Racial economic inequality is a serious issue. The implications go far and wide and I don’t think it hyperbole to say it poses an existential threat to the nation’s economic well-being. If we don’t do much better, our overall economy will suffer. The recent awakening by corporate America to the problem has prompted dozens of company pledges to make capital investments to help boost minority-owned small businesses, and diversify their leadership. I’ve written about this before and I’ve spoken with leaders of some of the companies that made commitments, and I have generally felt an honest intent to make a difference.
However, while some see this as an encouraging step forward, others cynically see a pot of gold. This past month, I was invited to sit on a board of advisors for a company that is expanding its consulting services to include diversity training for the real estate industry. On the surface, this seems fine, except that the company itself has no track record of diversity, has almost no diversity on their staff or leadership, and is best known for producing conferences and one of those “most influential” lists where the only diverse faces are typically at the bottom, huddled together like that scene in Animal House where Kent and Larry were rushing the Omega House.
The issue I have with this company is it trivializes a critical problem by turning a movement into a racket. I worry companies will take the easy way out by hiring fly-by-night diversity consultants rather than making material efforts to bring about honest change. Solving the problem of racial economic inequality is difficult, but it shouldn’t be complicated. Companies can help the cause and help themselves by hiring more diverse leaders in decision-making roles, plain and simple…and some companies are already way ahead. While most Fortune 1000 companies struggle to have one Latino on their board, the Target Corporation has three, and while the tech industry blames their lack of diversity on a limited pipeline of diverse talent, Cisco Systems has two Latinas in their C-suite. Companies can also help by prioritizing supplier diversity. The talent is there, it’s only a question of how much companies choose to prioritize the issue. And if your company needs a consultant, there are plenty of Latino-owned corporate consulting firms with strong track records who can help you out. Send me a note and I’ll be happy to connect you to one of them.