and Leadership Institute for Everyone, or CELIE — is entitled “Leaky Pipes: Influencer Solutions Forum.” CELIE’s founder and president, Anita Estell, hopes the venue will offer tangible solutions to barriers preventing women of color from rising to executive-level career positions.

“It is no secret that women of color — and particularly black women — too often face insurmountable challenges in the workplace, which include racism, pay inequity and sexism,” Estell said. “What is evasive is determining the solutions to address this. CELIE is committed to being a leader in not only identifying the problems but also implementing solutions to erode the barriers that keep talented women of color from executive office.”

McNair will join other co-hosts at The Boeing Company’s offices in Arlington, Virginia — including Estell and Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, president and chair of the Board at the National Council of Negro Women. The historic national convening will help develop a framework for a prototype program to address this issue across multiple sectors, disciplines and professions, with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) careers.

“Equality is not just a moral issue, it is an economic issue,” Cole said. “More and more women of color are the breadwinners for their households. The biases and systems of discrimination that prevent qualified women from reaching their full potential in the workplace have lasting economic effects in their communities. We are beyond the point of just talking about equality and equity. We each have a duty to guarantee it.”

“Black women now outpace every other demographic in educational attainment,” said McNair, who is the university’s first female president in its 138-year history. “As we prepare the next generation of women leaders, we need to ensure opportunities exist — at every level and in every field — for them to reach their full potential.”

McNair made this topic a highlight of her March 2019 inauguration, selecting to focus a series of panel discussions comprising an inaugural symposia on the subject. Panelists highlighted the contributions of female leaders of color in higher education, business and faith, as well as discussed factors associated with their career success and ways to better strengthen and foster future opportunities for women.

CELIE’s convening comes in response to a series of studies by McKinsey Company, and the Kapor Foundation that document the attrition rates of women of color in corporate America and note that black women are leaving corporate management positions faster than any group. In their research, the groups conclude black women especially receive the least amount of sponsorship, stretch assignments and assistance of all the groups studied. Research conducted by the Government Accountability Office issued similar findings at federal agencies relative to the Senior Executive Service (SES) and advanced General Service (GS) positions.

“Leaky Pipes: Influencer Solutions Forum” is an invitation-only event. Other confirmed speakers include Congressional leaders Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.), Rep. Anthony Brown (Md.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.).

CELIE’s mission is to deliver the best in next practices in the areas of civic engagement; women and girls; and diversity and inclusion. For more information, visit

© 2019, Tuskegee University