Stratification in Corporate America


Just by watching television, browsing newspapers and reading magazines, one can plainly see how stratified American society really is. To demonstrate this, I analyzed five different issues of the popular, nation-wide Fortune magazine. My objective was to determine if minorities have a fair or proportionate representation in corporate America. My method was to record the number and type of people pictured in articles and advertisements. Cartoons and pictures smaller than ˝ inch were neglected. Pictures with groups of more than six members were also ignored. The results are as follows:


Results taken from March 17, March 3, February 17, February 3, and November 25 issues of Fortune magazine

The results of these observations prove to be interesting in many aspects. Firstly, according to Fortune magazines, minorities are grossly underrepresented at the top of the business world. In a totally unlayered system, there should be 158 Caucasians, 24 African-American, 4 Asians and 14 Hispanics. Secondly, in the articles, the jobs which the different races are shown doing are quite different. While the majority of Whites and Asians hold titles such as founder, owner, and president, the scope of the African-American role only ranges from professional basketball player to a manager at a Ford auto plant.
Thirdly, and most interesting to me, is that minorities are more visible in advertisements, or fiction, rather than being seen in articles, or real life. (Whites were not counted in ads because they have no relevance to my argument.) For instance, while the role of African-Americans is limited in the articles, it is greatly expanded in advertisements. Black people can be seen doing every thing from graduating college to advising a board of directors. Another intriguing point is that there are no Hispanics in the articles but at least 2 in the promotions. These ads paint a picture of a more likable, less segregated world that the reader can feel at ease with and, at the same time, creates a broader, more universal base for clientele.
Even though these results are widely accepted as facts of life, there are sociological theories and concepts to try to explain them. One partial explanation for current differences in corporate America can be traced back to the origins of the United States. Since most black people were brought here on slave ships and were uneducated Africans, it has been a constant struggle to rise. As Stark puts it, "those on the bottom had to cross a cultural as well as economic barrier to rise in the system." Knowing that education is the basic key to success, it was illegal to teach Blacks, even after they were emancipated. "People who till fields… had little time to study the heavens, pursue theology and invent new tools. …Because (Whites) created culture, they developed a culture much more elaborate from those that they ruled." These line of reasoning supports the conflict theory of stratification.
"The outsider, the stranger, the foreigner has always provoked suspicion, hatred and dread in human beings."(Williams, 1947) And "Contact between culturally and racially distinctive groups of unequal status will increase prejudice and probably discrimination as well."(Stark) These are two major ideas that contribute to today’s stratification of American corporate leadership. Since Black people basically have always had to rise through a White controlled institution, they have undoubtedly been impeded by discrimination. And if this country started with everyone at the same level, I have no doubt that there would be at least 24 African-Americans pictured in those articles.