So, when Laurence D. Fink, BlackRock’s founder and CEO, wrote a letter to the chief executives of the largest publicly traded companies last January asking them to embrace a new sense of purpose and shareholder engagement – and while they were at it, diversify their boards – it got attention.
“Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose,” he said. “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”
Jonathan McBride, managing director and global head of inclusion and diversity at BlackRock, offered an in-depth look at the company’s plans during a recent conference at Wharton. The man tasked with leading BlackRock’s diversity efforts started with some good advice: Ask your employees if they feel like they belong.
A commitment to inclusion is still relatively new at BlackRock, but it’s quickly emerging as both a data science and a leadership art.
McBride describes a leadership team who are all in; his most recent example was a “company jam” which ended on International Women’s day on March 8. Some 14,000 employees “talked to each other about belonging, the future of learning, our sense of purpose, and our collective purpose, deliberately, for three days.” Fink and its founder and BlackRock president Robert Kapito were there, “jamming alongside everybody else,” he said.
But the data they’re collecting and the experts they’re wrangling for internal presentations are helping McBride’s team push past pockets of resistance — “so, has diversity ever worked?” — while taking the burden of proof off of individuals who advocate for change.
He shares some principles for hiring the “best candidate” – focus more on team outcomes rather than individual credentials, and don’t recreate a squad of “replicants” who look like each other. But inclusion, at its core, is a human endeavor. “At BlackRock we use this funny new technology called ‘talking to the people who work for you,’” a line he likes to use to help highlight the heart of culture change, he tells raceAhead. Finding a way to talk about big issues, like race in society, or technical ones, like what it means to “bring your full self to work,” is largely about finding ways for people to feel safe to speak candidly. “All of this is part of the work we’re doing.”
[By the by, If there’s ever to be a raceAhead Hall of Fame (which suddenly strikes me as a good idea) my money’s on McBride for the first wave of inductees. Who’s on your shortlist? Hit me back with your heroes.]
|On being harassed for speaking Spanish in public|
|A video is going around of a nasty encounter of an angry white man berating two women for speaking Spanish in a fast food establishment in mid-town Manhattan. It’s a story that is becoming all too common, says Andrea Gonzalez-Ramirez, and it exacts a unique fear on Spanish-speakers in the U.S. “As a white-passing Latina, the color of my skin affords me protection that Brown and Black Latinxs don’t have,” she writes. But she speaks Spanish daily, often on the phone in public. “It feels like our language puts a target on our backs.” She tracks the insistence on “English-only” through history, citing the forced schooling of Native American children, the Chinese Exclusion Act and more. But her collection of more recent stories include people being harassed by store employees even attacked by other patrons. “Though the people who harass these foreign language speakers might not be the majority, they surely are loud,” she says.|
|Update: Doing [fill-in-the-blank] while black|
|Speaking of unique fears, the number of stories of black people having the police sicc’ed on them while living their lives continues to grow. A woman called security on a black man pushing his baby in a stroller in a DC park just for looking suspicious. He just looked like a dad. Here’s another story of cops called on black sorority members doing volunteer highway beautification work in Pennsylvania. The caller said they’d been fighting. They hadn’t been. Luckily, the state troopers were able to determine the truth and de-escalate. “We’ve talked about implicit bias among police and their use of force but another huge problem is how the police are used to enforce the racial biases of the white public — the enforcement arm of the social hierarchies,” tweeted New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb. Click for more analysis from The Root.|
|Studs Terkel’s radio archive went public yesterday, his 106th birthday|
|And with it, some 5,000 extraordinary shows that deserve to be preserved for eternity. His interviews have an extraordinary range – everyone from Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., to Ethel Merman, Cesar Chavez, James Baldwin, Carol Channing and even Janis Joplin. He talked to plenty of regular folks too, and went deep on all the issues – civil rights, prison reform, women’s rights, gay rights, and his beloved Chicago politics. Click below for the story behind the archive and a bit about why he was so beloved, or go straight to studsterkel.org. Like many aspiring writers, Studs was my hero, so it’s particularly nice to see his work celebrated on his birthday. “I came up the year the Titanic went down,” he liked to say. Want more? There’s some two hundred hours of video Studs at mediaburn.org.|
The Woke Leader
|Rhymes are the new weapon in the war on poverty|
|Angry young people living in impoverished or war-torn countries are seen as easy targets for radicalization, often of the religious variety. But for some young men in Bangladesh, radicalization has come from a unique U.S. export: old-school hip-hop. Mubashar Hasan, a postdoctoral fellow in Culture Studies and Oriental Languages at the University of Oslo, has been following the rise of musical activism in Bangladesh, much of which is directly inspired by Tupac Shakur, NWA, Public Enemy, even Eminem. In Bangladesh, more than 60 million people – nearly a third of the population – live on less than $1.90 US per day. Inequality is a major theme in the music. “Everyone is silent … nobody is talking,” say rapper Skib Khan in Shob Chup. The poor are kept poor, otherwise “how will the rich get servants to serve their families?” Fight the power.|
|The truth about gay conversion therapy|
|“Conversion therapy is the idea that you can use physical or emotional pain to make somebody change their sexual orientation,” begins this deeply disturbing video testimony, recorded by HRC Youth Ambassador Alex Cooper. Cooper was ultimately rescued by her high school English teacher, but the “therapy” she experienced and witnessed was nothing short of abuse. Twelve states plus the District of Columbia all have laws or regulations protecting LGBTQ youth from the dangerous practice, and legislation is now pending governors’ decisions in Hawaii and New Hampshire.|
|Human Rights Campaign|
|Blessed are the librarians, for they shall scramble the eggs|
|In this case, the librarian in question is Regina Anderson, a largely unknown figure who walked with, and sometimes housed, literary giants. Anderson worked at the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library in the early 1920s, but she played a unique role in the lives of the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, even allowing a down-on-her-luck Zora Neale Hurston crash on her couch. Her day job of lending books turned into a 24 hour a day passion for the ideas of the day; she threw parties, fed Langston Hughes homemade breakfast, corresponded with W.E.B. Du Bois. “And she was there at the key time, when all the big names were arriving in Harlem,” says her biographer, Ethelene Whitmire.|