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Op/ed: Corporate America's 'Black Lives Matter' Banners on Social Media Aren't Enough

Companies Must Transform Leadership Teams for Racial Justice, Researchers Say

By Rachelle Sampson and Nathan Barrymore

BLM and corporate building

Photo by Shutterstock

Corporate lip service in support of the Black Lives Matter movement without addressing insufficient representation of Black people in corporate leadership is insufficient, UMD business researchers say in a new essay.

The ongoing grief and outrage over the killings by police of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other African Americans—along with the recent shooting of Jacob Blake—is spurring a cultural shift that is visible in how corporate America presents itself to the world, two University of Maryland researchers write in a recent essay in The Hill.

But sending constructive messages is not enough, argue Rachelle Sampson, an associate professor of business and public policy, and Nathan Barrymore, a Ph.D. candidate in managerial economics. 

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has taken a knee. Amazon.com placed a Black Lives Matter banner on its homepage, and both Amazon and Facebook have committed $10 million to organizations working for racial justice. Despite such symbolism, corporate commitment to expunging racism is rightly questioned—because talk hasn’t supported actions. Look closely at these three companies. Black executives make up just 3% of Facebook’s senior leadership, 4% of JP Morgan Chase’s, and 0% at Amazon. 

These companies are the norm. In 2018, Black men and women held just 8.6% of U.S. corporate board seats in Fortune 500s despite representing 13.4% of the U.S. population

Representation is poorer in top management. In all Fortune 500s and S&P 500s in 2019, just 0.7% of CEOs and only 1.5% of CFOs were Black. This is not attributable to a shortage of candidates. A recent report from Lean In and McKinsey shows significant attrition among men and women of color from entry level to C-suite, with proportions shifting most dramatically in favor of white men as people advance.

Read the rest in The Hill.

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