Two More Good Questions
I recently did a Zoom Fireside Chat follow-up with a major Wall Street wealth management firm. The format was question and answer, building on our initial fireside chat book talk. I encouraged them to be completely candid and say whatever was on their minds. Two interesting questions are shared below.
Question one: "Many ethnic and religious groups have encountered prejudice and discrimination in America -- including Irish, Italians, Jews, Catholics, and many others. All of them have overcome those obstacles without special government intervention, why can't blacks do the same?
TWJ answer: The historical record is that many members of those targeted groups changed their names, or took other actions to camouflage their identity and "blend-in" to the American mainstream. Importantly, their Caucasian racial characteristics enabled them to assimilate relatively easily. Some light-skinned African Americans adopted a similar strategy called "passing for white". Importantly, most African Americans have racial characteristics making them easily identifiable and targetable, which precludes this strategy. This historical pattern is most significant in regard to employment and housing discrimination, the two categories of discrimination responsible for creating most of the "racial wealth gap" between black and white Americans.
Question two: "What can this company do to improve the pipeline of diversity talent? Our recruitment efforts consistently encounter a shortage of qualified black candidates."
TWJ answer: One important step would be to broaden your recruitment pipeline by recruiting at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU's). The Ivy League isn't the only source for outstanding talent. Google is an example of this in their initiative to address the oft-cited "tech talent diversity shortfall" by partnering with the College of Engineering at Howard University. The partnership entails financial support (resources to improve Howard's competitiveness with top engineering schools), collaboration on curriculum (insights to focus student training on critical skills), and summer internships (opportunities for students to experience Google corporate culture, and develop relationships with potential mentors). If every major American corporation made efforts comparable to this Google program there likely would be tremendous progress improving corporate diversity within five years.