Executives of some 300 American corporations surveyed recently said the biggest single obstacle to advancement of minorities and women in business is a "perceived lack" of qualified persons.
Morever, they forecast that hadicapped person, Vietnam war veterans and Hispanic Americans face the least chance of making significant employment gains in the next five years.
When asked what groups had better opportunities, women were mentioned by 51 percent and blacks by 21 percent.
While the executives said they believe affirmative employment programs have helped advance the cause of women and minorities, more than 90 percent also said it is not likely that women or blacks will become chief executive officers of their companies in the next 10 to 15 years.
These were among the key findings of a survey released here, conducted by McBain Research for Barnhill-Hayes Inc., a Milwaukee management consulting firm that specializes in affirmative action and equal employment opportunity problems.
Questionnaires were mailed to 3,000 major corporations in January - representing a cross section of businesses - and about 300 replied.
Helen Barnhill, president of the Milwaukee concern, said the business community has carried the "primary responsiblity" for affirmative action in the past decade. The survey results indicate the company mangements face a challenge of "developing or acquiring the expertise needed to fulfill (government) regulations and providing women and minorities with a better orientation toward the corporate environment," she said.
According to the survey, 47 percent of the executives who responded said they expect handicapped persons to show the least employment gains, 20 percent saw Vietnam veterans as least likely to advance and 16 percent memtioned Hispanics - the fastest-growing minority population in the country.
Barnhill said the executives cited a number of reasons for their expectations that women and blacks will advance the most in corporate America. The most frequently mentioned reason was that particular groups - especially Vietnam veterans-"lacked clout."
Other reasons cited were lack of training and experience and-for the handicapped-the necessity of special accommodations.
On the question of promoting women and minorities to senior managements, the consensus was that women stood a better chance than blacks. Only one percent thought it "very likely" that a woman could become chief executive in 15 years, and 91 percent thought it "not very likely." For blacks, 2 percent thought they would become CEOs, while 69 percent answered "not very likely" and 27 percent re plied "no chance at all."
Most future opportunities for blacks and women in the corporate structure are in the personnel, clerical, administrative, technical and financial areas, the respondents stated.
More than 75 percent of the companies represented in the sampling already have faced formal equal employment opportunity charges; 19 percent of the firms have annual sales in excess of $1 billion and more than 12,000 employes.
Among other findings reported by Barnhill:
Executives said their greatest concerns about affirmative action were facing fines to compensate for past discrimination (25 percent), losing government contracts (22 percent) and adverse publicity (22 percent).
By a margin of 62 to 27 percent, executives rejected the suggestion that a ruling by the Supereme Court favoring Brian F. Weber and other whites-in a "reverse discrimination" case involving a Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. plant in Louisiana-would have any impact on existing affirmative action programs.
A plurality of 54 to 44 percent disagreed with the statement that affirmative action is declining as an issue of concern to top managements.
Slightly more than half (52 percent) believe that affirmative action has helped advance the cause of women and minorities in employment a great deal, and 72 percent said employe productivity has not been deminished by such programs.
An overwhelming 88 percent of the executives said the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission should be more concerned with results of an employment program than with measures being taken to achive the equal work goals.
Taken as a whole, Barnhill concluded, the study shows that affirmative action " has matured to the point where it is not simply the cause of activists only," but a fact of corporate life and less likely to be diluted by isolated court cases and incidents.
But business has a long way to go in demonstrating "a gunuine commitment" and not relying on "can't find enough minority candidate" excuses, she said. CAPTION: Picture, HELEN BARNHILL . . . seeks end to excuses