Black History Month honors the achievements of African American educators, artists, athletes, scientists, musicians and writers.
But where are the Black business people?
Decades after the modern Civil Rights Movement began, African Americans still remain rare figures on America’s corporate and not-for-profit boards.
Our underrepresentation in corporate boardrooms is not a forward-thinking policy. It is not just a wrong or shortsightedness that should be righted. It’s actually a missed opportunity for corporate America to do what it does best--make money by serving more people with the products and services people desire.
The business case for inclusion of more Blacks on boards is just as strong as the moral case. Here are six reasons why:
1.Better input, better outcomes
There are plenty of wise, successful, up-and-coming advisers, consultants, executives and business owners who are Black out there.
When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, he made an immediate impact for the Dodgers organization and for our country with his play, and his leadership made him a Rookie of the Year, All-Star, a World Champion and a Hall of Famer. Most importantly he became a change agent for America.
Robinson’s arrival opened the door for society to change, and for our country to do business differently.
You can do the same with your company or industry. Turn trepidation into tallies and wins.
2. Broader networks than what current board members possess
To tell an uncomfortable truth, those in executive positions and those in the C-Suite probably know very few Black people, perhaps only a few other executives or employees in their own workplaces. That is a classic definition of a swing and a miss.
Consider seeking out new, valuable connectors and networks, in business and communities that have never been explored before.
3. Understanding rapid societal changes immediately instead of after the fact
Without the guidance, experience, connections and wisdom coming from a more diverse group of directors you will likely miss the mark on corporate policies related to hiring, training, maintaining personnel, procurement, marketing, communications and philanthropy.
It’s simply best practices to promote and observe Diversity and Inclusion for your business. In this era of calling for social and racial equality, the scrutiny on board diversity will only intensify by activists, investors, employees and the media. It’s smart to be on or in front of the wave, not behind it.
4. Being in tune with where America is going
Want to launch a successful new product? African Americans are on top of trends and brands unlike no other demographic group. Plus, their use of social media to amplify their feelings about products and services for positive or negative, lead this space. Choosing the board members who are in touch with their community means that enterprises have a better chance of developing long-lasting relationships in these communities.
5. Tapping into Black economic wealth
According to the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth, African American spending is $1.4 trillion, on pace to reach $1.8 trillion within three years. Black spending growth outpaced White spending by $114% to 89% from 2000 to 2018.
Corporations don’t succeed by leaving large amounts of money on the table. They may claim not to see color, but they all see green! My advice: don’t go back to the bench after a called strike three with the bat still on your shoulder.
6. Turning young consumers into customers for life
According to Nielsen, African American consumers at an average age of 34 skew younger than the average White American consumer, age 38. When you have insight into how Black people view brands, you can capture that consumer today four years earlier, and maintain that relationship for many more years.
My purpose here is to simply illustrate that placing African Americans on corporate boards isn’t simply window dressing or virtue signaling, it’s just plain good business. It is not wise to turn a blind eye to this opportunity, especially when African Americans represent 13% of population of America.
Don’t be afraid to jump on the inclusivity bandwagon, evolve in this changing world, and identify potential minority board members now. There is a deep, virtually untapped pool of experienced, visionary, well-connected, brilliant, capable people out there that can bring real value to the table for your stakeholders. If you seek, you’ll find some of the best in your quest.
A generation from now, I know that Black History Month will continue to recognize a panoply of African American achievers, including those who have taken positions at the highest levels of America’s economic engine will be added. If that’s the case, the pie to share will be much bigger, we’ll be competitive domestically and internationally, and our country will begin reaching its full potential, which will be a big win for all of us.
Dave Winfield is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.