By Jessica Moore

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Corporate America has long faced criticism for issues with diversity.

Large corporations are now starting to listen, but advocates say more work needs to be done.

As CBS2’s Jessica Moore reports, as protestors marched in the streets, companies faced scrutiny for their own records on racial equity.

Historically, many companies blamed a lack of diverse candidates for the dismal number of minority hires.

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CBS political contributor Jamal Simmons found that within most major U.S. corporations, including the military, academia, and Fortune 500 companies, only four percent of senior leadership was Black.

“People get overlooked, they get under-rewarded, and they get over-punished. And so if there’s a way for us to deal with those three problems, one way to do that, is to get more people, more African American leadership, who will begin to look after it,” Simmons said.

“Ultimately, inclusion is about belonging, how we feel in spaces with each other,” said compassionate leadership expert Magalie Rene.

Extended Version: Corporations Making Moves To Reflect Racial Diversity In Leadership, Hiring And Advertising

Rene says while the number of Black leaders matters, the climate inside the office is just as important.

“That looks inclusive, that looks diverse, that looks equitable, and also looks compassionate. So it really does require that leaders are thinking about more than just the deliverables,” Rene said.

Just as important as the message within the company is the message coming from the company. Several big name brands recently launched initiatives to show their commitment to change.

For example:

  • Amazon imposed a one year moratorium on facial recognition technology that often misidentifies people of color
  • Apple created an entrepreneurship camp for young Black software developers
  • Facebook pledged to double the number of Black/Latinx employees by 2023 and increase the number of Black leaders by 30%
  • Walmart is investing $100 million to create a center on racial equity

“It’s brand suicide right now for marketers not to have commercials that look like the country,” said Barbara Lippert.

Over the past year, mainstream companies like Target and Toyota have increasingly featured Black families in national ad campaigns.

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“People need to see themselves. Children need to see themselves in ads,” Lippert said. “But more important is that ad agencies themselves become inclusive and diverse in their populations, which they really aren’t.”

“Ultimately, we’ve got to think about the big picture. What is the kind of world we want to be a contribution to? What are we really creating? And honestly, organizations, brands, companies, they’re an example for the rest of the world,” Rene said.

Our experts agree: The fight for racial equality starts within – within each company, and organization. And with talent everywhere, opportunity should be, too.

Jessica Moore