Opinion - Leadership

Op-ed: Taking Black executives to the next level and beyond

Crystal E. Ashby
Key Points
  • In this post-election atmosphere, where Black Americans are left contemplating how we move forward, we must continue to press on toward fostering Black excellence in corporate America by building the talent pipeline of the current and next generation of Black leaders.
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The 2020 presidential election was a tight contest that painted a vivid picture highlighting our country's division along racial lines. Simply put, the polarization of America could not be clearer. One would be ignorant to believe that these sentiments do not bleed over into corporate America and the business world at large.

While there are often concerted efforts to ignore or silence it, the power of our collective voice has proven time and again that it should not be taken for granted. It was invigorating to hear both the president-elect and vice president-elect acknowledge the power of the voice of Black voters.

As evidenced by the Black voter turnout in this year's election, we must remind others, and ourselves, that our voice is instrumental in shaping the future of our businesses, our communities and this nation.

Business leaders need to acknowledge and accept the damage that can easily be done to the hard work many have put in to combat racial injustice if they don't act to eradicate the cultural division resulting from years of benign neglect.

In this post-election atmosphere, where Black Americans are left contemplating how we move forward, we must continue to press on toward fostering Black excellence in corporate America by building the talent pipeline of the current and next generation of Black leaders.

To that end, it is a critical time for us to amplify the relationships with our allies in the business world. They too need to remain focused on developing and retaining high potential Black talent, promoting deserving role models so that everyone knows what is possible. They must be authentic in how they approach the lack of diversity in Boardrooms, CEO seats, and C-Suites. 

None of this can happen without full buy-in from the top of the house. It requires CEOs and board chairs to say, 'This is what we're going to do and how we're going to do it.'

In other words, companies need to be intentional about increasing the diversity of their executive leadership teams and measuring it. Because we all know what gets measured, gets done. When CEOs attach the hiring of Black executives to the performance objectives of their direct reports, we will see a difference.

Corporations must also start treating systemic racism as any other business imperative, just as they would any human resources or social responsibility issue. It must become a part of the foundation of the organization. But none of this can happen without full buy-in from the top of the house. It requires CEOs and board chairs to say, 'This is what we're going to do and how we're going to do it.'

Whether our nation proceeds along the path of an even more polarized America, or the events of a summer where the nation watched a man beg to breathe motivate the country to unite, remains to be seen. Despite this, The Executive Leadership Council will not waver from doing the necessary work to take Black executives to the next level and beyond.

We must continue working diligently to place Blacks on boards, in C-Suite positions, and as CEOs because positive change must continue to happen. We must invest in the pipeline of the next generation of global Black leaders more so than ever before. We must continue supporting, encouraging and ensuring the advancement of our people.

 We're in this fight together. So, let's pause, reflect and then keep going. In the spirit of Black Excellence let's foster and create corporate workplaces that celebrate our differences and prosper from the unique perspectives, innovation and creativity that having diverse seats at the table brings.

Crystal E. Ashby is the interim president and CEO of The Executive Leadership Council.