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‘Enough is enough:’ 3 corporate leaders on how to respond to the George Floyd protests

June 2, 2020, 12:41 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Companies pledge donations to anti-racist organizations, 50% of women of color consider leaving their employers, and three corporate leaders speak to the George Floyd protests. Have a mindful Tuesday. 

– ‘Enough is enough.’ Just a few weeks ago, Emma reported on the record-high number of female CEOs running Fortune 500 companies. It came with a stark caveat: “Not one of the 500 companies on the list has a black woman at the helm.”

The dearth of black women CEOs among the U.S.’s largest corporations reflects the marginalization of black Americans that underpins the protests engulfing the U.S. this week. It also means that when chief executives and other corporate leaders spoke out about the demonstrations and the death of George Floyd yesterday, black female voices were underrepresented in the business world’s commentary on what feels like a watershed moment. Some powerful black women did weigh in, however, and we want to highlight their insight here.

Thasunda Brown Duckett, the CEO of Chase Consumer Banking at JPMorgan Chase, wrote on LinkedIn that “it’s 2020 and enough is enough. We can no longer be silent.” She encouraged her followers to take the simple step of watching the PBS documentary Reconstruction: America After the Civil War. “For those who are asking what can I do…. here is one thing,” she wrote. “We can’t heal without truly understanding the depth of the disease. Yes, it’s painful and my tears are real. But in order to ensure our future is brighter…that real sustainable progress can be made…we have to go on this journey as a human race.”

Endeavor CMO Bozoma Saint John talked to CNBC about the “responsibility for corporate America to talk to its people” about racial injustice. Even if that talk isn’t “perfect,” she said, “acknowledging this very moment in time is extraordinarily important.”

At the same time, companies need to move beyond mere rhetoric.

“I want to see more corporations put their money where their mouths are,” she said. “Of course, talk is cheap. But money isn’t cheap. Money goes to fuel defense. It goes to fuel action…Do something about this. Don’t sit back and throw your hands up and say, ‘It’s not my fault; it’s not my problem.’ It is our problem. It’s our collective problem.”

That problem can feel enormous, but individual responses don’t have to be. “Sometimes, it’s not about changing the entire world,” Saint John said. “If you just look in your own backyard; if you just look in your own company, there are probably things you can do to help make a difference, even in employees’ lives, and that’s what’s most important now.”

In a conversation with Squawk Box, Ariel Investments president and co-CEO Mellody Hobson also encouraged action. “I love this saying: ‘Math has no opinion.’ None. Just count,” she said. Counting will reveal that at all levels of corporate America, “people of color, black and brown Americans, underrepresented minorities, do not show up in the numbers in which we exist in this country.” The answer is to “hold ourselves accountable;” to “set targets like we set targets on everything else.” If that’s done, she said, “we would see this needle move because so much of this civil unrest is tied to economic inequality; that’s just a fact, and we need to move the needle on this economic inequality.”

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- A lifetime first. Rep. Joyce Beatty joined protesters this weekend in her Ohio district. While protesting in Columbus, Beatty was pepper-sprayed by police. It was the first time the 70-year-old congresswoman, with a long history participating in civil rights demonstrations, had been confronted with the police tactic. The Atlantic

- Love thy neighbor. After President Trump posed for a photo with a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Right Rev. Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, registered her anger. "I am outraged," Budde said. "I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call, that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop." Washington Post

- Next chapter. A new report from the Working Mother Research Institute found that 50% of women of color are considering leaving their companies within the next two years. When they leave the corporate workforce, after seeing opportunity stall or going in search of better ones, many turn to entrepreneurship: 89% of new women-owned companies are run by women of color. Working Mother

- Money talks. As companies make financial commitments in the wake of George Floyd's death and protests across the country, one notable pledge came from Glossier, led by founder and CEO Emily Weiss. The beauty brand promised $1 million, $500,000 of which will go to organizations like Black Lives Matter and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The other $500,000 is intended to support black-owned beauty businesses. Refinery29

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Editor-in-chief Audrey Cooper is leaving the San Francisco Chronicle

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Iced out. How did Iceland beat the coronavirus pandemic? An aggressive contact-tracing program helped the country, led by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, not just flatten the curve, but virtually eliminate it. The New Yorker

- Hedging bets. During the coronavirus crisis, hedge funds run by women have outperformed competitor funds run by men. The women-run funds lost 3.5% in the year's first four months compared to the 5.5% loss for all funds—suggesting an aptitude among female managers for managing risk. Financial Times

- Vaccine rich. After divorcing her husband Du Weimin, Yuan Liping is the world's newest female billionaire. Yuan, vice general manager of subsidiary Beijing Minhai Biotechnology, now holds 161.3 million shares of vaccine maker Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products, worth $3.2 billion. Bloomberg

ON MY RADAR

After reality star’s death, Japan vows to rip the mask off online hate New York Times

'Men don't trust we're strong enough': Somali women push into fish industry Guardian

Abused woman who killed husband is granted the family’s U.K. estate New York Times

PARTING WORDS

"Eventually, doctors will find a coronavirus vaccine, but black people will continue to wait, despite the futility of hope, for a cure for racism."

-Writer Roxane Gay