The Importance of Leadership Development Programs for BIPOC Students

Leadership development programs are essential for college students to tap into their full potential. Discover five programs that offer support to BIPOC students.
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  • Career advancement in leadership is opening up, but people of color are still underrepresented.
  • BIPOC leadership development programs are essential for many reasons, including mentorship, networking, and acquiring leadership skills.
  • Professional organizations or universities offer several leadership programs, such as the Harvard leadership program.
  • Figuring out how to benefit from leadership development training as a person of color is essential.

Although there are more career opportunities in today's corporate world and more people of color are attaining degrees than ever, BIPOC leadership is still very scarce. In fact, according to a report by Coqual, as of 2019, people from racial minority backgrounds made up about 8% of employees in professional roles. Just 3.2% of executive or senior leadership roles were held by Black professionals, and less than 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs were Black.

These statistics have fortunately led to leadership development programs specifically for BIPOC professionals. A leadership development program usually focuses on developing and mentoring hardworking mid-level managers for the next step of senior leadership positions within their careers. People of color leadership programs are vital because they focus on supporting those looking to break the barriers of non-inclusion in the workplace and advocate for a safe space, equality, and overall well-being.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits and types of leadership development training programs for people of color.

5 Benefits of Leadership Development Programs

Learning how to Communicate

When it comes to moving forward (or into) the corporate world ladder, it helps to know important people along the way. Therefore, leadership development is essential in teaching BIPOC students and professionals how to properly communicate and connect with their white counterparts to implement any changes and “have a seat at the table.”

Networking with Fellow Professionals of Color

When professionals have the opportunity to connect with others who understand their professional trials and triumphs, it teaches them to know that they aren't alone. In addition, sometimes it's about knowing the right person regarding any career advancement and openings at the right time.

Finding Solid Mentorship

With networking comes meaningful connections, especially when some leadership development programs offer mentorship programs. It is the best time to soak up all information and ask questions from professionals with knowledge and experience. Cultivating a solid relationship through mentorship also boosts confidence in having a subject matter expert who understands and supports their goals.

Learning to Celebrate Sense of Self

Historically, professionals of color felt the need to tame their culture to move up in the corporate environment. Fortunately, leadership programs often teach professionals the opposite. Self-awareness and pride are tools to diversify and bring a different perspective to an otherwise homogenized office environment.

Fully Tapping in Leadership Potential

Leadership training is obviously at the forefront of any people of color leadership program. Professionals learn concepts such as emotional intelligence, leading through change, and collaborating with potential fellow leaders. Leadership development is important in every aspect, so BIPOC professionals feel prepared for all situations in their work environments.

5 Leadership Programs for People of Color

Women of Color Leadership Program, Harvard Business School

In this prestigious Harvard leadership program, women of color who are mid-level managers, account managers, or subject matter experts get to expand their leadership skills and ambitions while helping others along the way. Ladies then bring what they learned to contribute to a better workspace. Applications are currently open for the 2023 Spring session.


Black Leaders Program, Stanford University Graduate School of Business

This week-long intensive Stanford program provides a space to connect and discuss the challenges and opportunities of being a Black leader. In addition, the program includes group exercises, guest speakers, facilitated conversations, and much more. The program welcomes professional participants looking to advance Black leadership in business.


Leaders of Color Circle Program

Launched through the Centers of Nonprofit Excellence, this six-month program is designed specifically for BIPOC leaders in the social impact environment. The program is small and intimate, typically consisting of eight participants and a facilitator. Participants connect with BIPOC leaders in the nonprofit community and learn skill sets for nonprofit leadership roles.


HACE Leadership Programs

The Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE) offers several leadership programs, from high school students to business professionals. The goal of each program is to address the unique cultural values and challenges Latino/a professionals face and turn them into high-performing leaders ready to make a difference in the corporate world.


Indigenous Leadership Academy, Arizona State University

Created through the school's American Indian Policy Institute, participants in the Indigenous Leadership Academy collaborate and network with Indigenous leaders throughout Arizona. They also address and help solve long-term issues within Indigenous communities, associations, and governments by learning skills such as leadership, utilizing data, communication, facilitation partnerships, and project planning.

Ways to Succeed in Leadership Programs

Acknowledge Your Potential

Imposter syndrome puts doubt in the minds of great and world-changing individuals. Practicing your elevator speech and writing down your professional and personal strengths helps you know your worth. Investing in elevating your professional portfolio through leadership programs only adds to what you bring to the table.

Figure Out Your Goals

Take time to figure out what you would like to learn from investing in a leadership program. Is it to learn how to better communicate with senior leadership to move up? Desire to build a network of like-minded professionals of color who understand you? Figure out what exclusively intrigues you and find the best program to match it.

Work Your Financial Resources

Finances possibly factor in deciding on a proper leadership training program. Some programs are free, but many cost up to several thousand dollars. Find out if the programs offer any fee subsidization or scholarships. Also, many companies have realized the importance of training and development and will often pay their employees if they can prove it will support their growth in the company.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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