As an African-American male, I’ve definitely “used the system” to get me to where I’ve gotten today: Full Scholarship to UNC (scholarship for minority achievement), pre-admission into the prestigious Kenan-Flagler Business School, admission into Carolina’s Honors College, global immersion in both Beijing and Shanghai, China, etc. In fact, I encourage minority students to take full advantage of diversity programs such as INROADS, SEO, MLT, T-Howard, etc. I’ve come to recently realize, success in life is all about the 3 E’s (which I came up with by the way):
Exposure. Experience. Execution.
Diversity programs can be the catalyst to one getting exposure to whatever their chosen field of interest may be. The programs mentioned above can take you to all the major markets in the nation (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston,, etc.). They can even give you experience working on Wall Street for a summer or the network to help you inch closer to your goals and aspirations. You have all these great and wonderful things on your resume. Good for you, right? Well no one does these types of programs, sacrifices to get this exposure, works this hard to land a job working at their local community grocery store. Minority college students and young professionals around the country seek these types of opportunities to ultimately land a full-time job working in the industry and/or having the dream job they worked so hard for.
Fortune 500 companies and businesses, in both the national private and public sectors, all preach about diversity. “Our minority company population is 15%.” (or my personal favorite): “Our business school prides itself on diversity. Our minority student population is [insert your favorite percentage between 10% and 15%], which is better than the national average.”
Who cares? If I were to break that menial statistic down even further and ask about the percentage of African-Americans the number would be embarrassingly smaller. Then if I asked about black males we would really make some headway. Don’t let me inquire for my friends about the African-American female population. But that would be really unfair though, right? I’ll refrain, I’m sorry.
I just really don’t like how business schools and companies across the country say they’re so “committed” to diversity initiatives, affirmative action, etc. They come to your campus to “recruit for diversity” or they send your career services and business school announcement boards their impressive flyer with the headline “We are _________. Diversity Matters to Us.”
Spare us all please.
You may be able to fool Joe Blow down Tobacco Road at that “other school”, but I know better. When it comes time for full-time hires, there’s very little importance placed on retaining minority talent let alone helping minorities ascend up to the senior leadership level. All this begs one essential question that has yet to be answered by CEOs and business school deans across the country:
Why make diversity so hard to achieve?
Oh and in case you’re wondering where that last “E” was mentioned above about success, it’s missing for a reason. Until serious attention is given to this issue, minorities in general will never fully reap the benefits of their hard work and be able to execute it in the business world. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, right? Sure thing. Excuse me while I go back to “business as usual” and work twice as hard to ultimately get nowhere near twice as far.
Did I ruffle some feathers with my comments? I’m not going to apologize for exercising my first amendment constitutional right. I’m very serious about what I just wrote about. Now that being said, I am more than happy to address everything above with anyone that would like to speak with me. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, the Harvard Business Review article below by John Rice, Founder and CEO of Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) will provide some additional insights to this topic. Hope you enjoy :)