More than 50 years after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act answered the call for equal opportunity in the nation's workplace; opportunity remains elusive for far too many. African Americans lead only .8 percent of America’s Fortune 500 companies and represent a mere seven percent ownership of all U.S. businesses, yet still remain strikingly over-represented in the low-wage workforce. And in Chicago, where the majority of the population is non-white, the workforce diversity in the city does not fully reflect its population.
We must, therefore, hold a mirror up to challenge the traditional ways businesses operate and embrace race equity strategies to intentionally dismantle entrenched barriers to opportunity. For while it is widely accepted that the color of money is green, the more pressing question is what is the color of business? We will explore the answer to that question.
Despite ample evidence that having a diverse workforce is a competitive differentiator – increasing innovation, market share and profitability – a look at hiring across business sectors shows that while companies have made public commitments to racial diversity, many haven’t taken effective steps to bring about lasting change.
As Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments, said during her influential TED Talk, Be Color Brave, Not Color Blind, “Imagine if I walked you into a room and it was of a major corporation, like ExxonMobil, and every single person around the boardroom were black, you would think that were weird. But if I walked you into a Fortune 500 company, and everyone around the table is a white male, when will it be that we think that's weird too?” Success at achieving diversity will be when we no longer ask if we are diverse enough, because it has become the standard, not the exception.
On Wednesday, May 24, 2017, the Chicago Urban League will present its annual SUMMIT Luncheon – Centennial Edition at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Avenue from 11:30a.m. - 1:30p.m. This year’s theme is “The Color of Business” and features Ms. Hobson as the keynote speaker. While highlighting the successes of local intrepid individuals who have made a meaningful impact on diversifying the city’s business sector, we will discuss strategic ways that organizations can actively engage the full color spectrum in their organizations.