Bonita Stewart’s new research for the next era of leaders

“I took a zigzag approach to life and my career, climbing corporate ladders, swerving through the obstacle course of entrepreneurship and landing in Silicon Valley,” Bonita Stewart says of the path her work took her in. Along the way, she was often the only or the first woman or woman of color, or both. 

Bonita was also the first Black woman to be a vice president at Google, where she’s VP of Global Partnerships. In 2018, she teamed up with another Black woman who experienced “being the first:” her fellow Harvard Business School alumna and former CBS news White House correspondent Jacqueline (Jackie) Adams, who was the first Black woman CBS assigned full-time to cover the White House. Together, they co-authored the book “A Blessing: Women of Color Teaming Up to Lead, Empower and Thrive.” 

As part of their writing process, they surveyed 2,300 Black, Latinx, Asian and white women across generations. “Research on the impact of women of color in business remains limited, which is why Jackie and I wanted to expand on our first study and look into more topics,” Bonita says. The 2020 Women of Color in Business: Cross-Generational Survey©  (launched in partnership with the Executive Leadership Council) surveyed participants during the ongoing health and economic pandemics and racial justice protests. And unlike the 2019 report, the 2020 Survey also sought answers from 150 white male managers.

To learn a little more about Bonita and her research, I took some time to ask about her career path and to dive a little deeper into the survey’s findings. 

You focus on “generational diversity” in this year’s study. What does this mean and why is it important?

“Generational diversity” is a term that Jackie and I coined to highlight the nuances being overlooked in today’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion conversations, specifically, representation across generations.

The most important investment a company makes are the people it employs. Right now we’re in what we describe as “a new era of leadership,” where younger generations are demanding more authentic, empathetic leadership. 

Our survey found that Gen Z and Millennial workers, especially those who are Black and Latinx, are supremely confident they will control their careers. They’re mission-driven, wildly creative and tech-savvy. They expect their leaders to create a workplace of belonging for everyone. It’s equally important that leaders have a better appreciation for diverse — and very valuable — generational perspectives.

Don’t forget: The Census predicts these young people of color, currently between 18-29, will be the majority of Americans in the workforce by 2027.