CMOs Must Play an Active Role in Driving Racial Equity

In the past few weeks, virtually every company has voiced their support for racial equality while denouncing racism. For the first time the chorus of voices is industry wide. Achieving racial equity is becoming a business priority for most companies, perhaps even one of the most defining issues of the next decade, similar to gender equality over the last decade. 

CMOs are uniquely positioned to drive this generational change. 

Unlike topics of gender diversity, racism is viscerally uncomfortable in conversation, especially in the workplace, thus requiring training and education before we can implement action. Investing in Black and NBPOC programs will drive more robust corporate understanding of what it means to be Black, the history behind how it affects our Black colleagues, and the role white privilege has to play.   

2016 research showed that the median white family had more than 10 times the wealth of the corresponding Black family in the United States. This stems from a combination of lack of access to education, family wealth, social connections, and mostly from workplace-based discrimination. Black workers make up only about 13% of the American workforce and discrimination against this group accounts for about 26%. 



Driving corporate urgency for reform can only begin by understanding and communicating practical measures that businesses can implement to remedy these shocking statistics through inclusivity. 

The challenge for most companies today is knowing what to do. There is no playbook for creating racial equity, so it’s up to companies to define their own. Effective change requires swift implementation and if companies focus on holistic targets they can move quickly and ensure long-term progress.

Focusing on internal talent and providing Black employees with support is an important aspect in establishing inclusivity and equity. Every level of an organization needs career development, and a defined path to growth, particularly senior and leadership roles.

Employee resource groups also offer support by establishing a network and platform that drives employee-led conversations and encourages companies to actively listen. When these groups are created and funded it demonstrates dedication to change, fosters a sense of community and promotes advocacy.

Recruitment processes also need to evolve. Companies can instantly increase inclusivity by making a concerted effort to extend outreach to diversified networks, colleges, and universities – continuing to hire for quality and fit. Expanding talent pools makes more complete and diverse workforces in the future.

All leaders need to be a driving force behind this movement. CMOs in particular can learn to step inside the vastly different experiences of every colleague by practicing empathy, listening, and having open dialogues. The C-suite has finally received the message loud and clear – less storytelling, more action, now. But all leaders need to participate in diversity & inclusion initiatives in order to establish the tone from the top. 

My experience fast-tracking organizational change at top tech and consultancy firms alerts me to the importance and scope of this commitment as we move toward corporate racial reconciliation. I want to see things accelerate and be part of the change. Every CMO can and should do the same.

When it comes to achieving racial equity in the workplace, we must strike a balance between fast and sustainable action. Progress has eluded this industry for too long. By bridging the gap between internal vision casting and external communications, CMOs are perfectly positioned to deliver desperately needed directional change to establish racial equity in business.

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