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Building a More Equitable and Supportive Corporate Community for Black Talent

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Let’s face it: It’s autumn 2021, and we’re still grappling with a pandemic that has now lasted a year and a half. And while we navigate the ongoing health care crisis, we’re still seeking systemic solutions to the societal inequities that COVID-19 and our country’s reckoning with racial injustice have thrown into stark relief. 

At our annual Horizons summit in June, we urged attendees to embrace the lessons of 2020 and join together to build a future rooted in equity and opportunity for all workers and learners.

Now as we look toward Horizons 2022, we’re amplifying some of the most powerful conversations from Horizons 2021 in a new podcast series called, yes, “Horizons.”

Our first episode, “Building a More Equitable and Supportive Corporate Community for Black Talent,” meets this moment with insights into corporate responsibilities and actions.

 

Available now, the episode features highlights of the Horizons appearances of two leaders who are working to diversify the corporate workforce. Here’s a preview: 

  • Dalila Wilson-Scott, executive vice president and chief diversity officer at Comcast, talks personally about devoting her career to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in corporate America. She offers a look at how we can all work together and move forward to achieve that goal. 
  • Maurice Jones, the CEO of OneTen, a coalition of leading executives who have joined together to reskill, hire, and advance 1 million Black Americans over the next 10 years, reflects on what the corporate community is doing to support Black talent.  

Plug in your headphones, listen to conversations that you might have missed, and remind yourself of what it’s going to take to build a future that works. 

You can find our Horizons podcast on your favorite podcast platforms, using the buttons below. Look for new episodes every month, and be sure to subscribe to, rate, and review the podcast. 


If you’d like to watch the full Horizons sessions with Dalila Wilson-Scott and Maurice Jones, visit our Horizons 2021 on-demand library

Transcript:

Tameshia: I’m Tameshia Bridges Mansfield, vice president of workforce innovation at Jobs for the Future, also known as JFF. And this is Horizons. In this special podcast series will share the best and brightest highlights from JFF’s annual Horizons summit, a national gathering of influencers dedicated to reimagining the future of learning and work and leaving the past where it belongs, behind us. We’ll hear from a diverse range of experts, many with unconventional points of view representing private industry, government, philanthropy, nonprofit and educational institutions focused on aligning people, places, and systems to drive economic advancement for all. Listen and learn as we revisit key themes from the June 2021 conference, like building connection, diversity, and innovation in the workforce. And hear from JFF experts as we look ahead to what’s next.

Dalila: I think it’s also helpful that more people are raising their hand to say, you know, I don’t quite understand that.

Tameshia: In 2020, we were all witness to a massive shift in the way we think about now, just about everything. The pandemic and its disproportionate impact on communities of color alongside significant events like the murder of George Floyd, sparked a collective movement towards breaking down the barriers and old ways of doing things and instead coming together to build a new path forward. In today’s episode will be sharing the highlights from two impactful conversations about promoting black talent in the workplace and creating more equal opportunities for marginalized communities. I am reminded of what Dr. Ibram Kendi says to move toward anti-racist narratives and practices. The award-winning author, professor, director, and founder of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University urges those of us in a position of power in spaces and organizations of any size to be courageous to change racist policies and practices. At Horizons, Dalila Wilson-Scott, executive vice president and chief diversity officer of Comcast, shared her perspective on corporate efforts to increase black, Lantinx and Indigenous worker advancement over the past year. She provides an honest assessment of the impact and permanence of these commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion, and Dalila also discussed the big actions necessary to drive systemic change. Listen as Dalila reflects on the great awakening we saw in 2020 and what it means for the future of our country.

Dalila: I think what we saw for the first time is a global awareness and recognition and acceptance even of some of the systemic racism that many of us have been talking about for decades. I think there’s much more, much more ability for people to understand that this is a much deeper issue and there were many more people stepping up as allies. And I think that’s that’s important. I also think that people are being much more critical, quite frankly, of what we know and what we don’t know about our history. Even in the coverage of the 100th anniversary of Black Wall Street this year and just the different type of voice and recognition of, you know what, if I had known about Black Wall Street and Tulsa and you know, the the entrepreneurs, the community, all all of that that we’re seeking for all of us, that economic prosperity, wanting to be there for each other, that that was possible 100 years ago. I think many of us would not have thought it was possible. You know what we know it is, and I’m speaking in the U.S. perspective here is we know a lot about the history that we don’t celebrate and slavery and what that meant and what it’s like to be black in America today. But I think there is a willingness and an openness and a readiness for us to understand our history better and to understand how that will change going forward.

Tameshia: As Dalila mentioned, it was encouraging to see the world waking up to the systemic racism many of us have been experiencing for time immemorial. This new, more open attitude will help us change things moving forward. But it’s clear there are still many barriers to success for workers of color and those with identities that are marginalized. Dalila mentioned that the opportunity and wealth gaps limiting economic advancement for all can be inspiring or discouraging, depending on your perspective.

Dalila: As parents, we always want the best for our child, we always want them, never to experience the hardship we had, and yet we know and the data supports it that even with our success, even as much access, we have even as many resources we have available to us. Our kids statistics will say we’ll do no better than many others, and I think that is a harsh reality. And while there are many people who are struggling in many ways that I am no longer struggling in my life right now, it’s a harsh reality when you’re doing this, this work, and it’s something that keeps us moving forward. But it’s also something that I mean, how long has this been the reality? And definitely can make some of the days tougher, but it also kind of inspires us to press forward, for sure. One of the tenets of sort of workforce design and development and evolution is, you know, we’ve been living in in this belief, which is somewhat of a myth where you go down the specific path you’re trained, you’re educated and then you sort of move along in your career. Well, the diversity, equity and inclusion conversation, the same conversation I had today, I would use different language than I would just five years ago. So one, you know, kind of back to what’s different for corporations. Just the acknowledgment and the usage of race in describing some of the issues that’s much more prevalent today than ever before, where I think people were comfortable talking about economically disadvantaged, under-represented, name your term, but not necessarily making it about race. You know, there’s the conversation people are having about, you know, people will generally say people of color. Some people use that term as a term of comfort when they really want to say this is about black people. At the same time, some people are using people of color to use a broader set of individuals, but not everybody feels like that term is theirs or represents them or one they would use. So one, I think it’s positive that people are talking about race and that it’s not just those of us who are sitting in roles of CPO and social impact leaders that are doing that. So I think that’s important.

Tameshia: Dalila also shared some positive words of encouragement during the talk for anyone else on the frontlines of the fight for anti-racism and diversity and inclusion.

Dalila: And what I would tell anybody is believe that I kind of have to be an optimist to do this work because it would be really hard, quite frankly, to get up every day if I don’t think my work is going to ultimately drive positive outcomes. I have to believe that. And if you can believe it, you’re going to think differently about how to get there when you hit a wall. And trust me, I’ve had plenty of walls. I need to be ready to stand up and say, What can we do in this moment?

Tameshia: Throughout Horizons, we heard from dozens of other forward-thinking speakers on how to create a more diverse and equitable workforce and workplaces. In another talk about building a corporate community that supports black talent, we heard from Maurice Jones, CEO of OneTen, a new coalition of leading executives who are coming together to reskill, hire and advance one million Black Americans over the next 10 years. He reflected on how OneTen is meeting the moment, what makes it different from other coalitions and what the corporate community is doing to support black talent? Maurice mentioned that for many companies, a major priority is helping to create more internal mobility for their black talent so they can be better set up for success.

Maurice: It is their desire to be better at creating internal mobility among their black talent, their black talent without for you degrees. That is actually the most shared aspiration. Even more than the need for new talent, people are saying to us, Look, we’ve got a substantial representation of black talent coming into our companies where we need the most help is with creating career viable career pathways and making sure that we are transforming our internal cultures and making sure that we are investing in the kinds of skills growth that folks need to compete successfully for these opportunities. OneTen is going to be actually adding value to all of those. We’ve got a community of practice among the companies that will help the companies share best practices, learn best practices here, best practices work collaboratively with other companies on best practices when it comes to internal mobility, when it comes to transforming culture, when it comes to skills-based hiring and promotion. And so who can work directly with these companies to provide the kinds of services, the kinds of skills imparting that talent need in order to successfully compete for those internal opportunities? That’s exactly what OneTen is all about.

Tameshia: Maurice also emphasized the importance of collaboration and strategic partnerships as we continue to build more anti-racist and inclusive working environments.

Maurice: I think, among other things, HBCUs have developed an incredible muscle around making black talent feel a sense of belonging and also creating the kind of climate and culture that enables black talent to be successful, successful both within the walls of our historically black colleges and universities and also outside of those walls in the remainder of life. I think that we at OneTen have many lessons that we can learn from HBCUs regarding the secret sauce, the special sauce there that we need to make sure that we are migrating to corporate America on scale or in a scaled fashion, as well as some other things. Same thing with our conversations with the Harvard Business School that the data and the research opportunities that we’re going to be pursuing with them that will continue to give us intelligence to refine and do better and to share with folks. So I think those kinds of strategic partnerships are all part of what makes me excited about this quite comprehensive journey that we’re on with a number of key players who can help us really do something here that’s transformative and bold and lasting.

Tameshia: It was great hearing from Dalila and Maurice on their journey toward creating a more diverse and equitable career landscape for black workers in particular. Though, this episode spoke specifically to the needs of black workers and talent. What we know is that the lessons here apply to other communities, including Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Latinx, immigrants, women, and LGBTQIA+. Here are some of my key takeaways from the discussions. Number one, although 2020 represented a massive shift in awakening to the realities of inequity and social justice issues in America. We know there’s still much more work to be done, but instead of feeling dispirited by this, we can take notes from Dalila’s approach to feel inspired and motivated to take action. Number 2, If you’re on a mission similar to Dalila and Maurice, it is essential to remain optimistic and believe that your work will result in tangible, positive outcomes. This will help you keep going when times get tough and underscore your entire journey with a sense of purpose. And number three, when it comes to transforming internal cultures, we need to invest in black talent to help them learn, grow, and develop new skills within their current roles. Maurice also mentioned that strategic partnerships are key and will get more done working together collaboratively than in silos. My colleague Michael Collins, a VP at JFF, summarizes the importance of leaders roles in driving racial economic advancement. In a blog post, he wrote about our collective work ahead. He says leadership matters in this moment. The leaders of our sector are in powerful positions to catalyze and accelerate change. Research suggests that the behaviors and decisions that leaders modeling make are contagious, shaping behaviors across the organization. Thanks for listening to the Horizons podcast brought to you by JFF. Together, we’re building a future that works and inspiring others to fight for equality, diversity, and inclusivity everywhere. Make sure to subscribe, rate and review the podcast and tune in to our next monthly episode. To learn more about Horizons, visit us online at JFF.org/horizons.

I’m Tameshia Bridges Mansfield from Jobs for the Future. See you next time!

 

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