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Lifting up all Americans and ensuring equal opportunity for all is a critical mission for the business community.
On Monday at The Future of Business and Education event put on by the U.S. Chamber, Chamber President Suzanne Clark spoke about the continuing partnership between the business community and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to expand economic opportunity.
“I’m proud that we have been working together to tear down these barriers for years, but there’s no denying that this year has brought a reckoning and an opportunity to make lasting, meaningful progress,” said Clark.
For businesses, “racial equality is not only a moral imperative, but it’s also essential to their own long-term growth and competitiveness and our competitiveness as a country.”
To develop real, sustainable solutions to close race-based opportunity gaps, the U.S. Chamber launched the Equality of Opportunity Initiative earlier this year.
Partnering with HBCUs is a critical component. “We need more Black leaders in business and industry, helping lead private sector solutions across the economy,” she explained. “Together we have the responsibility to empower Black students to be tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and business leaders and ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to achieve their potential and contribute their talents and gifts as we rebuild a strong and diverse economy.”
The Chamber’s Next-Gen Business Partnership with HBCUs and minority serving institutions is “an important way we build a pipeline of talent,” Clark noted. The program includes internship opportunities at the Chamber as well as promoting entrepreneurship and encouraging knowledge sharing among academics, business leaders, and trade associations.
“The young men and women in this program are the next generation of business leaders. They will start and lead companies to be competitive, profitable, sustainable, and relevant far into the future,” said Clark. “And when they’re in positions of leadership they’ll make up powerful alumni networks that we all know are so important. They will be able to attract more talent from their alma matters, serve as mentors to future leaders, and help bring up the next generation of diverse leadership.”
Clark reminded us that we all play a role is expanding opportunity: “Everyone of us no matter where we are can ‘be the change’ our country needs. Whether it’s a chancellor’s suite, a C-suite, a classroom, or a community center, wherever we are we can play a role in tearing down barriers to opportunity for people of color.”