Panelists discussing the obstacles black business managers encounter said yesterday that racism in the business world is very subtle and that blacks often must be more competent than whites in order to gain equal respect in managerial positions.
"We're fighting the concept that if a black enters a corporation that is using some kind of quota system, then he is incompetent," James F. Ferguson, Director of Ferguson Bryan Associates, said.
The discussion formed part of a Career/Alumni Weekend sponsored by the Afro-American Student Union and the Black Alumni Association of the Harvard Business School.
Harold Burton, assistant vice president of the Bank of America, said more lower-level executive positions will be opening up for blacks in the next five years.
He added, however, that it will be "one or even two generations" before blacks are totally accepted as presidents and chairmen of banking boards.
The panelists said blacks were under pressure to adopt white mannerisms, patterns of speech, and lifestyle.
"You will have to deal with a lot of small people," Robert Holland, a partner in McKinsey and Company, said to the audience of B-School students and alumni.
An earlier panel discussion centered on business openings on the international market. Vernon Stansbury, an administrator with the U.S. Commerce Department, stressed the need for minority businessmen on the international market. "In international trade, whites are in the minority," he said.
Ron Padmor, an official in the Liberian Embassy to the United Nations, said his country was eager to attract international business, particularly companies interested in exporting Liberian products.