Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments, a minority owned investment company headquartered in Chicago, is speaking out about diversity in the corporate world. She has charged corporate employers to not just try to diversify their roster, but to do it.
“I’ve never met Colin Kaepernick, but he’s a hero of mine. I’m in awe that he took it upon himself to publicly promote the American values of life and liberty that we all cherish," Hobson said.
During a speech at the DealBook conference hosted by the Times last week, Hobson asked the crowd of executives, “Where is the corporate Kaepernick?”
Based on the numbers, that person is nowhere to be found.
Currently, only 6.4 percent of the chief executives of Fortune 500 companies are women, and only two are minorities – one Asian and one Latinx.
According to Black Enterprise, 197 of the top S&P 500 companies have no black directors. All of the four black chief executives on that list are men. That number will fall to three once the current chairman and CEO of American Express, Kenneth Chenault, retires in 2018.
Chenault offered insight on the diversity issue during his speech at the conference, “The fact that we’re in this situation is a real problem and it’s embarrassing for corporate America."
The problem persists despite multiple studies which indicate that diverse companies perform better financially.
Although corporations will usually do anything for higher profits, there seems to be some pushback when it comes to diversity. Hobson believes the push for diversity is now in "limbo."
Hobson and others say the solution is to develop a system in which companies value diversity as much as they do profits.
Laurence Fink, chairman and chief executive of BlackRock went a step further and said, "We have to force behaviors."
Fink believes that by tying diversity to executives' paychecks, even those that don't care about diversity will start to hire more minorities.
Dale E. Jones, president and chief executive of search firm Diversified Search, said that those in a position to hire need to broaden their thinking, going beyond their social networks to find candidates.
“When the criteria are so restrictive, there are fewer people of color or women,” he added. “They need to look beyond the C-suite.”
Another way to promote more diversity, specifically on boards of directors, could be through staggered term limits, ensuring that tenure does not outweigh skill and credibility, regardless of gender, race or class.
Deb Henretta, the former global president of e-business at Procter & Gamble says, “It is discouraging to see the lack of progress,” she said. “It’s always scary to the majority that have more than their fair share of representation to give it up. But just because it’s scary, doesn’t mean it isn’t right.”