The Business Council of New York state coordinated with chambers of commerce and other groups to offer a recent seminar on Racial Inclusion, Diversity and Equality in Business.
The panelists that discussed issues facing Black business owners and employees included representatives from the Business Council, the New York Conference of the NAACP and the group One Hundred Black Men of New York.
Business Council President and CEO Heather Briccetti said in the wake of protests and growing awareness about systemic racism the council wanted to not only address the issue but work toward action and change. “We wanted to talk about and actually take action on what could be done to recognize and address company culture that can be problematic. How do we get companies to recognize that there is talent among Black professionals and give better opportunities? What can we do to help Black-owned businesses and ensure that they have equal access to finance and opportunities on a level footing with all business?”
NAACP New York Economic Development Chair Garry Johnson says equal opportunities in economic development are game changers for communities of color. “We are at an inflection point in history and that inflection point is the confluence of at least three things: this pandemic, the economic upheaval that it’s caused and the social unrest because of the inequities that African-Americans had for the last 400 years in the United States. And the sore is bare. So now is the time to take this inflection point and set a new course. And that new course has to start with awareness.”
National Black MBA New York Chapter immediate past President Michelle McCleary says employers must be willing to change their employment structure to give people of color more opportunity to enter management positions. “There’s some simple things that corporations can do. For instance stop using LinkedIn to recruit because that gives your recruiters too much of an opportunity to have their unconscious bias have an impact on who you hire. Change the focus of your career development. So if your career development focus is on upper management and it’s 99 percent white you will never move black people, black and brown people up that corporate ladder. You have to be willing to turn that on its head.”
While much of the conversation focused on larger corporate style companies, Briscetti was asked about the challenges of recruiting people of color to rural areas to which One Hundred Black Men of New York President Michael Garner responded.
Briscetti reading the question: “In the sparsely populated rural Adirondacks it’s very hard to recruit people of color to come here because there are so few people of color here. Any thoughts?”
Garner: “Qualified Blacks will go where the opportunities are.”
McCleary: “If you can create an environment where that professional is going to feel supported, nobody’s looking for a handout, and can move up the ladder people will go there.”
Audio is courtesy of the Business Council of New York State.