In 2017, at a gala luncheon hosted at the opulent Cipriani 42nd Street in New York, Minda Harts found herself seated next to a recruiter for corporate board positions. Over cocktails and a plated fish entree, the two talked about race in the boardroom; the recruiter, a white woman, complained about the challenges of finding black women to be corporate directors.
To test how she’d respond, Harts, who founded a career development company for women of color and had a book on the topic released in August, asked the recruiter who she would feel more comfortable putting forward as a candidate for a board: a woman of color with a sleek ponytail, or one with a natural hairstyle such as locs or an Afro. The recruiter said the woman with the ponytail, Harts recalled. “The phrase she used was ‘clean-cut,’ ” Harts said.