Driving Action & Accountability on Black Equity in Corporate America
As originally published on LinkedIn.
The first presidential election of my lifetime was in 1968, the year that the landmark Civil Rights Act was signed into law, and the nation mourned the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. America has undergone profound change in the 52 years since then, but perhaps even more profound are the changes that have not taken place. We are living through another year where racial divides spark nationwide protests, and the wealth gap between Black middle-class Americans and white middle-class Americans remains where it was back in 1968. On average, you would have to combine the net worth of 11.5 Black American households to get the net worth of a typical White American household.
Legislative efforts to end overt racism within higher education, housing, and employment have claimed to make the American Dream available to anyone with determination. Yet, the “go to college + get a job” formula still yields poorer outcomes for Black Americans than White Americans. Despite earning a college degree, Black Americans have only 25% of the net worth of their white peers with college degrees and only 40% of that of White Americans without a college degree (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis).
After all of the changes we’ve made, why are we getting the same results? It comes down to a simple truth: employers are the most important pathways for all Americans to achieve social and economic mobility and financial stability. To make real progress, the solution goes beyond legislation and requires that we create pathways that are not just “accessible” for people of color but that “work” for people of color—in the same way that they’ve been working for White Americans for generations. It is time for employer America to address the systemic barriers that have led to racial inequalities in the workplace, which are more nuanced than overt discrimination but similarly pernicious—not just for their employees—but also for the communities in which they operate.
Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) understands how we got here and has the experience and vision to empower employers committed to driving real change. And, today, we’re launching the first-of-its-kind, clear standard and roadmap for companies that want to achieve Black equity: the MLT Black Equity at Work Certification.
Our solution—the MLT Black Equity at Work Certification—calls on corporate America to take a stand on the right side of racial equity. Traditional pathways to social and economic mobility do not work for everyone as they are built upon systems that have disadvantaged Black Americans when compared to their peers for decades.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, many CEOs and corporate leaders have heard from Black employees that their lived experiences with racism in the workplace radically diverge from the company’s stated values. In the past several months, dozens of companies have reached out to MLT, acknowledging that they were unsure about what to do to make real progress. The business leaders I hear from today genuinely want to make progress on creating equitable workplaces—they just don’t know how to do it.
The Certification starts at the foundation of this process, providing a clear standard of what “good” looks like to help employers shift from perpetuating the Black inequity problem to propelling the Black equity solution. Every employer, regardless of where they stand on their racial equity journey today, can commit to developing a plan with the same level of rigor and accountability required in all other areas of their business. Table stakes for standing on the right side of Black equity requires standing on the right side of rigor.
The truth is this: Black equity specifically and racial equity more broadly are achievable in any workplace whose leadership is committed and clear on how to proceed.
Through the Certification, employers commit to developing a rigorous plan and to making measurable progress in five core pillars focused on People, Purchasing, and Philanthropy:
- Black representation at every level
- Compensation equity
- Inclusive, anti-racist work environment
- Racially-just business practices
- Racial justice contributions and investments
This framework provides a foundation that will help employers advance racial equity more broadly, and we look forward to introducing our LatinX Equity at Work Certification next year.
It is my hope that when we look back in the coming years, this very moment today will have provided the catalyst needed to turn employer America’s good intentions into real progress toward widened pathways of opportunity for all, especially Black Americans.
Learn more about the MLT Black Equity at Work Certification here.
About Our Launch Employers
We’re proud to announce our launch employers, who are industry leaders from a range of sectors including America’s top corporations and leading philanthropies who have committed to taking the steps to become a certified Black equity workplace. This group includes Amazon, Bain Capital, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), DaVita, kyu Collective, Moody’s Corporation, PNC, Schusterman Foundation, ViacomCBS, Walker & Dunlop, WarnerMedia, and Workday.