Turning talk about diversity in the workplace into action

January 27, 2021, 10:30 AM UTC
David Craig, CEO, Refinitiv (right), and Charles Phillips Managing Partner, Recognize, and Co-Chair, Black Economic Alliance on Leadership Next.
Courtesy of Refinitiv, and Courtesy of Charles Phillips.

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Though diversity, equity, and inclusion have long been words tossed around the business community, the conversation finally took a serious turn after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, and the Black Lives Matter protests around the world that followed.

On this week’s episode of Leadership Next, a podcast about the changing rules of business leadership, Fortune‘s Alan Murray and Ellen McGirt speak with two business leaders about the ways in which social movements including Black Lives Matter have led companies to find new ways to listen to their employees—and put a stronger focus on diversity and inclusion. One of those guests is Charles Phillips, the managing partner of technology investment firm Recognize and the co-chair of the Black Economic Alliance, who founded a group called OneTen that is focused on hiring Black and brown people. Also on the show is Refinitiv’s David Craig, who, in partnership with Fortune, runs an initiative called MeasureUp that encourages companies to track and share their diversity numbers.

“There’s a much greater number of [Black and brown] people who just have no pathway to building wealth,” says OneTen’s Phillips. “That’s the reason why household wealth in the Black community is 10%. In the white community, homeownership is about 41%. Today, it’s the same as it was in 1968, when Martin Luther King gave his last speech. The same number. So we have got to do something different. What’s been holding us back is we can’t create intergenerational wealth.”

Phillips says his organization sold CEOs on joining the program by telling them that the country’s demographics are changing, and “whether you like it or not, that’s just a fact. And so that means your future customers are going to look like this. Your future employee pool is going look like this, and so it’s in your interest to have them creating wealth and growing, and be ready for the next generation of workers you have to hire.”

Craig says that it’s going to take courage to move from companies just talking about their belief in diversity to “actually taking action.” And that means being transparent about metrics, existing pay equality or inequality, and much more.

“I think courage is being transparent,” he says. “I think courage is taking the initiative to measure things. And I think courage is actually recognizing that what gets measured gets managed, as the old adage says. We’ve seen this with gender in the last 10 years. We’ve seen that actually measuring gender, and having plans and concrete goals, has made a significant difference across many countries in the world. And gender and ethnicity and race are different, but connected.”

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