I make it no secret that I’ve spent years and years inside of corporate America. In that time, I’ve gotten to repeatedly watch the same challenge that C-Suite executives have had to deal with regarding shareholder responsibility on earnings and profitability for their business. On top of that, there's always the topics of properly dealing with diversity in the workspace.
Funding Diversity Efforts
Now, let's just be honest, diversity has never been a priority for organizations. As a consultant now, I can see that very clearly because no one has the budget. There's never been any investment made into all people. Statistics aside, every executive knows that now the McKensey studies have come out. There's a huge, 35% double-digit financial outperformance for organizations and leadership teams that are both gender and racially diverse.
What companies have done is lean on the gender side of diversity because it's easier, and it's more comfortable for them to do. So once again, the people who are prospering on the backs of brown and black people are white women. They are now the statistic around diversity progress. They are the same people that are harming the brown and black people.
Profitability is Not Always the Trade-Off For Diversity
We have to tackle this problem differently. We have to start to deal with what's below the surface with all of that. What's important for me to communicate now out to the world is that it is not an either-or scenario. You don't have to trade off profitability in order to have people. You do have to do a lot of things differently.
Many people know I ran for public office in 2018. It was an eye-opening experience because even though I am considered a Democrat, the Democratic Party has its own issues with race. These are very public. But what is happening is I'm watching those leaders, at least here in Washington State, tackle what this all means.
I know Black Lives Matter was a big movement during 2020. But it seems like a lot of these corporations wanted to stay up with the fad and it’s faded pretty quickly in their eyes. I haven't received any follow-up emails or advertisements from these companies who initially touted BLM indicates that this mattered to them. I don't see it happening. It doesn't mean it's not happening. But, it’s not visible to the average person including blacks and browns in the corporate world.
I’m not trying to shame any of these companies that are missing the mark but I do see it in their advertisements. I'm a customer, as well as many other brown and black people of some of these organizations that have said, ‘Black Lives Matter’, such as a Nordstrom. But I haven't seen any ads that include the diversity and inclusion they say they stand for.
The message that they're conveying to the market is that my money doesn't matter. There is a movement happening where business is being redirected and brown and black communities are doing other things creatively to keep our dollars away from people who won't have us. There's that phrase that says ‘you can't have our money if you won't have us’.
How Everyone Can Win
The good news in all this is that I do believe fundamentally there's a way that both win. There's no shame in making money and no one’s judging you over money. What I am judging, however, is that you're not equitably providing an opportunity for capitalistic capitalism for brown and black people. So capitalism in this country is racial capitalism. It is not garnered towards brown and black people and yet here you are saying 'Black Lives Matter'.
There's a way that this can be done. When there is an investment made into everyone and when everyone prospers, the profits soar. There’s data that shows what this can do. I do believe that some companies are honestly trying to make a change but are uncomfortable. However, being uncomfortable is often what it requires to make a change.
To put it bluntly, the people that you have in leadership roles who are not equipped to address what's going on right now is problem number one. You have to get the right folks in and perhaps you’ve been trying but it’s through a recruiting mechanism.
Aligning Actions With Words
When recruiting Brown or Black people, we often look at what you represent, outside of your standard jargon. We want to know that we matter, and actions speak louder than words.
What message do you think that conveys to people like me? Where do you think we direct our dollars? What do you think we say about you? Things are changing and progressing on a much larger scale than just one company or corporation for that matter. Just look at what’s happening in politics.
The fact that we have now elected several more black women into our state legislature, the way that things have been done in the past (politically and for black and brown people) is not going to hold water. That said, I do not believe that if you support people that it means that we don't support business. That is an old mentality.
I believe that there is a space for businesses to prosper when all people prosper and that's the conversation we need to be having.
To learn more about what I’m doing in this line of work, continue to follow me on my website and social media. I'm also excited because I'm getting very close to releasing my book, The Color of Courage: Crushing Racism in Corporate America. I'm here to help businesses move this needle forward. I also look forward to hearing from you and continuing the conversation.
Cindi Bright is a Seattle based speaker and consultant on topics of race, diversity, and social justice. She hosts HeartBeat radio a weekly program discussing the issues impacting brown and black people. She spent over 30 years in corporate America as a human resources leader/executive. She is known for her candor, honesty, and humor. Her work is aimed at personal and business transformation.