3 Ways Businesses Can Amplify and Support Future Leaders

Today’s business leaders play an important role in developing and supporting future leaders, especially those from underrepresented groups.

Air Date: October 7, 2021

Moderator: Rick Wade, Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach, Julia Osagie, Senior Analyst, Management Consulting, Accenture, Latricia Boone, Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Brett J. Hart, President, United Airlines, Hana Admasse, Undergraduate Student, Howard University, Jada Bourne, Undergraduate Student, Howard University, Tyler Gray, Account Executive, Johnson & Johnson, Ethicon, Ryan Duff, Candidate for Juris Doctorate, Solomon Morgan, Undergraduate Student, Howard University, Alexandra Ozieh, Undergraduate Student, North Carolina A&T State University, Amari Phelps, Undergraduate Student, Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, Reana Wilson, Undergraduate Student, Clark Atlanta University

In 2020, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched its Next-Gen Business Partnership program, in which it partners with historically black colleges and universities, and minority-serving institutions, to promote diversity at every level of business.

This program exposes students to new career pathways, helps them learn about entrepreneurship, and encourages knowledge sharing among academics and leaders. The four main components of the Next-Gen Business Partnership include a competitive internship opportunity program, an executive speaker series, executive-level education opportunities to university faculty, and entrepreneurship development.

The Next-Gen Business Partnership program recently held a town hall event, Amplifying Young and Informed Voices, in which students from the program engaged in a robust dialogue on the challenges that American minorities face in the private sector. Based on that discussion, here’s how businesses can help uplift those voices and support future leaders.

Business Leaders Need to Be Mentors to Future Leaders

When discussing the current corporate landscape and how students and recent graduates can develop in it, the president of United Airlines, Brett J. Hart, stressed the importance of mentorship. He stated that students and entry-level employees need to seek out mentors and current leaders need to be open to being sponsors.

“Mentors tend to be people who can provide perspectives, help you through different situations and give you advice on your careers,” Hart said. “Within corporations you need sponsors. You need people who take a vested interest in your career and in your success in that organization … those are people who are going to go to bat [for you]; are going to close the door and say, ‘so-and-so deserves an opportunity and I stand by them and I will be there to help them develop.’”

One of the Greatest Barriers to Income Equality Is Generational Wealth

During the discussion with the Next-Gen Business Partnership scholars, the conversation sparked about what the systematic barriers for true wealthy quality are. Among the many reasons the scholars listed, one of the greatest obstacles was that of generational wealth and how minority families are generationally disadvantaged.

Both students and scholars agreed that legacy wealth remained one of the top systematic reasons for wealth inequality.

“People of color [and] Black families don't have access to things like land [or] property that can be passed down. [There’s no] inheritance business capital that we can pass onto our families,” said Jada Bourne, an undergraduate student at Howard University. “It's important to recognize that wealth is cumulative. So when you're always starting at a disadvantage, it's hard to catch up to people who have always been ahead.”

“That doesn't just mean, ‘I have more money in my pocket,’” added Tyler Gray, an account executive at Johnson & Johnson. “[It’s] relationships. That's opportunities. Money extends so much farther.”

Changes Must Be Made to Diversify Employees

During a discussion on education and employment, the panel of scholars suggested different ways on how businesses can work with HBCUs to diversify their workforces and alleviate unemployment.

Among the suggestions were more education, narrowing skills gaps to increase competitiveness, and companies physically being on campus. All the panelists agree that one of the most helpful ways businesses could adapt to change is by restructuring the job application, especially for those who commit misdemeanors and felonies.

“Companies, instead of looking at just what's on the paper, actually [need to] get to know the applicant,” said Amari Phelps, an undergraduate student at the Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. “Oftentimes, the outcome could be the person that has the top skillset or knows more than what everybody else knows, and can be a good asset to the company — but could be turned away just because of their previous criminal history.”

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