By  on October 26, 2005

NEW YORK — Gail Monroe-Perry, president of the Black Retail Action Group, believes it's sad how very few blacks have climbed the corporate ladder in retailing.

"The numbers are disappointing," Monroe-Perry said during an interview. "We have a lot of progress to make.

"I remember back in the Eighties, when I was a buyer at Bloomingdale's in the home area, it seemed like there were about 10 of us, up-and-coming in the company. You are very hard-pressed today to find two or three buyers in an organization.

"What happens is the same old story: You get candidates at the entry level, but we lose them along the way and a lot of people just go on to other things. It's not as easy [for blacks] to get into higher levels for sure. It's difficult to convince people to stick it out."

Instead, "Entrepreneurships, doing their own kind of production or manufacturing work or real estate, have become increasingly attractive."

She cites findings from a study conducted in 2004 by BDC, Business Design Consulting, a research and recruitment company. "The hard numbers reflect how people of color are not positioned to participate in the industry," Monroe-Perry said.

Of 927 merchandising executives from 77 companies surveyed, 76 diversity executives were identified, or 9 percent of the total, including 2 percent African-American, 4 percent Asian and 4 percent Latino.

Of the 462 planning and allocation executives identified, 76 were diversity executives, or 16 percent of the total, including 3 percent African-American, 9 percent Asian and 4 percent Latino.

Of the 343 technical design executives identified, 116, or 34 percent, were diversity executives, including 5 percent African-American, 16 percent Asian and 12 percent Latino.

"This sample population is finally the hard evidence representative of the staggering numbers we have all been well aware of, almost intuitively. Now that we have these numbers, we believe that it is our responsibility at BRAG to effect change. You may ask the question, ‘How?' Well, these numbers can only be shifted through the willingness of organizations to recruit...and giving people the opportunity to be promoted into senior positions."

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