Working with Corporate America on Issues of Race

Posted September 20th, 2014 by

GE_AAF1Sharon and I spoke before more than 1,000 corporate leaders from around the world on September 17 at the 20th Annual General Electric African American Forum Global Symposium in Washington, DC. If the world is going to change when it comes to issues of race, Corporate America has the power and influence to make a huge, positive difference.

A little background…

Before committing herself full-time to writing and genealogy, Sharon had a long and distinguished career as a marketing communications consultant. She founded the National Black Public Relations Society and worked for a multitude of Fortune 100 clients, including McDonald’s, Walmart, and Coca-Cola. Her connections led to a phone conversation with Sharon Orlopp, Chief Global Diversity Officer for Walmart. After our conference call, Ms. Orlopp read Gather at the Table and then flew with seven colleagues to our appearance at an afternoon workshop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was moved to write messages of introduction and endorsement of our work to colleagues who work in her position with dozens of other major corporations.GE_AAF4

The resulting conversations have led to appearances at the League of Black Women Global Leadership Conference, a feature article in Diversity MBA Magazine as well as an appearance at their annual Leadership Conference, and our full-day participation at the GE AAF Global Symposium at the Washington Hilton. In addition to our morning keynote presentation in DC, we led two afternoon workshops with approximately 100 participants in each.

“But, but, but…” you may be thinking, “hasn’t Corporate America contributed to the injustice and inequity?”

Liberty and CommerceSharon and I have discussed this at length. It is clear that at the crossroads of Liberty and Commerce, the desire for profits has regularly won out over liberty. The desire for profits without a moral compass to guide the way has led to slavery, genocide, income inequity, and many other forms of oppression and injustice throughout the world and throughout history; many of which continue today.

As we pointed out in our presentation in Washington, DC, corporations continue to reap record profits, due in no small part to the buying power of women and minorities. Women control $4.3 trillion dollars in U.S. consumer spending. The purchasing power of communities of color exceeds $2 trillion dollars. Global opportunity markets are primarily countries populated by people of color.

GE_AAF6African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans will represent 90% of the projected population growth in the United States over the next 50 years. Given the importance of these communities to corporate profits, they should be proportionally represented at the decision‐making table, right? Yet white men comprise 71% of corporate board directors; women and minorities comprise 29%. White men comprise nearly 70% of executive team members (CEOs and direct reports). African Americans comprise just over 4%.  Black workers with a four-year bachelor’s degree earned 78% of the salary for comparably educated white workers. These statistics showcase systemic legacies that we have not fully addressed. There’s a lot more work to do.

The people we are working with at Walmart, General Electric, Diversity MBA, the League of Black Women, and others, are committed to addressing these systemic issues. We are committed to working with them and supporting them in their efforts.

2 responses to “Working with Corporate America on Issues of Race”

  1. Felicia Furman says:

    This is fantastic. Congratulations on your success.

  2. Mary Read Middleton says:

    The world needs more of these conversations.

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