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LinkedIn Influencers and the Diversity Gap

LinkedIn Top Voices

LinkedIn Top Voices

With more than 400 million members and counting, LinkedIn has become the preeminent professional social networking site for career-minded individuals across the globe seeking to build their network and stay “in-the-know.”

This month, the site released its list of Top 10 Influencers – thought leaders in business and industry, along with its Top Voices or content creators across eight different categories ranging from Healthcare to Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship who have established themselves as experts in their field.

When first visiting the site’s landing page for Top Voices, the cohort seems incredibly diverse. However, when you click through the actual categories, the picture becomes a bit clearer and the group turns out to be not as diverse as one might have thought.

To be fair, Asian-Americans are kicking ass. They are represented in just about every category and in some instances multiple times. Women also make an impressive showing, dominating categories like healthcare, education and even VC and Entrepreneurship. Where the numbers seem to lag are with African-Americans and Latinos.

Not one Black Man has made it onto Linkedin Top Voices

When you tally the numbers, five of the 90 people on the LinkedIn Top Voices list are (or appear to be) African-American women. That’s great! However, not one black man made the list. To make matters worse, not a single Latino-American made the cut, which is especially damning considering Latinos currently represent the largest single minority group in the country and are in many ways driving the nation’s most consequential demographic shifts.

LinkedIn Top 10 Influencers

LinkedIn Top 10 Influencers

It goes without saying that in 2015, it’s risky to identify people who “appear” to be one race or another, but the broader point behind the observation is that diversity within the professional blogosphere is a real issue. This is not an indictment against LinkedIn. As a recovering social scientist, I firmly believe that you’ve got to respect the methodology. However, the fact of the matter is blacks and Latinos face real barriers and implicit bias when it comes to network-building.

Research has shown that minorities have a harder time accessing professional organizations and suffer from personal professional networks that are smaller and less resourceful. As a result, they often struggle to make inroads at critical stages in their careers. Unfortunately, there is little research on how virtual networks compare to more traditional ones, but it is reasonable to assume that certain characteristics carry over.

To be sure, the lack of racial representation among top influencers holds consequences for our ability to innovate and learn. Unless we achieve greater parity across groups and industries, we’ll continue to miss out on the richness of our uniquely American contribution to the global conversation.

The good news is that there are minorities out there who have cracked the code and established themselves as experts. In the case of the LinkedIn Top Voices, five African-American women made the cut. Did they work harder to make their mark? Not sure. But they are there. Now, we just need more like them across all industries.

We’ve still got a long way to go, but real progress is possible. It begins with blacks and Latinos within these industries stepping up to make their voices heard. It’s time to share our ideas, build our audience and catalyze change in the areas we care about the most. We have experiences that matter and something important to say; and LinkedIn’s 400 million members can’t wait to hear it.

photo credit LinkedIn

Kelly Burton Ph.D. is an accomplished entrepreneur with over a decade’s experience launching and scaling start-up companies. She is the founder of Bodyology, a tech-based clothing line and nexusresearchonline.com, a social research firm.

Follow Kelly Burton on Twitter@iamkellyburton