By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Chants of “When black lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” and “If we don’t get it...Shut it down!” can be heard across the country, reaching the ears of corporate executives and prompting some to respond with promises to offer greater diversity and to support the Black Lives Matter Movement.
A two-faced message is being sent by several corporations to their employees and clients, as they seek to pacify African Americans with hush money. Yet, their corporate websites lack diversity and proudly display the faces of Caucasian leaders and members of their board of directors.
Employees at the Quicken Loans Family of Companies received a mass email expressing outrage over the death of George Floyd and vowed to improve on their inclusion and diversity initiatives.
“As I watched the events surrounding the death of George Floyd unfold in Minneapolis, Detroit, and across the nation, I have found myself without words. It is a situation of profound sadness. Labeling this murder a tragedy feels trite. It feels too small. I cannot imagine the anger and frustration that the African American community across the country feels. And so, I make this commitment to double down on our diversity and inclusion efforts,” Jay Farner, CEO of Quicken Loans and Rocket Mortgage said.
To date, there are no African American leaders listed on their corporate website, and their internal communications team is made up of all Caucasian workers. Two African Americans that were hired, following filing of an age and race discrimination lawsuit, are no longer employed with the company. Both left the company in less than a year, and an African American woman allegedly left 7 months later due to race and age discrimination.
Out of 19,539 employees at Quicken Loans, there are 185 people serving as vice president (VP). There are reportedly only 9 African Americans, 7 Arab, 3 Asian, 1 Indian and 2 Hispanic VPs. Caucasian VPs make up 88.11% of leadership.
For the first time, employees were given Juneteenth off with pay. But, is this a real effort to bring about change or a bribe?
Nike is also vowing to support the black community by investing $40 million over the next 4 years on organizations that promote social justice and racial equality. Yet, there are no African Americans on their board of directors.
“Systemic racism and the events that have unfolded across America over the past few weeks serve as an urgent reminder of the continued change needed in our society. We know Black Lives Matter. We must educate ourselves more deeply on the issues faced by Black communities and understand the enormous suffering and senseless tragedy racial bigotry creates,” John Donahoe, President and CEO of NIKE, Inc. said. “The NIKE, Inc. family can always do more but will never stop striving to role model how a diverse company acts. We will continue our focus on being more representative of our consumers while doing our part in the communities we serve.”
According to Footwear News, “Nike’s 2018 report estimates it employs about 7,161 Black/African American employees in the U.S — but only 198 of them are director level and above while just 28 are VPs. Similarly, it employs about 6,115 Hispanic/Latino staffers but only 220 are directors or higher and just 10 are VPs. Meanwhile, of 14,630 White employees at Nike’s U.S. operations, 3,270 are at the director level or higher and 271 are VPs.”
Hypocrisy in companies’ objectives to strive for diversity is noted in Mercer’s 2020 research report, “Let’s get real about Equality.”
“There’s what we say we will do. And then there’s actually what we do. Ideally, they match up; too often, they don’t. It’s called the ‘say-do’ gap, and we were surprised to discover a number of them in our latest research. Although improvements in talent flows demonstrate that leadership in most large organizations is engaged with Diversity & Inclusion challenges, we found minimal evidence-based, strategic planning to back up or propel a concrete forward strategy. Optimism and confidence about improvements in representation, hiring, promotions, retention and pay equity also don’t appear to be backed up by an uptick in using data analytics to drive decision-making and measure outcomes,” the report stated.
Results showed that the most dramatic decrease in representation is among African American employees, who make up 12% of support staff positions, but only 2% of executive level positions.
“Arguably most important, a diverse workforce and inclusive culture are still not widely viewed as a vital part of the business strategy of an organization. Making these changes will be both uncomfortable and disruptive. But organizations that want to be relevant and thrive must acknowledge the changing environment and adapt,” the report stated.
JP Morgan Chase is “walking the talk” and adapted to the changing environment by implementing strategies to ensure diversity within its company. Their board of directors is diverse, including African Americans and women.
The company was name Diversity Corporation of the Year by the National Business Inclusion Consortium and National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
“We believe in, and are committed to, a culture of respect and inclusion. Together, we are working across the entire firm — being intentional to strengthen our inclusive environment where our employees, customers and partners feel welcomed and valued in the communities where we do business. A company that is diverse and inclusive can better serve the world — and have generational impact. And that is good for everyone,” Brian Lamb, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion said.
A diversity strategy “Advancing Black Leaders” was implemented to attract, hire, retain and advance black talent – from within the internal community at JPMorgan Chase, as well as across the external marketplace. It promotes leadership excellence at all levels.
"Our success depends on the quality of the people we attract and develop. We must maintain an environment that is fair and respectful, where people from different backgrounds feel accepted and valued," Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase said.
In 2015, Chase supported seven groups of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) as part of their PRO Neighborhoods program. The original $33 million commitment by JPMorgan Chase & Co. has allowed these organizations to leverage an additional $226 million, according to research conducted by Harvard1, exponentially increasing their ability to create inclusive economic growth for individuals and communities.
In 2016, Chase continued its support by aiding five new CDFI collaboratives with an additional $15.1 million as part of PRO Neighborhoods program.
Kneeling down with Chase branch employees, Jamie Dimon, recently showed his support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The 63-year-old CEO is reportedly recovering from having heart surgery in March but braved a health risk to render support, following a town hall meeting in Mt. Kismo, New York.
Ideally, companies that will kneel down with workers to express appreciation of diversity in action and not just talk would be good for everyone.
Inclusion involves adding African Americans to boards of directors, promoting them to leadership positions, providing equal pay commensurate with Caucasian counterparts, and proudly displaying their pictures on corporate websites.
It means removing shackles that restrict movement, permitting freedom of speech without repercussions, appreciating cultural differences among workers and recognizing that Black Lives Matter.
And, understand that slavery has ended. Freedom is a right. It can no longer be bought with “hush money.”