If you’re coming out of college and you don’t see anybody who looks like you above you in a firm, you’re not likely to take a job there.”
Scott Uzzell: Hi, Crystal, this is scott.
Crystal Ashby: Good morning, Scott. From what I know about you, equity is not just business; it’s personal. how did this happen for you?
SU: i have to admit that i’ve learned a lot about equity in the last six months. i used to think it was just about giving people of color like me more opportunities, and once we were hired, we had to be perfect. i still say that’s important, but now i also see that the environment you’re in has to be willing to support your overall success. i realize now that my colleagues of color and i don’t have to walk on water. We’re human and we’re allowed to make mistakes, to grow, develop, and continue on our journeys. it’s made me as a leader on inclusion much more forceful.
CA: I want people stepping to the line with me, just like that. have you changed how you’re leading your team on race issues?
SU: i, too, want to be all that i am at work. i have a ton of experiences from childhood to today that all need to intersect, and being a Black Ceo puts me in a unique position to drive change. now, i’m energized every day, and I find my 20+ reports are all energized, too.
CA: you also have to add in a lot of stakeholders: investors, employees, customers. how are you weaving them into your new objectives?
SU: it’s being declarative on how important representation is to our culture, to our country, to what we believe is the value of our brand. it’s about being transparent and creating a culture of belonging where all bring their best selves to work. it’s being clear that we need to get more people of color into our ecosystem of creative agencies, consultants, law firms and supply chains. if we’re not constantly pushing back, we’re co-conspirators, which is close to enabling the problem. i’ve come to see there’s no middle ground when it comes to where you stand on equity, diversity and inclusion. if we put d&i on our website as critical to our organization, we have to show it. now when i’m on calls with boards i’m on, and all the Zoom boxes look the same except for me, white board members are calling it out. not everyone, but at least half. We’re not yet living the story we’re telling. i see progress, but there’s still work to be done.
CA: Well, I certainly agree we can’t be in the middle. So, how do you make the progress sustainable? SU: Being Ceo is different. i used to think you just make public statements, give money to social justice organizations, scholarships to HBCus, but that’s not enough. it’s having those constant dialogues with your leadership team that drive sustainability. one, making sure you have the right leaders on your team, from a representation standpoint and from the standpoint of living the company values every day. second, this has to be a business topic that’s talked about every day. And third, it’s got to be in the fabric of everything we do. it can’t be just about training people in the pipeline. it’s also making sure you have representation across the board. if you’re coming out of college and you don’t see anybody who looks like you above you in a firm, you’re not likely to take a job there. it’s also about having clear deliverables and associated timetables and measures. if the Ceo is not pushing that agenda every day, it won’t be important to the next group of people. And i know i’ll be held accountable. if you don’t see progress in 90 days, six months, a year, then i’m not credible.
CA: Scott, I want to thank you for how transparent and honest you’ve been, and for how much of yourself you shared in this discussion. you do Converse and ElC proud.
SU: i’m honored, Crystal.
Panels of eLC members and nonprofit leaders then presented different aspects of the action plan: safeguarding future family income through education, technology and innovation; the role of the public sector in building family wealth and family savings; and how criminal injustice and inequitable access to health and health care shape Black communities.
Former eLC Ceo Ronald Parker, one of the founders of BeF, a retired PepsiCo executive vice president, and now president and Ceo of the national Association of securities Professionals, closed the Forum with the call to action, first steps in forming the Community of Action: a pledge to hold a series of courageous conversations with other organizations on better collaboration and metrics; to identify concrete steps; and to consider how a Community of Action might convene and continue the dialogue. “this is our Black davos. We’ll pressure test our agenda every year,” says Parker. “We need capitalism, but the benefits have to reach everyone. We’re exercising our power for sustainable change.”
2020 Annual Recognition Gala Now Is Our Time: Bold Moves. Courage. Resilience.
october 15 was another night of purpose and impact, but this year it was virtual. Co-host of Entertainment Tonight Kevin Frazier again set the stage. The Corporate Awardee was Walmart Inc., accepted by Doug McMillon, president & Ceo, who also chairs the Business roundtable. the Achievement Awardee was Herman Bulls, vice chair, Americas, JLL, and an eLC member. the gala explored the question: What is our responsibility, accountability, and duty to the past, present and future? The ELC’s Bold Moves with partners and allies, detailed in this special section, explored the intersection of business, community, and impact and honored those who have been exemplary in leadership, Courage, hope and equity. We honored the Resilience and collective impact of coming together at this critical time. more than $850,000 was presented to 70 eLC scholars, with thanks to the companies, individuals and initiatives that support their futures.
What will you do to ensure the change that has to happen? It’s time for us to…create the more perfect union where Black Excellence is free to flourish in all its forms.”