Top Organizations to Receive Diversity and Inclusion Honors Award At Annual Conference

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The Association of ERGs & Councils (a practice group of PRISM International, Inc.) released their annual list of the Top 25 US Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), Business Resource Groups (BRGs) and Diversity Councils set to receive the tenth annual 2019 ERG & Council Honors Award™ at an award ceremony during the 2019 ERG & Council Conference in Orlando May 3rd.

The 2019 ERG & Council Honors Award™ is the only annual national award that recognizes and honors the outstanding contributions and achievements of ERGs, BRGs and Diversity Councils. It was established in 2008 by the Association of ERGs & Councils, a practice group of diversity and inclusion consulting and training firm PRISM International, Inc.

The 2019 ERG & Council Honors Award™ recipients are a diverse combination of US organizations representing most sectors, geographies and sizes. “This year we had a diverse pool of highly qualified applications representing 1,079 ERGs, BRGs, Diversity Councils and their chapters,” states Fernando Serpa, Executive Director of the Association of ERGs & Councils. “We also had several non-Top 25 groups demonstrate best practices and results that deserve to be recognized and they will be receiving the Spotlight Impact Award™ that highlights the achievements of these select groups in the categories of Organizational Impact, Talent Management and Culture of Inclusion.”

This year, for the first time, the Association of ERGs and Councils will bestow the honor of Top Executive Sponsor of the Year. “We wanted to recognize and call out the important role executive sponsors play in developing, supporting and enabling their ERGs and Councils to succeed,” Serpa said.

The 2019 ERG & Council Honors Award™ Top 25 recipient rankings will be revealed at the May 3 award ceremony at the Disney Yacht & Beach Club Resort in Orlando, Florida. The Award Ceremony and Conference is open to all diversity and inclusion professionals involved with ERGs,  BRGs and Councils.  This is a great opportunity for individuals to learn and share best practices, network, grow and celebrate, to become inspired and be renewed…all for the purpose of increasing their impact on key organizational and business objectives. Learn more by visiting ErgCouncilConference.com.

The 2019 ERG & Council Honors Award™ recipients in alphabetical order include:

  • American Airlines – American Airlines Diversity Advisory Council
  • Atrium Health – Atrium Health Divisional Diversity Councils
  • Bank of America – Military Support & Assistance Group ( MSAG)
  • Cleveland Clinic – ClinicPride Employee Resource Group (ClinicPride ERG)
  • Cleveland Clinic – Military/Veterans Employee Resource Group
  • Cleveland Clinic – SALUD
  • Davenport University – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council
  • Entergy Corporation – Entergy Employee Resource Group
  • Erie Insurance – Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council
  • Froedtert Health – Froedtert Health Diversity Council
  • General Motors – General Motors Employee Resource Group Council
  • KeyBank – Key Business Impact and Networking Groups
  • Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals – Mallinckrodt Inclusion & Diversity Council
  • Mount Sinai Queens, part of the Mount Sinai Health System – Mount Sinai Queens Diversity Council
  • Mount Sinai St. Luke’s, part of the Mount Sinai Health System – Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Diversity Council
  • National Guard – Joint Diversity Executive Council
  • Northern Trust Corporation – Advancing Professionals Resource Council (APRC)
  • Northern Trust Corporation – Women In Leadership Business Resource Council (WIL BRC)
  • Northwestern Mutual – Asian ERG
  • Northwestern Mutual – Northwestern Mutual Women’s Employee Resource Group
  • Novant Health – Asian Business Resource Group
  • PNC Financial Services Group – Corporate Diversity Council
  • State Street Corporation – Professional Women’s Network – Massachusetts Chapter (PWN-MA)
  • Texas Instruments – Texas Instruments Diversity Network (TIDN)
  • Turner, Inc. – Turner Business Resource Groups
  • U.S. Bank – Spectrum LGBTQ Business Resource Group
  • U.S. Bank – U.S. Bank Proud to Serve

The 2019 Spotlight Impact Award™ recipients in alphabetical order include:

  • Dominion Energy – Dominion Energy Executive Diversity Council (EDC)
  • FedEx Services – Diversity and Inclusion BRT Council
  • Food Lion – Diversity and Inclusion
  • MUFG Union Bank, N.A. – Women’s Initiative Network (WIN)
  • Summa Health – Diversity and Advisory Council

The 2019 Executive Sponsor of the Year recipients in alphabetical order:

  • FedEx Services Diversity and Inclusion BRT Council – Rebecca Huling
  • Perdue Farms Inclusion Council – Randy Day
  • Southern California Edison Company (SCE) Women’s Roundtable (WR) – Maria Rigatti
  • U.S. Bank Proud to Serve – Mike Ott

About the ERG & Council Honors Award™
The ERG & Council Honors Award™ is the only annual national award that recognizes, honors and celebrates the outstanding contributions and achievements of ERGs, BRGs and Diversity Councils that lead the diversity and inclusion process in their organizations and demonstrate results in their workforce, workplace and marketplace. Learn more by visiting ERG & Council Honors Award™.

About the ERG & Council Conference™
ERGs and Diversity Councils are vital links for improving organizational results. However, to remain impactful and effective, they need opportunities to increase their skills and knowledge and to learn and share best practices. They need opportunities to network, celebrate and grow. This is the purpose of the only annual conference designed specifically for ERGs, BRGs and Diversity Councils. Learn more by visiting ERGCouncilConference.com.

About the Association of ERGs & Councils
The Association of ERGs & Councils is a practice group of PRISM International Inc. and the premier resource for transforming Employee Resource Groups, Diversity Councils and Employee Network Groups to impact key organizational and business objectives. Learn more by visiting the ErgCouncil.com.

About PRISM International, Inc.
PRISM International Inc., a Talent Dimensions company, is a WBENC-certified, full-service provider of innovative and proven consulting, training and products for leveraging diversity and inclusion, addressing unconscious bias, increasing cross-cultural competencies and creating more effective ERGs and Diversity Councils. Learn more by visiting PrismDiversity.com

Magic Johnson will provide $100 million to fund loans to minority-owned businesses

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Magic Johnson in a business suit

Magic Johnson may no longer be playing in the NBA, but the Hall of Fame member is still making valuable assists. Johnson announced that EquiTrust Life Insurance Co., of which he owns a majority, is providing $100 million in capital to fund federal loans for minority and women business owners who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

EquiTrust will work with MBE Capital Partners, a lender that specializes in asset-based loans for minority-owned small businesses, to distribute the loans through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.

The loans are aimed at supporting people of color and women who operate businesses in underserved communities, according to a news release.

The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

“These are incredible businesses, small businesses, that have been the pillar of our community that also employ a lot of black and brown people in our community,” Johnson said Sunday on MSNBC. “… We wanted to make sure that minority-owned businesses got small business loans through the PPP program.”

Concerns about people of color accessing loans

The partnership was borne out of a concern that women and people of color were having difficulty accessing the loans offered by the Small Business Administration’s emergency coronavirus relief program — part of the federal government’s massive stimulus package.

“Johnson’s EquiTrust is providing critical financial support to underserved communities and businesses that have been traditionally neglected,” EquiTrust and MBE Capital Partners said in a joint news release. “These small and diverse businesses often have difficulty developing strong lending relationships with big banks.”

The goal is to help 100,000 businesses secure resources that will sustain them through the pandemic, MBE Capital CEO Rafael Martinez said on MSNBC.

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

Meet Brittney Nicole: Navy Veteran Turned Fashion Entrepreneur

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A clothes rack filled with women's coats

Transitioning from military life back into civilian life is a challenge for any veteran. While there are many different approaches in choosing a career, one U.S. Navy Veteran decided that she would approach her career choice by following her passions.

Always having a love for fashion, Brittney Nicole decided to open her own clothing business, Coco’s Wardrobe, upon her retirement from the U.S. Navy.  The New Orleans based boutique designs, manufactures, and sells women’s clothing that is meant to look as good as they feel, blending comfort with style. All of the clothing in Nicole’s shop has a women’s desire to feel confident and comfortable at the forefront of everything that is produced.

In addition, Nicole has also began selling uniquely designed face masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meet UCLA’s First African American Athletic Director

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Martin Jarmond in a suit speaking at a conference

Martin Jarmond, the first and most recent athletic director at Boston College and the youngest director to ever be in the Power Five Conferences, will be breaking another record with his newest position.

On May 17, it was announced that Martin Jarmond will become the new athletic director of UCLA. This will make Jarmond the first African American man to hold the position in the school’s 101-year history.

Having an extensive background in sports both on the court and in his studies, Jarmond has quickly been able to move up the ladder of sports administration and is speculated to be the perfect fit to help UCLA fix the financial debt of the previous year’s $18.9 million deficit.

Continue on to the L.A. Times’ Website to read the complete article.

Photo Credit: Stephen Senne/Associated Press

United Airlines appoints First African American President

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Brett J. Hart headshot

Chicago based United Airlines announced Brett J. Hart as the company’s President. The number two leadership role being filled by Mr. Hart is part of the company’s leadership succession plan that was announced in early December.

“I am honored and energized as I take on these new responsibilities to lead this incredible team that I am convinced will build United into a thriving industry leader,” Hart said. “The path forward will not be easy, but I am confident that Scott and I will continue our partnership to lead United through the extraordinary challenge posed by COVID-19. United’s bright future is only possible because of the commitment of the most talented airline professionals in the world who serve United and our customers every single day – and I could not be prouder of them.

Hailing from the southside of Chicago Brett J. Hart was educated at the University of Michigan and received a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Chicago Law School. Hart is the first African American to become President of United Airlines in the airline’s 94-year history.

Hart was a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in Chicago. Before that, he served as a special assistant to the general counsel at the U.S. Department of Treasury in Washington, D.C. Later he would go on to work for the Sara Lee Corporation as the executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, where he directed global legal operations. Hart joined United Airlines in 2010. Over his 10-year career with United Hart has taken on significant responsibilities within the company. Hart has previously worked as Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer for the company. In 2015 he stepped in and served as interim CEO for six months while the then CEO Munoz recovered from a heart transplant.

As President of United, Hart will continue to lead the company’s public advocacy strategy, including the Government Affairs, Corporate Communications, Legal and Community Engagement teams. He will also continue to oversee business-critical functions like the Corporate Real Estate team and manage United’s industry-leading environmental sustainability efforts. His responsibilities will expand to include managing the Human Resources and Labor Relations teams.

Hart taking this position comes as he, along with other executives, are waiving their salaries for a time as the company struggles financially. Like others in the airline industry, United is trying to deal with the losses from Covid-19.

Continue on to Chicago Defender to read the complete article.

How Sean Combs is Supporting and Protecting Small Businesses

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Sean Combs "Diddy" headshot

On April 23, Sean Combs, previously known as “Diddy” in the music industry, released his newest project, Our Fair Share, which aims to help minority-owned businesses obtain the materials needed to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

A benefit that primarily goes to businesses that have the proper “connections,” Combs wants to ensure the small businesses that we love and depend on have the same opportunities as the bigger corporations.
“COVID-19 is devastating our communities, and without access to stimulus funding, we risk losing critical businesses that create jobs and help build opportunities and wealth in our communities,” said Combs. “I created Our Fair Share to help entrepreneurs play on an even playing field and give them a chance to survive with the hope to thrive.”

To do this, Combs’ new program has teamed up with National Bankers Association, a group that represents minority-owned financial institutions. Through Our Fair Share, the National Bank Association can connect their clients to financial technology companies that will be able to provide the PPP materials and loans needed.

To learn more about Our Fair Share, its origin, and its purposes, click here for the full press release.

Proof that Diversity and Inclusion Must Continue Now more than Ever

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Diverse Equality Gender Innovation Management Concept

Publishers Note: These last few weeks have been anything but normal. Many, including DiversityComm, have taken to working from home, and it’s difficult to not worry about the future. As the days go on, I’ve been facing the reality that life in COVID-19 has become a new normal of sorts and the possibility of a recession isn’t completely off the table.

Having been in the business for over thirty years and the complications that came with the 2008 and 2011 recessions as well as the events of September 11, 2001, I have learned that diversity and inclusion are and continue to be the keys to keeping business moving. Studies show that racially diverse companies are 35% more likely to see an increase in financial returns in comparison with their competitors while companies that have a more cultural and ethical variation in their boards are 43% more likely to experience a higher income. Groups of diverse thinkers of three or more members have also tested to be more successful than an individual 87% of the time.

All of this being said, how does this work? And how do these diverse connections keep business working?

  • Have Empathy
    1. COVID-19 is hard on everyone, but other groups of people will be experiencing this in a different way than others. Check in on your clients and employees on how they are doing during this time. Listen to what they say and educate yourself on how this situation is affecting their lives. People want to work with people who truly care about who they are and understand them on a real, human level. When they feel like they are genuinely being heard and cared for, they will remember your willingness to help and want to strengthen their connection with you. The same goes for employees. When employees feel they are being cared for, they are encouraged to increase work efficiency and less likely to contribute to the turnover rate.
  • Re-Focus Your Goals
    1. As the world seems to be on “pause” lately, this is the perfect opportunity to plan for the future. What projects and aspects can you invest in now to setup your business for a higher success rate in the future? Once you refocus your goals and have a plan for what projects you want to carry out, then you can start building a team of qualified individuals. You will want a team of people that have expertise in a variety of areas so that every aspect of the project will go above and beyond the call of duty. If your team consists of a group that all have the same background, culture and life experience, the chances that something will be left out will increase. Will your project be accessible? Does it meet the standards in every area? A diverse group can ensure that all these questions are handled.
  • Learn and Grow
    1. It’s easy to look at your past experience, available data and old traditions as a template for how to run your business. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it is critical that we continue to learn and grow with the times. We are in a digital age and there are so many opportunities that can be seized through it. Though a digital form of business was almost nonexistent several decades ago, the willingness to keep up with the times is key for a business in today’s age to succeed.  Listening to a variety of opinions from varying backgrounds and experiences will not only show you how to more effectively work your business, but will increase creativity and innovation in the workplace. The more educated we become, the more expanded our ideas and strategies will become.

The times are changing and uncertain, but when we focus on our team, employees, clients, partners, and connections while keeping an open mind to the changing times, we will succeed and we will get through this. We find strength in diversity and inclusion.

The Minority Business Development Agency Announces New Inner City Innovation Hub Grant Competition

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mbda

The U.S. Department of Commerce and Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) recently announced the award of two competitive grants for the launch and operation of the Minority Business Enterprise Inner City Innovation HUBs.

MBDA intends to award $2.8M over two years to support and fuel economic innovation of minority-owned start-up businesses and entrepreneurs in inner cities and urban areas in any U.S. state or U.S. territory with high concentrations of minority populations and minority business enterprises

“The Trump Administration is doing its part to support economic growth by providing access to capital in communities with the greatest needs,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “We are tremendously proud of the Minority Business Enterprise Inner City Innovation Hub initiative to spur entrepreneurship in inner cities and economically distressed neighborhoods.”

The minority population of the United States is 129 million, or 38 percent of the total U.S. population. Although 38 percent of the population in the U.S. is minority, only 19 percent of businesses are minority-owned.[1] In inner cities, 76 percent of the population is minority, but only 23% of all inner city businesses are minority-owned.[2]

“Minority-owned businesses are increasingly representing the core of economic activity in the major metropolitan areas, so it is critically important we provide them with the resources and funding they need to grow and stay competitive in the global economy,” said Henry Childs II, MBDA National Director.  “MBDA is trying to create critical ecosystems for minority-owned businesses in major metropolitan areas by supporting existing organizations and leveraging private sector capital at the local level.”

MBDA is seeking proposals that support research and technology transfer, digital innovation, use of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and entrepreneurship in support of minority-owned start-ups and entrepreneurs with innovative products or services.

Applications are due May 15, 2020. More information can be found on at grants.gov or https://www.mbda.gov/page/grants-and-loans. A pre-application teleconference will be conducted April 29, 2020 at 2:00 PM ET to provide background information and answer questions about the program and application process. Details are on .mbda.gov.

About the MBDA: 

The U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency (www.mbda.gov) is the only federal agency solely dedicated to fostering the growth and global competitiveness of U.S. minority business enterprises.  MBDA programs are focused on economic empowerment and leading minority business enterprises through business transformation. For 50 years, MBDA has helped minority-owned firms get access to capital, contracts, build scale and capacity, and expand into new markets.

The More Diverse the Management, the Higher the Profits

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A group of diverse employees looking and writing on a whiteboard

By Stacey A. Gordon

A financial study of 1,000 large companies by McKinsey & Co. found that the more diverse the management, the higher the profits, compared with companies composed of less diversity.

Companies in the top 25 percent with the most ethnic executives outperformed other firms with profits 33 percent higher than those in the bottom 25 percent with fewer ethnic workers. Firms more inclusive of women in management showed 21 percent more revenue than those with fewer women in executive roles.

Corporate hiring and training in the field of Unconscious Bias and Diversity and Inclusion is on the rise. Before Virgin America was purchased by Alaska Airlines, they offered my LinkedIn Learning course on Unconscious Bias in their in-flight entertainment to spread awareness of workplace diversity—which can be a difficult subject to talk about at work.

Approximately 96 percent of men enjoy executive positions where they unconsciously promote other men. Given even a slight 1 percent bias in favor of males, research shown in the Unconscious Bias course determines that promoting men over and over due to unconscious bias can leave women and minorities losing out approximately 60 percent via promotions over 20 years. This costs companies not only money, multicultural expertise, and outlook in our global economy, but also compels experienced female employees to opt out when they learn how certain companies select candidates. The Unconscious Bias course opens our minds to how we filter out the biases we’ve grown up with and the complicity of the treatment we see happening in the workplace.

So how do we succeed in hiring a more diverse workforce, while ensuring employees feel like they belong in the environment?

The first step is to be aware of language. As an example, I participated in a Diversity and Inclusion Summit where one of the speakers, a CEO of a large insurance company, was asked how she ensures the company’s recruiters employ hiring practices that result in diverse candidates. She stated there was no need to do anything differently because experienced and skilled candidates will apply and make their way through the system—because those hiring look solely at skills—not race or ethnicity. Yet, the fact that there are so few black, Latino or LGBT employees at her company is not due to a lack of skill. The meritocracy argument has been proven time and time again to be a feeble excuse for maintaining the status quo. Unconscious bias creeps into our review process as well as our decision-making by giving us the impression we’re being fair, when really, we are making assumptions. Assuming a candidate deliberately omitted information rather than simply forgot is one way our language betrays us. As an alternative, to “It’s unfortunate that you lied,” try, “This probably was an oversight.”

The second step in gaining greater awareness is to stop assuming that hiring women and hiring professionals of color check the same box. If every time the word “diversity” is mentioned at your company, you are actually talking about “women,” then it’s time to broaden your outlook.

When I was a manager at a Fortune 100 financial services company, I was the only black female manager on the entire west coast, and only one of three black managers. I dreaded participating in the management retreats because the only time anyone would listen to me was when I spoke about the Women in Financial Services annual event. No one seemed to care that my management style resulted in the recruitment and retention of one of the most diverse and profitable teams in our division. I wanted to be recognized for my successful contribution to the company’s bottom line, not simply because I was spearheading a women’s event. Our voices need to be heard, and we want to be noticed for our contributions, not merely for the box we check at a company gathering or on an EEOC report.

Third, don’t be the organization that makes statements like “I don’t want to lower the bar.” It’s insulting and racist by definition. What can be inferred from this statement is that the person hiring does not want to deviate from the current organizational structure or process because “It has worked so far.”

The bonus phrase, “We just want a good fit” is just as disastrous. It can be replaced with “We can’t find any qualified [Black, Latino, Asian, female, LGBT, disabled or veteran] applicants.” But the result is the same. No change.

Why change at all? To avoid the blunders we see repeated around the globe, to reap the financial benefits of diverse workforce and to create an inclusive organization that isn’t lowering the bar, but raising standards of behavior for everyone, leadership included.

We all want to work somewhere that makes us feel that we belong. If you’d like your company to be one of those workplaces, maybe it’s time to review your policies, your goals and your behavior toward current and future employees. By stopping to reflect on how you can think and act differently, you will be well on your way to cultivating a more diverse workforce.

African Roots is a Big Part of the Roots Java Coffee Company

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Three bags of Root Coffee sitting in a bowl with balls made of twine

African Bean Company is the first nationally certified, African-American-owned coffee supply company providing national distribution. The company’s coffee is branded Roots Java Coffee.

From small communities on the Mississippi Delta to Brownstones in Harlem, African Americans have historically been devoted coffee consumers—helping to drive this multi-billion-dollar industry. African Bean Company, founded in 2010 by Dr. Fitzgerald Hill, is making history as he and his partner, Clifton L. Taulbert (President & CEO) ensure that African Americans are now on the owner/supply side of the industry.

The company’s rich tasting coffees are the result of beans grown by independent Rwandan farmers in the fertile, high mountain region of the country. These farmers, many of whom survived the horrific genocide, are now transforming their lives and their country by growing and harvesting the most sought-after coffee beans in the world.

Taulbert, who heads the operations of this national company, always smiles when asked about their market receptivity. “It’s not easy to tackle a market that is dominated by major international corporations with little or no room for a start-up company to play,” Taulbert said. “However, African Bean Company is here for the long haul. Using entrepreneurial tactics and plain ol’ hard work, they are making their way into homes (Online) with their signature 12 oz. bags of Ground and Whole Bean, along with their cases of filter and fractional packs for hospitals, country clubs, restaurants, and academic institutions commercially delivered across America. The premium brand’s smooth taste is rapidly becoming a highly sought-after item for holidays and special occasion gift giving and corporate gifts by loyal customers worldwide.”

Taulbert spoke to Black EOE Journal about his journey and his advice for black entrepreneurs:

“While growing up on the Mississippi Delta, embracing Entrepreneurial Thinking (ET) was a necessity if one were to move beyond the cotton fields that sought to define our lives. I was fortunate in that ET became part of my life early on—though simply called gumption—through the life lessons I learned at the Glen Allan Ice House, which was owned by my Uncle Cleve. Watching him chart this ownership path for himself was not lost on me. I wanted what I saw. As a young man who was part of the last migration North, gumption came North with me and eventually to Oklahoma. And to that extent allowed my company to be part of the Oklahoma team that introduced the then unknown Stairmaster Exercise System to the world.

Years later, my involvement with Stairmaster caught the attention of Dr. Fitz Hill, who convinced me if I could sell Stairmasters that no one wanted, surely, I could sell coffee. The rest is history; we became partners, and I became the president and CEO of African Bean Company LLC. Just as with Stairmaster, I knew nothing about coffee, but I learned at the Ice House that learning more is living life.

African Bean Company is a great story of unselfish leadership and the diversification of the coffee supply chain. This business has taught me more than imagined. The journey is long between the Beans of Rwanda and your cup of Java. Aligned with an incredible international supply chain—our beans are sourced from the country of Rwanda. Our company is self-funded, which has its restrictions, but we are creative and innovative. Uncle Cleve had to be…owning the only Ice House in a strictly segregated community. I packed his mindset in my small suitcase more than 40 years ago, and it continues to serve me well.

One of our entrepreneurial stories is having the opportunity to provide our coffee on a regular basis to Virgin Islanders for their growing retail coffee businesses. And not to forget BMW, who chooses to use our coffee each year at their North American Headquarters when they host their national supply diversity conference. Our Roots Java brand has become their brew of choice. One of our well-kept secrets is that we value hard work and keep our word to our growing customer base. We are moving out of the start-up phase with great hope for the future.

My advice to entrepreneurs about succeeding in their businesses and in life are five strategic tips that we share globally:

  1. Embrace inquisitiveness
  2. Accelerate your imagination
  3. Question your present reality
  4. Choose the right mindset
  5. 5. Ensure the presence of RAI in all you do: Respect, Affirmation & Inclusion

My greatest dream will be the day when no one is surprised that we exist.

I want every young African American to fully understand that they are endowed with the qualities that are essential for global success. Uncle Cleve could only go so far…but he left me the blueprint to go further. In 2010, Uncle Cleve became a book that is now on nearly every continent and was the subject of my talk at an international innovation conference held in the Assembly Hall of the United Nations. The book to clearly understand that the impossible is possible is, Who Owns the Ice House? Read the story while drinking your cup of Roots Java Coffee…the taste unforgettable.”

Source: Black PR Wire

Diversity as a Competitive Advantage

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A collage of multi-colored crayons

By Jawn Lam, Ed.D. and Le Anne Harper

You may have heard this adage: “Problems can’t be solved by using the same kind of thinking that created them.” When we apply this principle to organizational workforce planning, it means a perpetual stream of fresh perspectives is an absolute must if businesses want to stay agile in a dynamic market. Accordingly, talent management strategies should proactively seek diverse perspectives. This concept intuitively feels right, however, it isn’t always easily accomplished. Let’s take a deeper dive into the business case for diversity to understand why attracting and inspiring new perspectives is a true competitive advantage in a competitive marketplace.

Contention Can Be a Good Thing
A study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Stanford showed that heterogeneous groups generate more ideas than their homogeneous counterparts do. But the upside doesn’t stop there. Creativity is only one advantage of a diverse team. The researchers found the two types of groups tackled problems differently, not only with the number of proposed ideas for final implementation but also in their approach to the initial analysis process.

Sure, a group of like-minded individuals can work more economically and produce deliverables more quickly than a motley crew can. When you and your colleagues are synchronized in your work style and thinking patterns, it’s easier to distribute workloads and trust the outcome will be as you expect. Familiarity has benefits. It reduces stress and puts everyone at ease. But there’s a tradeoff to that amiability.

Among groups of like-minded individuals, the study identified the following common behavioral pattern. When someone has an idea (on how to approach the analysis or solve the problem), everyone else quickly agrees. No one else questions. There is little, if any, contention. And if there is no contention, there can be no synthesis. And without the synthesis of thoughts, there will only ever be one perspective. Innovation cannot grow in that type of infertile ground.

Authentic Innovation
Collaborating with people who have similar values, priorities, and perspectives will reduce cognitive friction in our workflow. It’s much easier to interface with an agreeable clique. There are appropriate times for those types of monolithic groups. When speed and efficiency are of paramount importance, such as times of crisis, you want a well-trained team that operates like a deployed special forces unit.

Typically, the introduction of new members into a group jostles the dynamic, making working in a diverse group more cognitively expensive. The costs come in the form of the lag and debate that emerge as interpretations and interests are tested and argued as a result of this divergent thinking. The natural reaction to the dissonance felt in polarized settings is to raise shields and adopt a stance of self-preservation. However, over time, the interactions will find a steady state as long as we take a step back from the intensity of emotionally uncomfortable scenarios. We can then reap the benefits of heterogeneous groups: robust ideation, more authentic social connection, and innovation.

There is a misconception that new members are the fountain of fresh perspectives for a stale group, but the researchers discovered this is not always the case. Still, while new members may not be the sole source of novel ideas, they are often the catalyst that unlocks everyone else’s stagnant creative juices.

The Collective vs. The Individual
Knowing this, let’s embrace the value of our differences and exploit their advantages for our collective benefit rather than conforming to existing corporate norms. Magic happens when we all accept that there is not a single person in the organization (no matter how smart or how high in the org chart) who has a monopoly on truth or genius. Once we accept that no one individual will ever be as good as the collective “us”, then we can level up our organizational capabilities.

Companies that want to win the race aren’t leaving this to chance. They’re engaging external experts to facilitate diversity transformations, including educating the C-suite and gaining buy-in, training and empowering line managers and their HR partners to drive cultural change. In our in-house work building D&I programs in corporate America and external consulting, we’ve seen companies make deep and meaningful commitments to diversity and inclusion that extend well beyond legal compliance and positive PR. Some companies are creating D&I programs from scratch and others are creating headcount to ensure company-wide, ongoing diversity inculcation.

Many of our clients realize the practical value of this diversity work and engage us strategically to advance their internal efforts. In recent years, entertainment companies have come under fire for inaccurate casting choices (aka whitewashing) and stereotypical, derogatory depictions of various minority groups. They leveraged our expertise to identify and introduce them to diverse creative professionals from under-represented talent pools who could add authentic first-person legitimacy to their narratives. In less than 3 months we found more than one hundred film, television, and digital creatives who represented new possibilities for one studio client—LGBTQ, female, LatinX, and African American perspectives. With a bold, but simple, commitment, an exclusive hiring legacy was disrupted, horizons were broadened, and the studio’s trajectory changed for the better.

Tangible Benefits
This studio’s leadership recognized that far beyond diversity being just a “politically correct” value to embrace, this was an investment in tangible revenue opportunities. According to the MPAA’s 2018 report, per capita movie attendance in 2017 was highest among Latinx and Asian audiences. At the time, the highest-grossing superhero movie ever was Black Panther; this record-setting film, with a predominantly black cast, cost approximately $200 million to make and grossed more than $1.3 billion to date. Further validating the viewing audience’s appetite for diverse perspectives, Frozen II, Disney’s animated sequel featuring two female leads, has grossed more than $1.2B in the months since its release.

Well trained leaders and industry experts know how to draw out the mixed experiences of each individual on the team to everyone’s advantage. Helping each person understand where everyone else is coming from requires more time and patience, but the ROI is well worth it. Companies are finally capitalizing on the profound financial and business benefits offered by well-managed diversity efforts.

Leveraging Your Diversity
Left unmanaged, differences in education level, economic status, gender, race, cultural background, upbringing, personal value systems, and a variety of other factors can become reasons for division or excuses to maintain the status quo. However, with the right internal framework, organizational awareness, and leadership support, those diversity dimensions can instead become compelling competitive advantages that lead to greater organizational performance.
If you’re ready to take a closer look at how effectively you’re leveraging diversity as a competitive advantage, here are some questions for you to consider:
● Legal compliance is the price of admission for companies to stay in the game. What does  your company do above and beyond what’s mandatory to enable and inspire new ideas  and drive innovation?
● If you assess each business unit in your organization, how balanced and varied is the mix  of perspectives? What can you do to shape your line manager’s practices, beliefs, and  comfort levels around diversity to ensure maximum performance and contribution of  everyone on the team?
● How well-equipped are your leaders to identify, attract, and retain diverse and under- represented talent?
● Do your brand and marketing efforts convey a commitment to inclusive hiring?
● What existing internal resources, external advisors, and best practices can you leverage to  evolve your company’s diversity efforts and ensure long-term viability and competitive  advantage?

Jawn Lam is an organizational effectiveness consultant with expertise in change management and leadership development who helps companies strengthen their vulnerable corporate governance policies. His professional passion is helping leaders navigate enterprise politics, obtain legitimate authority, and sustain organizational influence which he does as Principal Strategist at DurableLeadership.com.

Le Anne Harper leads the Diversity & Inclusion practice at Katalyst Group, a talent advisory firm that finds unicorns and purple squirrels for industry-leading companies like The Gap, Samsung, Nike, and Sony. She is a talent consultant and diversity evangelist who has spent 20 years helping companies transform and thrive by recruiting and cultivating the world’s best talent.

Black women entrepreneurs, ESSENCE + Pine-Sol want to help you take your business to the next level

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Goldman Sachs Turns Its Sights On Black And Latinx Founders With New Entrepreneurship Program

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The investment bank announced its inaugural black and Latinx entrepreneur cohort, part of Launch With GS, its $500 million commitment to allocate capital to companies with diverse leadership.

Less than 3% of venture dollars went to female-led companies in 2019. For black and Latinx founders, that number dropped to 1%. Combining both factors, less than 1% of funding was directed to black or Latinx women-founded companies.

“That seems like a real misallocation of capital,” says Jemma Wolfe, head of Launch With GS. “So for us [Goldman Sachs], this is clearly an investment opportunity.”

The entrepreneur cohort program is a customized, 8-week virtual workshop with access too specialists across Goldman Sachs’ investment banking and research teams, curriculum on various subjects, such as market predictions, branded marketing, and legal expertise, as well as Goldman Sachs’ sprawling network of Fortune 500 companies, leading startup advisers and executives within the venture ecosystem.

Selected applicants will also collaborate closely with the program’s external advisory council, featuring the likes of Jennifer Hyman, CEO and cofounder of Rent the Runway, and Jewel Burks Solomon, head of Google for Startups in the U.S. and a 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree.

“Goldman is just one organization. We can’t do it along and we shouldn’t do it alone. There are a lot of incredible VCs and investors who are focused on this space and we really wanted to tap into the strength of that community and the work that everyone is doing,” Wolfe says.

At the culmination of the program, attendees will participate in an invite-only investor showcase, with attendees ranging from Goldman Sachs’ private clients to institutional clients, family offices and other venture firms.

“Whether or not these companies are looking for capital, we think it’s really important for them to be able to start building those relationships with investors early,” says Wolfe. “Even when thinking about our investing business, we always tell entrepreneurs that the time to get to know us is 12 months before you might actually need to engage. Really build those relationships over time.”

To be eligible, applicants but must own and operate a fintech, enterprise software, consumer or healthcare company based in the U.S. and have a 2020 projected annual run-rate revenue of at least $1 million.

This diversity initiative comes just one month after Goldman Sachs’ CEO, David Solomon, announced that the firm will no longer carry out IPOs for companies without at least one diverse board candidate. Since the start of Launch With GS, nearly two years ago, the company has invested $230 million globally.

“Our thesis is that if you invest in businesses with diverse management teams, they will outperform their peers,” Wolfe says. “But our long-term goal is for initiatives like Launch With GS to not exist anymore because the way people access capital, the way entrepreneurs are evaluated and the way investors think about their portfolio has become a more diverse and equal process that’s deeply embedded.”

Applications for the black and Latinx entrepreneurs cohort close on April 17, 2020.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

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