The Executive Leadership Council Legacy Initiative Releases Guidance for Corporations to Fulfill Corporate Workplace Diversity Commitments
Actions include public policy advocacy, company structure and culture building, and adopting accountability partners to achieve racial equity for Black executives
WASHINGTON DC, December 9, 2021 – Today, The Executive Leadership Council (ELC), released “Beyond Promises to Progress: Black CEOs and C-Suite Officers Speak Out on Diversity,” a paper which calls on corporate CEOs to sustain their pronounced commitments to racial equity in their workforce through meaningful advocacy and accountability in their organizations. The ELC is the preeminent global membership organization for Black current and former CEOs, senior executives, and board members of Fortune 1000 and equivalent companies, top-tier entrepreneurs, and global thought leaders.
The paper, which has been designed to provide a roadmap towards real progress, was developed through interviews conducted with 17 former CEOs and current and former C-Suite executives, and outlines a series of actions, including change through public policy advocacy, company structure and culture building, and adopting accountability partners, and seeks to help companies meaningfully address the lack of increased diversity and representation throughout corporate America, at every level.
The insights provided by interviewees resulted in the recommendations outlined. These include key actions that corporate leadership can take that would lead to more accountability-driven Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) plans and metrics, such as more board oversight and governance, stronger ties to compensation, improved succession planning, and a sharper focus on employee engagement, vendor programs, and philanthropy initiatives.
“As the Black community is still reeling from the murder of George Floyd and others, as well as the ongoing social and economic impacts of the pandemic, The ELC believes it is imperative upon us as Black corporate leaders to ensure that we continue to reveal the ongoing systemic challenges that are inhibiting true progress towards racial equity and justice in corporate America,” said The ELC CEO Michael C. Hyter. “More importantly, we believe it is our duty to present a roadmap that will effect change and instill accountability for the promises that were made in the wake of that tragedy.”
Leaders from The Executive Leadership Council Legacy Initiative and those interviewed for the paper agreed that DEI plans must not exist in a silo, but rather as an integral part of an organization’s operations if it is to succeed. That means a strategic approach that includes a clear vision, measurable objectives, strategic imperatives, tracking, metrics, clear accountabilities and follow up over a sustained timeframe.
“There needs to be a comprehensive structure, no matter what the component parts are of
the company’s plan. It must include all the people at the company, the CEO, board of directors, C-suite executives and managers, and the professionals. In addition to people, it must include the purchases of all goods and services, both with vendors and providers of professional services. And it must include all corporate giving,” said Ira Hall, Founding Chair of The ELC CEO Diversity Summit, and decades long member of several corporate boards.
In addition to the stark social and economic inequities that have been highlighted over the past 18 months, those interviewed cited a number of other sobering problems plaguing corporate America in this realm, chief among them, having to carry the burden of solving the organization’s diversity issues in addition to performing their own jobs and the need to carry out all of those functions better than their non-Black peers.
“One of the things that I think we as senior Black executives deal with in our organizations is that we often play multiple roles. We are encouraged to take on additional responsibilities for social justice efforts in addition to our day jobs. We are taught throughout our careers that we have to do all of these things well and better than anybody else has ever done them. And we also have to do these things in our spare time.”
– Mark Tatum, National Basketball Association (NBA) deputy commissioner & COO
One of the paper’s core action items focuses on the need for companies to be more involved and vocal when it comes to advocating and fighting for policy issues that affect the basic rights of Black Americans, such as a slew of voter suppression bills that are being advanced in more than 40 states across the country.
“My view is that voting is the lifeblood of our democracy, and the reality is if our vote is suppressed, any American’s vote is suppressed, that’s a problem. For Black Americans, the pathway for our success in many respects has been through the right to vote and that’s a fundamental American value. And so that’s one of the reasons why we encourage companies to step out there.”
– Ken Chenault, chairman & managing director of General Catalyst and former chairman & CEO of American Express
Still, while most Black executives understand the need for them to take on a leadership role in addressing racial inequity in the workplace, many do not feel empowered to do so or often fear retribution and risking their careers. Nevertheless, Black leaders interviewed for the paper concluded that it is a risk that is necessary if they are to usher in true change.
“We tend to be very loyal to our company, which creates a sense of security and safety. That security can cause us to stay whether it is the best place for us or not. It feels familiar, and that is often perceived as better than starting over and going to another company where that security is not a guarantee. But it is well worth taking the chance. I’m a living example of that.”
– Janice Dupre, executive vice president of Human Resources, Lowe’s
The ELC paper, “Beyond Promises to Progress: Black CEOs and C-Suite Officers Speak Out Diversity,” was authored by Stephanie J. Creary, PhD, an assistant professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and developed with input from The ELC Legacy Initiative and additional contributors.
The Executive Leadership Council is an independent non-profit founded in 1986 that opens channels of opportunity for the development of Black executives to positively impact business and communities. Through The ELC’s Institute for Leadership Development & Research, the organization works to strengthen the talent pipeline of Black leaders, providing top-rate leadership programs that focus on individual growth at different career levels through mentoring, coaching, networking and leadership training.
The organization is currently represented by Fortune 500 corporations in 39 States and the District of Columbia with 3 out of 5 current Black Fortune 500 CEOs and 34% of Black corporate board directors serving as members.
For additional information, including the Executive Summary, click here.
About The Executive Leadership Council
The Executive Leadership Council opens channels of opportunity for the development of Black executives to positively impact business and our communities. An independent non-profit 501(c)(3) founded in 1986, The ELC is the pre-eminent membership organization committed to increasing the number of global Black executives in C-suites, on corporate boards and in global enterprises. Comprising nearly 800 current and former Black CEOs, senior executives and board directors at Fortune 1000 and Global 500 companies and entrepreneurs at top-tier firms, its members work to build an inclusive business leadership pipeline that empowers global Black leaders to make impactful contributions to the marketplace and the global communities they serve. For more information, please visit www.elcinfo.com.
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