The renewed calls for racial equality and justice have prompted companies to act faster and more forcefully in support of equity than ever before. Companies are searching for how we as a nation — and the private sector — can permanently raise the bar for diversity and inclusion and level the playing field for marginalized communities.
In a recent ACCP webcast sponsored by Salesforce, Orv Kimbrough, Chairman and CEO of Midwest BankCentre, shared his views on the topic and provided recommendations for companies to create economic opportunity for people of color, often drawing from his own personal and professional experience. Following the killing of Mr. George Floyd, Kimbrough published a paper titled “Shared Prosperity” as a thesis for how the private sector can truly sustain a path forward for improved economic mobility for everyone.
Kimbrough starts by examining the key indicators of prosperity today: home ownership, wealth, and education. While black Americans lag behind white Americans in all three segments, nothing tells the story quite as starkly as when he compares median household wealth by education level. Even when both parties have an advanced degree, white Americans have more than five times the wealth on average, showing just how systemic racial inequity is in America – and how far we still have to go.
Solving any systemic issue is always complex, and such is the case here. Putting black Americans on the path to prosperity will require a three-pronged approach that includes government, philanthropy, and business each doing their part, with thoughtful purpose. As both a business leader and the former CEO of United Way of Greater St. Louis, Kimbrough has a solid understanding of both business and philanthropy. In his own words, Kimbrough, a veteran of nonprofits, emphasizes that charity alone is not enough.
Kimbrough goes on to discuss the dual importance of business, which is to generate profits while serving a greater purpose. Without profits, businesses will die. But with purpose, businesses will flourish. The belief that economic mobility – or the ability to move from one socioeconomic station to a higher one – will help close other gaps, from justice to health to education, reigns supreme. Economic mobility is absolutely required to create shared prosperity among black Americans.
Kimbrough lays out six specific steps organizations can take to make lasting changes that will affect the wealth of marginalized communities for generations.
Not surprisingly, among those steps he advocates for true diversity and inclusion, not just through hiring practices, but also starting at the top with the representation of executives and board members. He goes on to offer a less formulaic recommendation, which is a change of heart. To achieve this, he calls on companies to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion by nurturing a culture of community building, investing in systems of change, and leveraging technology.
Watch the webinar to learn how business, HR, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) leaders can drive their companies to close the racial equity gap and sustain shared prosperity: