June 25, 2020
Suzanne P. Clark
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Former Professional Basketball Player and Author
Stanley C. Erck
Dr. Katelyn Jetelina
Founder, Your Local Epidemiologist
Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The summer of 2020 was a watershed moment for the Black Lives Matter movement, when nationwide and global protests forced companies and organizations to take a long, hard look at their stance on diversity, equity and inclusion, and how they create a culture that celebrates equality of opportunity.
This societal shift served as the backdrop for CO—’s National Summit on Equality of Opportunity, which featured leaders across multiple industries discussing the importance of equality in the business world and workplace, and what it will take to achieve it. Here are four key takeaways from the Summit.
Businesses Need to Use the Right Words and Understand the Implications of What They Say
It’s a common practice for business owners, leaders and executives to incorporate buzzwords when communicating with the public to appease customers, employees and shareholders. The problem with this is that sometimes even well-intentioned language can sound harmful.
When moderator Gayle King spoke with Randall Stephenson, former AT&T CEO, about hiring a qualified person of color to a company’s board of directors, Stephenson argued the importance of leaders using the right language and dropping the word “qualified” from the conversation.
“I don't think we ought to feel compelled to say ‘qualified’ with Black,” Stephenson added. “We’re putting a Black person on our board. We don't have to say they’re a qualified person. They're on our board.”
Leaders Need to Dedicate the Time to ‘Get Real’ and Talk About Race
For businesses that are serious about diversity, equality and inclusion, it’s not enough to post “Black Lives Matter” messages on their website and send out an email statement of support. Leaders need to make substantial changes from top to bottom. And while most people support more inclusion, they’re less inclined to talk about it and their overall role in the racial landscape.
Tim Ryan, U.S. Chairman and Senior Partner of PwC, has made the issue of race a top priority for his team to address.
“We shut the firm down for a day and we asked people all across the firm to spend time in small groups, in our offices, out of our client's sites, talking about the topic of race,” Ryan said. “What we learned is that the more we talk about it … the more we learn from each other. What we've learned is that when people, most of whom are incredibly well-intentioned, learn more than they can really care and drive different outcomes.”
Closing the Racial Equality Gap Would Generate $8 Trillion in U.S. GDP Growth
Creating racial equality is a necessity for the integrity and well-being of our country, and it doesn't have to come at an expense to businesses. In fact, by closing the racial equality gap, the United States would generate $8 trillion in gross domestic profit by the year 2050.
“The winning companies will be those that lean into [racial equality] growth and this can only be done if your company's leadership truly believes in this work,” said Joel Wittenberg, CIO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Wittenberg explained how racism is systemic and the effects of it lingers throughout healthcare, education and criminal justice systems throughout the U.S. Wittenberg noted that making positive changes to systemic racism is good for businesses.
“For businesses to understand that advancing racial equity is a strategy for economic growth in addition to being a matter of social justice, this is a business-friendly thing,” he added.
Companies Need to Work Harder to Find Talent in Underserved Communities
Too often, underserved and lower income communities are ignored when it comes to companies' talent searches. Because underprivileged communities have historically not been granted the same opportunities and resources, companies either overlook or are unable to find and connect with these groups.
In order to have more equal opportunity, businesses need to make a concerted effort to find the untapped potential in these communities. Mark Wilson, President and CEO of Chime Solutions, stressed the importance of finding and utilizing these voices and how they can make a significant impact for businesses.
“Here you have a resource pool of talent that no one has taken the time or the effort to go into,” Wilson said. “[Tap into] those communities and invest in the folks and take advantage of the talent to their benefit, to the community's benefit, to the companies that would go in and make the investments to their benefit.”