business news in context, analysis with attitude

From the New York Times:

"In the past week, it has seemed like every major company has publicly condemned racism. All-black squares cover corporate Instagram. Executives have made multimillion-dollar pledges to anti-discrimination efforts and programs to support black businesses.

"Yet many of the same companies expressing solidarity have contributed to systemic inequality, targeted the black community with unhealthy products and services, and failed to hire, promote and fairly compensate black men and women."

The Times goes on:

"With dozens of cities protesting the violent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others, a national conversation about racism is underway. For black executives, who have spent their lives excelling at business while overcoming structural discrimination, the killings and ensuing protests have unleashed an outpouring of emotion. Many are speaking candidly about their private fears, as well as their disappointment with the corporate apparatus that made them stars."

You can read the story here.

KC's View:

Meanwhile, Reuters reported on an email sent by Frederick Baba, a managing director at Goldman Sachs who is black, to his colleagues.

It is an exceptional, powerful email.  Here's how he starts:

"To everyone who’s asked me some variant of 'how’s it going?' over the past month, I’ve probably lied. Or lacked the words to articulate it fully, but I’m giving it a shot.

"Obviously my experience is just one along a continuum of black experiences, and I don’t presume to speak for all black people (or even all black people at Goldman Sachs). But the past few months have been demoralizing, and family/friends/colleagues I’ve spoken with and listened to across the firm and country seem to share this feeling. Being black has been nothing if not instructive. I’ve learned history and why people live where they do and why those in positions of power often don’t look like me. I’ve learned that bad things are more likely to happen to black people solely because they’re black. I learned which of my friends’ parents didn’t want me in the house growing up and who would be blamed if my friends broke the law. I’ve learned how to prove intelligent, to prove not threatening, to prove innocent after being assumed guilty. To prove human as this country litigates my personhood in case after case."

I heartily recommend you read it here.

Bloomberg had a story over the weekend in which Target spokesman Joshua Thomas is quoted as saying, “It’s critically important that our team -- at all levels -- reflect the diversity of our guests and the communities around us.  Like many other companies, we’re focused on increasing diversity across the company and that includes our most senior-level leaders. We’re committed to hiring diverse talent and providing our team with the training, experiences and opportunities to develop as professionals and leaders within the company.”

But, as Bloomberg notes, Target has a problematic history:  "Only two years ago, the company settled a class-action lawsuit that accused the retailer of racial discrimination in hiring. It has fallen short of its own goals to retain minorities. Today, only two of its 51 top executives are black."

I'm not picking on Target here.  Everything I've read about CEOP Brian Cornell tells me that he takes this seriously.  But changing a culture can be a long-term proposition, and the nation's mood suggests that it doesn't have a lot of patience.

Nor should it.  Not at this point.

I think that companies need to look around at their management and leadership ranks, and seriously assess whether they have done everything they can do to make sure they reflect America.  They need to look at the managers up and down their organizations, they need to look at their boards of directors, and they need to put into place serious diversity plans, and then be held accountable for living up to their promises.

I'm not talking about diversity for diversity's sake.  I'm talking about an understanding that companies are better if they reflect a broad understanding of the American experience, if they address rather than ignore blind spots, if they embrace this challenge rather than rationalize inaction.