ELC Institute Journal - Fall 2021

Page 1

The Executive Leadership Council Journal

A Research Journal for Black Professionals Fall 2021



The Executive Leadership Council Journal

A Research Journal for Black Professionals Fall 2021


Copyright © 2021 by The Executive Leadership Council, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. ISBN 978-0-578-98418-6


Contents Letter from the Editor.............................................................. 1 Featured Insight from ELC CEO - The Requirements for Career Success ................................................................ 3 by Michael C. Hyter Environmental, Social Responsibility and Corporate Governance (ESG) Oversite......................................15 by Hilda Pinnix-Ragland The Forgotten Foundation - Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging Efforts Must Be Premised on Genuine and Actionable Civil Rights Protections in the Workplace.................23 by Rahsaan J. Coefield, Esq. Justice, Data, COVID-19, and Black Longevity..........................33

by Daniel E. Dawes, Damara Lauren Catlett, Christian Mauricio Amador

Imposter Syndrome: What Do We Really Know? ......................43 by Ramien R. Pierre, Ed.D. Let’s Talk Private Company Boards .........................................53 by Gena Ashe About the Contributors........................................................... 57



Letter from the Editor As we enter the final quarter of 2021, there is a palpable sense we are living “in between” times with the pandemic on one side and… who knows what on the other. Especially because the future landscape is not completely clear, we must collectively commit to continued action based on quality data. The articles within this issue address issues at both the corporate and individual level. In The Requirements for Career Success, Michael C. Hyter identifies the trifecta of skills individuals must master in order to advance their careers. On the corporate level, Damara Catlett, Daniel Dawes, and Christian Amador trace the path from political determinants of health to social determinants of health to racial health inequities; their article on Justice, Data, COVID-19, and Black Longevity illustrates the role Black Corporate America must play in ensuring the health of Black America by supporting data equity campaigns and equity benefits in the workplace. Additionally, in Environmental, Social Responsibility and Corporate Governance (ESG) Oversite, Hilda Pinnix-Ragland lays the case for how ESG’s strong connection to enterprise-wide risk and value creation mean it is not a “flavor of the month” but rather an imminent and regular item on corporate board agendas. Speaking of boards, in Let’s Talk Private Company Boards, Gena Ashe outlines four strategies individuals can use to position themselves for private company board service. In Imposter Syndrome: What do we really know?, Ramien R. Pierre lays the foundation for a systematic and rigorous examination of the imposter syndrome among Black corporate professionals given how little research about the phenomenon has been conducted among non-student, non-white individuals. Finally, Rahsaan J. Coefield, addresses corporate reactions to the racial reckoning triggered by George Floyd’s murder; in The Forgotten Foundation - Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging efforts must be premised on genuine and actionable civil rights protections in the workplace, Coefield poses three questions individuals can use to determine if corporate expressions of “wokeness” are substantial or merely performative. Our hope is the insights you gain from this edition of the journal will provide both motivation and direction to move toward to the end of the year with optimism.

Christopher Butts, Ed.D. Vice President/Chief Learning Officer for the Institute for Leadership Development & Research The Executive Leadership Council 1



THE REQUIREMENTS FOR CAREER SUCCESS

The Requirements for Career Success by Michael C. Hyter As individuals contemplate their potential for success, they often wonder what’s required. Individuals understandably want to know which skills will best advance their careers and earn just rewards for the effort. Women and others who are underrepresented in their organizations’ leadership sometimes have additional concerns: Do I have to work twice as hard because of my race, gender, or background in order to be recognized and rewarded? Do some folks get better opportunities because of who they know rather than the skills they’ve developed? MICHAEL C. HYTER is the President and CEO of The Executive Leadership Council (ELC). An accomplished senior executive, leadership consultant, author and thought leader, Hyter is widely known for his success in developing enterprise leaders and their next generation successors. This article is an excerpt from his most recent book, The Power of Choice: Embracing Efficacy to Drive Your Career (2020), written during his tenure as Chief Diversity Officer of the global organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry.

A

AT KORN FERRY, we’ve researched different kinds of organizations and the nuances of their cultures, and we’ve found there is a consistent pattern to the career trajectory of professionals whose skills are most developed and who are most respected. Regardless of their background or experience, and whether they’ve worked in large or small organizations, in for-profits or nonprofits, or in traditional or cutting, edge industries, successful professionals have all built their credibility and value by developing in three areas: ■ Technical Skills: Technical proficiency is having the operational and analytical skills required to do a job. It refers to a person’s capability to do a job accurately, reliably, and efficiently, whether it’s a highly process-driven set of responsibilities, such as 3


HYTER

issuing invoices, or a highly creative one, such as designing a new ad campaign. Individuals who are technically proficient are knowledgeable about their field of endeavor and are able to do their jobs with a high degree of excellence in order to succeed. If these professionals hadn’t made the effort and commitment that enabled them to be very good at their jobs, there’s little likelihood they would have been offered the opportunity to do more. However, the mistake many professionals make, especially women and traditionally underrepresented groups, is to believe that technical skill alone guarantees they’ll be recognized and rewarded. After developing a foundation of expertise in a field, professionals have to learn how to use that expertise in a manner that mobilizes others to act on their ideas. This is why the next two areas of competency are as important as technical competence. ■ Relational Skills: Relational skills are the capability to relate to others and have others relate to you, whether or not you like one another. Organizations are made up of individuals who are expected to work together effectively. Because most people prefer to work with others they know and feel comfortable with, professionals who have developed relational skills, who can navigate across a wide variety of people and circumstances, tend to be the most sought after. ■ Influential Skills: Influential proficiency is the capability to engineer mutually satisfactory solutions to problems. It requires the skills to sell ideas and to navigate an organization effectively in order to get things done. Individuals who can shape outcomes and engineer the engagement of others add more value to the organization than those who bring technical skills alone.

4


THE REQUIREMENTS FOR CAREER SUCCESS

Figure 1.1

TECHNICAL PROFICIENCY

RELATIONAL PROFICIENCY

INFLUENCIAL PROFICIENCY

Source: The Power of Choice: Embracing Efficacy to Drive Your Career, Michael C. Hyter copyright 2021.

Organizations’ expectations of individuals’ contributions change over time. After professionals master the technical requirements of their role, the organization looks to them to influence the work of others and do more to advance the business’s objectives. While professionals must be technically competent in order to be credible, relational and influence skills tend to differentiate individuals who experience the greatest growth and satisfaction in their careers from those who are perceived as good, but not stellar, performers. (See Figure 1.1.) These three fundamental competencies are the secret sauce of success and should be the focus of your development as a professional. Let’s look a little more closely at each of these requirements. Technical Skills Mastery of the requirements of your job is critical. Your career will come to a standstill if you do not consistently and predictably deliver what is expected of you. Then you need to go one step 5


HYTER

further. You need to be known for being excellent at something important to the business. You want your name to come up when people are looking to solve a problem or take on new initiatives. Few opportunities and little support from others will come your way unless you show that you are someone worth investing in. I learned this lesson about the importance of doing a good job early in my career, although I admit that at the time it was more about keeping my sanity than making a strategic move. One of my first tasks as a newly hired human resources employee was to prepare data from manual personnel records for transfer to a new computer system. I was shown to a closet-sized room with no windows and one glaring overhead light. The room was piled high with dusty manila folders. My job was to go through the information in each folder and fill out a template for the computer technicians to use in data entry. Accuracy was of the utmost importance. It was pure misery for me to sit for long hours and focus on these painstaking details. Furthermore, I was insulted by the assignment. This was boring clerical work, not an assignment fit for an aspiring executive. As a survival tactic, I devised challenges to get through the day. How many records could I complete in an hour? Could I finish more today than I did yesterday? How could I reduce my error rate? Later I discovered the value of my strategy to make the work interesting. I completed the task in about half the time the company expected, so it was able to move up the timeline for computerization of the personnel records. That got me recognized by the HR leaders as someone who worked hard and delivered excellent results. The job also helped me learn the names and expertise of people across the organization-knowledge that helped me make valuable connections as I moved on to other responsibilities. What opportunities do you have right now to be first-rate in what you are doing, even if the task seems initially mundane or unimportant? How do your responsibilities contribute to the work

6


THE REQUIREMENTS FOR CAREER SUCCESS

of the business? I recently heard a radio interview with a young man who was responsible for loading pallets of roofing tiles into trucks for delivery. He reported that his job was “one of the most important ones in the company.” The interviewer quizzically asked why; many of us wouldn’t characterize truck loading as a critical job. The young man confidently replied that he was the last person who touched the roofing tiles before they went to the customer, so he was the one who ensured that customers got only quality tiles, not ones that were cracked or damaged. This was a man who clearly understood the value he brought to the business. The more you understand how your work is connected to the organization’s purpose, the easier it will be to figure out what you need to do well and how you can do it more effectively. Without such technical proficiency, the options you can command for yourself will be severely limited. Technical Skills Are Not Enough Although technical skills are necessary, I am continually struck by how many of us have been socialized by our families, our education systems, and even companies’ professional development processes to believe that hard work and credentials are all that matter. Credentials get us in the door, and solid job expertise establishes our credibility. But technical proficiency isn’t enough to earn us appreciation or get us promoted. I recently counseled a young Asian American woman I’ll call Joy. Joy worked for a well-known consulting company as a tax consultant. She had an Ivy League education and worked sixty to seventy hours a week as a matter of course. In her group, she was recognized as the go-to person for questions about tax law. She recognized the need to broaden her expertise if she was going to be considered for leadership positions within her organization, and she was outspoken about her frustration at being assigned to the same client with the same demand for long hours and little development opportunity. Joy was particularly bitter that a white male peer, whom she saw as being much less capable, had just been reassigned to a highly visible client engagement.

7


HYTER

It’s tempting to look at this situation and cry foul given Joy’s depth of expertise and impressive work ethic. However, as we talked more, I learned that Joy seldom delegated work to others on her team. She told me, “My reputation rests on my work, and I can’t risk letting someone else mess things up.” When I asked if she interacted with anyone other than her client and those on her team, she said, “Given how much work I have, I have to prioritize how I spend my time.” As her frustration grew, she was also vocal about her belief that “this company promotes incompetence.” Let’s look at this from her leaders’ point of view. What incentive is there to promote someone who works tirelessly at her current level and who has demonstrated limited capacity to support and develop others? Furthermore, she comes across as cynical and bitter about the organization in general Joy was correct that others with less impressive credentials and time on the job were getting promoted. She made the mistake of believing that her expertise should automatically lead to expanding career opportunities-and that if it didn’t, discrimination was at the root of her failure to advance. What she didn’t see was that she had not provided any basis for her leaders to trust her with positions where she would influence and manage others. In addition, she had few connections who could provide access to additional opportunities and champion her candidacy. In most organizations there are many technically proficient individuals. Decisions about who gets stretch assignments, special projects, or promotions generally involve the more subtle components of relational and influence skills. Relational Skills The second important area of professional development is relational proficiency: the capability to relate to others and have them relate to you. Imagine, for example, that you are heading up a project and you can hand-select your team. Wouldn’t you be more likely to choose individuals you knew you could work with well? Wouldn’t you want a group that you believed would accomplish its mission with a minimum of tension and discomfort?

8


THE REQUIREMENTS FOR CAREER SUCCESS

It’s human nature to prefer working with people you’re familiar and comfortable with, which is often easier to do when you think they’re “like you.” It can be terrifying to walk into a room where there are few others like you. It takes courage to introduce yourself to a group of executives, especially when they are different from you in ethnicity or gender. For too many people, this discomfort means they avoid making the contacts and connections that could help build their careers. Instead of figuring out how to relate, they write off these relationships as too difficult or not worth the time. Then, unfortunately, they wonder why opportunities go to others. Three years into my first job out of college, I attended a number of meetings where the company’s chief financial officer spoke to the group. CFO was a really big job to my young eyes. In addition, this fellow had been working in the company for a long time, had a larger-than-life personality, and was widely revered. Despite our being in a couple of meetings together, he would pass me in the hall and never say hello. One day, after attending a company-wide meeting where this CFO spoke about the current quarterly results, I felt compelled to approach him. I went up and introduced myself, acknowledged how much I appreciated hearing from him as a young professional, and said I would love to meet him again some time to become better acquainted. I was shocked to hear him say, “That would be nice. I’ll have my secretary give you a call to arrange it.” To my surprise, she called me later that same day to schedule a personal meeting with him for the following week. We spent an hour getting to know each other, sharing stories about our backgrounds and opinions about the company. A relationship was born that grew and lasted for years. His mentorship was invaluable as my career progressed. A few years later I asked him why he agreed to meet, given how low I was on the organization chart. He said, “Because you asked me. No one else at your level had ever asked to meet with me, and it impressed me that you would.” He also shared that he enjoyed getting to know me and as he learned more about me, it made him more aware of how he could support my dreams. 9


HYTER

It was at that moment when I realized the significance of building relationships at all levels of the organization. Such relationships help build your understanding of the culture, how things get done, and what you have to do to add value. Relationships allow you to be present in the minds and actions of others. They expand the number of individuals who represent you in critical conversations about your contributions and potential. I know my company seriously considered me for opportunities because of the CFO’s support. And he was better able to assess how I could add value because he was familiar with my skills and capabilities. Who would be willing to support your development if you reached out to them? The development of relational skills is critical-perhaps even more critical than becoming technically proficient. Like the development of any skill, these take time and effort, but the payoff is mutually beneficial relationships with people who will champion you and your goals. Influential Skills The third necessary area of professional development is influential: the capability to shape opinions, inspire action, and successfully navigate the formal and informal processes of an organization. Influentially skilled people understand how systems work. They leverage situations and manage relationships to achieve desired outcomes. They position themselves and their ideas to elicit the support of others. Being influential is often undervalued and derided as brown nosing. People are criticized for playing politics. Yet those who can sell ideas, shape opinions, and engineer mutually satisfactory solutions to problems bring more to the table than those who are only technically proficient. Wouldn’t you rather partner with someone who can secure the necessary resources or provide challenging learning opportunities instead of someone who is knowledgeable but ill-equipped to make things happen? Wouldn’t you prefer to work for a leader who can influence a team to work together productively rather than one who is merely an expert in the field? Wouldn’t you rather surround yourself with individuals who will advocate for you? Securing resources, bringing a project to 10


THE REQUIREMENTS FOR CAREER SUCCESS

fruition, guiding a cohesive team-all these things require influence skills, and most of us want to be involved with others who can exert this kind of leverage. The capability to influence situations, outcomes, and people increases your value to an organization. When you have the capability to do your job well, your value equals that of your independent contribution. When you are also effective in understanding what motivates others and can increase their engagement and productivity, your value equals your contribution plus theirs. (See Figure 1.2.) Mastering the art of influencing others, regardless of their level or rank, differentiates the average from the great. Figure 1.2

YOUR INDEPENDENT CONTRIBUTION YOUR VALUE YOUR INFLUENCE ON OTHER’S CONTRIBUTIONS

Yet many professionals assume that they have to have a high-level title or many direct reports before they can or should exercise influence. As a result, many individuals miss opportunities to develop the influence skills that enable them to accelerate their 11


HYTER

careers. They don’t offer their good ideas because they’re not the ones in charge. They feel they have to put up with unreceptive bosses or difficult work groups. When you can look at challenges as opportunities to improve influence skills rather than as situations outside your control, you are much more likely to figure out approaches that will persuade others to adopt your point of view or create more productive working relationships. Almost all positions afford opportunities to learn how to influence others. Perhaps you want to convince others to go along with a process change or shape the entry of a new person into your work group. Maybe you have a recommendation for a new product or service, or you have a suggestion for enhancing an existing one. These are all good opportunities to practice influencing others. I recently spoke with a young supervisor in the distribution warehouse for a consumer goods company. He had been assigned to a committee tasked with finding ways to reengineer some of the company’s processes; the company wanted people who actually did the work-and this fellow was one of those people. This young man was convinced it would all be a waste of time and asked me how he could gracefully decline. I encouraged him to stick it out, enjoy the visibility it offered, and look for ways to actively participate. I suggested he start by looking for clues to each person’s short and long term interests relative to this project. What did each of them envision as the benefits to the company if the group was successful? What were the personal and professional benefits each envisioned attaining? What was each person’s point of view? What information did he have access to, given his position, that the other members of the group didn’t? He took my advice and adopted a new outlook. He not only looked for clues at meetings but he also went out of his way to have at least one discussion with each member outside the formal meetings. People got to know him as an individual, and he grew in his understanding of how they thought and what was important to them.

12


THE REQUIREMENTS FOR CAREER SUCCESS

There was a moment when he recognized an opportunity for an improvement with one of the processes. I watched him muster the nerve and confidence to strategically position his idea in the context of what he had learned about the other members of the task force and how it could contribute to the outcomes mentioned by many of them. He was amazed to see people respond so favorably to an idea he proposed. Eventually, a version of his idea was implemented. Imagine what that did for his confidence and his standing in the company. What’s Required for Success? I’ve found that many professionals from a variety of backgrounds initially balk at this emphasis on relational and influence skills. After all, technical skills are easier to measure and evaluate. Organizations place a lot of emphasis on technical skills when outlining required credentials or explaining the rationale behind certain promotion decisions. Yet, in practice, the more subjective relational and influence skills often determine who is given new opportunities. When you choose to develop these skills, you have more control over your own career. You’re better able to create momentum and make a bigger impact. Given their importance, I’ve devoted entire chapters to relational and influence skills. Chapter 6 is about how to develop meaningful connections based on trust and shared objectives. In Chapter 7, I offer guidance on how to develop the influence skills that allow you to shape your reality rather than react to it. The good news is that these relational and influence skills are learnable. No matter what assumptions you’ve made about your capability to be a socially graceful or compelling personality, you can become more adept at making connections and mobilizing the minds and actions of others. It will require your effort and attention. It will require practice and making some mistakes along the way. The payoff, however, will be a greater capacity to have a meaningful impact on your own behalf and on behalf of your organization.

13


HYTER

The Power of Choice Adopt Key Ideas ■ Technical proficiency is absolutely required for career success. The most highly valued people in today’s organizations also develop the relational and influence skills to interact effectively and shape the work and opinions of others. ■ By developing all three areas of proficiency-technical, relational, and influential-you can increase your options and engineer the career that is most satisfying to you. Begin Now ■ In which area do you feel most skillful? How do you leverage your skill in order to accomplish what’s important to you? ■ In what area would you like to grow your comfort and expertise? ■ What steps will you take to practice and build your skill in this area? ■ What will be the benefit of extending this effort?

14


THE REQUIREMENTS FOR CAREER SUCCESS

Environmental, Social Responsibility and Corporate Governance (ESG) Oversite by Hilda Pinnix-Ragland Environmental, Social Responsibility and Corporate Governance (ESG) is taking a prominent position on proxy statements, annual reports, shareholder proposals, and in every board room’s discussion. Of note, the United States is a decade or more behind Europe/the EU in addressing ESG issues. In addition, questions for quarterly earnings calls with Wall Street analysts are almost certain to include ESG in addition to traditional crisis management plans, largely during the COVID-19 pandemic. As one of the board’s primary responsibilities for strategic oversight, it is imperative to include all segments of ESGEnvironmental, Social and Governance on the board agenda. HILDA PINNIX-RAGLAND is a senior corporate affairs and business executive who currently serves as an Executive Consultant with TVA.

E

ENVIRONMENTAL DISCUSSIONS are resonating with Regulators, Activists, The New Workforce, and Consumers/Public. Now, more than ever, after years of denying climate change, investor relations officers and top executives are scrambling to set carbon neutral or net zero emission standards. Finally, President Joseph R. Biden’s EPA Administrator, Michael Reagen, and Congress are analyzing the current state of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and the nation rejoined the Paris Accord.1 Simultaneously, the previously “pending” ESG regulation is well positioned on the SEC Chairman’s agenda and legislative bills are being drafted in Congress to substantially reduce emissions by eliminating coal fired power plants and cleaning up water systems with so-called “Smart Energy” replacements. Environmentalists are also pushing hard and loud for electrification of the transportation system and

15


PINNIX-RAGLAND

for the U.S. to end use of fossil fuels, which goes well beyond a carbon neutral or net zero emissions commitment. Meanwhile, the traditional sustainability reports, along with some newly named “Environmental, Social Responsibilities and Governance” reports within the ESG framework, have taken a center position on desks of large institutional investors: Hedge Funds, Pension Funds and other investors with “red ink marks” and questions on environmental compliance and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I)/Human Capital Management. Block holders and Activist Investors working alongside the Glass Lewis and Vinson & Elkins firms are working around the clock to work with both companies and institutional investors. Finally, the sustainability accounting standards and global reporting initiative are dusting off previously submitted frameworks and standards with updates to address today’s ESG imperatives. The U.S. is in a state of ESG momentum in the minds of top executives, board directors, shareholders, and stakeholders. It is paramount for CEOs, executives, and boards to not only develop the strategy, but also incorporate key aspects of ESG into every strategic discussion in tandem with the Enterprise Risk Management portfolio. ESG is fundamentally changing the notion and expanding the definition of Enterprise Risk Management. It is important for the full board and meeting agendas for audit and risk, Compensation, and Nominating and Governance committees to include various aspects of ESG. Examples include, Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DE&I), human capital management/revised flexible work policies in compensation committee discussions, ethics and compliance along with new diverse board members and board structure in the governance and nominating, and a plethora of key non-financial and financial impacts and especially cyber security and ESG risks for audit and risk. Instead of the annual board strategy sessions, boards are starting to meet semiannually to address pressing ESG issues. In fact, ESG seems to be changing the definition of “materiality” from a purely financial one. Companies once could dismiss issues as non-material if they couldn’t quantify the economic impact. Today, issues are

16


ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE (ESG) OVERSITE

appearing to become material long before they have a quantifiable impact on the company’s bottom line. As the evolution of ESG becomes a reality, boards, management, and shareholders are aligning to avoid fines, penalties, and significant reputation impacts. Board oversight continues to evolve around the broad ESG areas with environmental and social topics taking on a stronger position and more prominent role in strategy discussions. However, social responsibility is not well understood. For some boards and companies, it is sometimes considered the “topic of the month” that will lose relevance in a different administration. DE&I, equal opportunity, freedom of association, human rights, and overall human capital management are subjects often viewed as soft skills lacking the quantitative metrics of sales, production, or stock price. However, a significant difference from previous DE&I discussions is that today’s incoming workforce (Millennials and GenZ) is substantially more inclusive and diverse. Baby Boomers are exiting the workforce, allowing the setup of new standards and policies that better reflect the incoming workforce’s makeup and priorities. Beyond climate change, human capital disclosures, diversity equity and inclusion governance play a critical role in ESG. The positioning of federal government and non-financial disclosures are requiring ESG frameworks, law firms, and audit firms to support corporations and boards in the development of committee charters to monitor material issue risks and performance in respect of health, safety, security, environment, climate change and the overall stakeholder expectations. Once defined as an emerging area of board oversight, ESG will eventually become a formal item on the board agenda. Given the direct link between ESG and Risk oversight, boards advising management must spend time to prepare and educate themselves outside the board room to understand the necessary internal controls, best practices, and overall strategy to avoid significant impacts, including successful shareholder proposals to overturn the company’s current strategic approach. As management develops the overall corporate strategy and integrates ESG into its operations, an “all hands on deck” approach is required by

17


PINNIX-RAGLAND

all directors to effectively advise/monitor performance, internal controls, crisis communications plans and focus on ESG issues to create long term strategic value. McKinsey & Company’s exhibit below depicts a strong link between core ESG values and value creation2 for the enterprise. A strong environmental, social, and governance (ESG) proposition links to value creation in five essential ways. Strong ESG proposition (examples)

Top-line growth

Attract B2B and B2C customers with more sustainable products Achieve better access to resources through stronger community and government relations

Cost reductions

Lower energy consumption Reduce water intake

Weak ESG proposition (examples)

Lose customers through poor sustainability practices (eg, human rights, supply chain) or a perception of unstainable/unsafe products Lose access to resources (including from operational shutdowns) as a result of poor community and labor relations Generate unnecessary waste and pay correspondingly higher waste-disposal costs Expend more in packaging costs

Regulatory and legal Interventions

Achieve greater strategic freedom through deregulation

Suffer restrictions on advertising and point of sale

Earn subsidies and government support

Incur fines, penalties, and enforcement actions

Productivity uplift

Boost employee motivation

Deal with “social stigma,” which restricts talent pool

Investment and asset optimization

Attract talent through greater social credibility

Enhance investment returns by better allocating capital for the long-term (eg. more sustainable plant and equipment) Avoid investments that may not pay off because of longer-term environmental issues

Source: McKinsey & Company: “Five ways that ESG creates value”

18

Lose talent as a result of weak purpose Suffer stranded assets as a result of premature write downs Fall behind competitors that have invested to be less “energy hungry”


ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE (ESG) OVERSITE

Directors clearly create long term value for the shareholders company and strengthens the overall stakeholder strategy. EY’s article entitled, “How ESG creates long-term value-Sustainability’s new frontier”3 says it best, “ESG reduces risk and drives value creation...as it has become an enabler of access to capital”! As boards integrate ESG strategy discussions into corporate Enterprise Risk Management systems, it is highly recommended to utilize the National Association of Corporate Directors’ (NACD) top ten questions4: 1.

Have we set compelling sustainability targets and goals that appeal to the marketplace?

2.

What story are we telling the street?

3.

Can we integrate our ESG reporting with financial reporting?

4.

What reporting framework are we using, and why?

5.

What accountabilities have we set for ESG-related performance?

6.

Does our ESG reporting satisfy the needs of the investment community and other stakeholders?

7.

What are our ESG risks, and how well are we managing them?

8.

What have we done to ensure that our ESG-related disclosures are reliable?

9.

Does or should our independent auditor have a role in ESG reporting?

10.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected our ESG reporting?

Finally, as ESG issues continue to resonate during the window of opportunity for boards, shareholders and management teams, a clear path of regulations, policies and board best practices are imperative. Likewise, managing and monitoring the associated risks through effective strategy to avoid negative current and future impacts with an “all hands on deck” approach across all stakeholders, determines who will ultimately be successful.

19


PINNIX-RAGLAND

This is supported by the following: ■ At multi-national and EU-based companies, ESG issues are not “flavor of the month.” Individual focus may change (and vary by company and/or industry), but the overall category of concern will only continue to grow in an increasingly interconnected world (such as supply chain issues created by the pandemic and buying panics caused by something like the cyber-attack on the Colonial Pipeline). ■ Boards need to be front and center in determining what the company’s focus should be and what systems should be put into place to monitor and measure performance. This may point to a need for boards and/or senior management to become more involved in the ESG regulatory policy arena to make certain that rules and regulations are clear and doable. ■ ESG is really a governance leading indicator. Issues need to be viewed not only as risks, but as opportunities for competitive advantage, whether innovative production and/or management practices, evaluating the viability of current and future market opportunities, or development of new products and services. The extent to which a board and senior management understand and address ESG issues could well determine whether the company survives or thrives.

20


ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE (ESG) OVERSITE

Notes: 1 – https://www.state.gov/the-united-states-officially-rejoins-the-paris-agreement/ 2 – https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/five-ways-thatesg-creates-value 3 – https://assets.ey.com/content/dam/ey-sites/ey-com/en_ca/topics/climate-change/ey-esg-creates-valueen.pdf?download 4 – https://blog.nacdonline.org/posts/10-esg-reporting-questions

21


COEFIELD

22


THE FORGOTTEN FOUNDATION - DIVERSITY, INCLUSION, EQUITY, AND BELONGING EFFORTS MUST BE PREMISED ON GENUINE AND ACTIONABLE CIVIL RIGHTS PROTECTIONS IN THE WORKPLACE.

The Forgotten Foundation Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging Efforts Must Be Premised on Genuine and Actionable Civil Rights Protections in the Workplace by Rahsaan J. Coefield, Esq. George Floyd’s death served as a morbid catalyst for change in many of the institutions in our society. Since that fateful Memorial Day weekend in May 2020, the world-at-large, exhausted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing requirement of quarantine and confinement except in instances of emergency or essential activity, watched Floyd’s death from television, laptop, or mobile device screens.1 Some viewers quickly sought to justify Floyd’s murder and cited a number of possible crimes – crimes which are not punishable by death in any jurisdiction in the United States – as the reason for Derek Chauvin’s actions. Others dismissed the death as another life that did not matter or one that typified the flagrant disregard for Black lives in the United States and abroad.2 Yet, in the days and weeks following very public and very vivid depictions of the impact of one’s decisions on the life of another, a small glimmer of promise wrapped in “woke” emerged in the virtual offices of some of America’s most important decision makers. The leaders of industry responded to Mr. Floyd’s death, and the public outcry for justice, equality, and visibility for individuals whose experience in these United States had been so different from what they were promised, by committing to make a change.3 RAHSAAN J. COEFIELD is a civil rights attorney, investigator, and executive leader in government and corporate America. He is director of investigations for Lockheed Martin’s Global Diversity and Inclusion organization. 23


COEFIELD

W

WHILE MANY ORGANIZATIONS generously donated millions of dollars to promote social justice and the dismantling of racist institutions, several businesses committed to taking an inward look at how they run their companies and the experiences Black people are having therein.4 A critical view of that stated commitment should prompt an examination as to whether a company is, in fact, committed to diversity and inclusion through demonstrating its adherence to equal employment opportunity (“EEO”) by prohibiting discrimination and harassment of its Black employees. This article focuses on the overt and implied promises of corporate America to change structures, practices, and policies to become equitable and inclusive for Black people. This article is centered around Blackness: this is not an article that seeks to analyze or address the experience and issues impacting a broader group of People of Color.5 The inescapable truth is that the work of advancing diversity, inclusion, equity, or belonging – all terms used together or interchangeably to refer to practices, systems, and rules which seek to disrupt unfair treatment in the workplace – find their logical and legal roots in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and specifically title seven of the Act.6 Title 7 is the legal and historical core of this nation’s prohibition of race-based discrimination at work.7 Through Supreme Court opinions, EEOC lawsuits, and public and private interpretation of the provisions of that framework, America’s working society has general awareness the EEO department is one you do not want to run afoul of and that you will likely speak to someone on the Diversity and Inclusion team when someone relates a skin complexion based stereotype or relies upon a race-based trope in making talent related decisions. Typically

24


THE FORGOTTEN FOUNDATION - DIVERSITY, INCLUSION, EQUITY, AND BELONGING EFFORTS MUST BE PREMISED ON GENUINE AND ACTIONABLE CIVIL RIGHTS PROTECTIONS IN THE WORKPLACE.

housed within the human resources or legal divisions of major corporations, the individuals who do this work are those charged with educating leaders and employees of behaviors and actions which violate Title 7, EEOC regulations or guidelines, or the laws enforced by state or local civil rights enforcement agencies. There is a reason for this that is often left unstated: the important work of developing business resource groups for Black employees, recruiting Black talent, engaging with Black employees through cultural events, bolstering support and advocacy for Black leaders, and even adding a Black person to the c-suite or board of directors of a company are business imperatives which make companies more effective and profitable. However, one lawsuit alleging a pattern of discriminatory or harassing conduct within a company can negate any good a business has done and cause that same business significant legal liability and disconcerting media coverage.8 To this extent, it is paramount that any efforts to advance diversity and inclusion within the corporate environment is premised upon an actual commitment to preventing and addressing illegal discrimination of Black employees and removing people from within its ranks that cannot support that commitment in word and deed, regardless of their position. To analyze the Black experience on a broader scale, business leaders must know the answers to three questions: Does this company have a stated policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment on the basis of race? Title 7 applies to employers in the United States with more than 15 employees, thereby subsuming every major corporation into its purview for enforcement of penalties after a violation of the Act.9 Where Title 7 stops short, state and local jurisdictions may provide gap-fillers to ensure that any business with at least one employee may not discriminate against Black people or expand upon the Federal protections.10 It would be logical to assume that corporations with extensive legal or human resource departments would create, maintain, and routinely update a policy which prohibits discrimination based upon a protected class or characteristic as a foundational step to

25


COEFIELD

protecting the company from the ire of the Federal watchdogs at the EEOC or other civil rights enforcement agencies across the country. However, since May 2020, a number of corporations have admitted, or agreed to acknowledge, their policies did not meet the basic criteria for ensuring its Black employees could point to a singular document containing a rule that prohibited racially motivated negative actions.11 Sadly, nearly 60 years after the passage of the Act, some companies were scrambling to string together enterprise-wide rules that clearly indicated Black employees could not be terminated or harassed because of their race at the same time other companies were working to post a black square on their Instagram page in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.12 And, some of those same companies’ existing policies are being questioned based on public interest or having reached a settlement with the EEOC requiring that specific review. Generally, an equal employment opportunity policy is distributed annually to employees and states the employer’s promise that race may not be a reason an employee or applicant is subject to an adverse employment action such as termination, suspension, or non-selection for promotion or hire. Similarly, the policy should prohibit harassing conduct like the use of slurs, derogatory comments or imagery, or threatening behavior tied to intimidating symbols like nooses. A company has significant latitude in determining the culture it wants to promote and embrace, and policies such as these should be malleable to address behavior, comments, or conduct which does not align with that company’s values as those actions may occur; a policy should not seek to create an exhaustive list of racist acts and possibly limit the employer’s ability to address newly created anti-Black actions. For clarity, as society begins to grapple with the Black experience in corporate America, the concept of microaggressions have entered the lexicon of those who want to elevate and examine what Blacks might experience at work.13 A policy-writer would be ill advised to attempt to document the myriad ways Black people are marginalized as those actions are continually being discovered, acknowledged, or validated.14 26


THE FORGOTTEN FOUNDATION - DIVERSITY, INCLUSION, EQUITY, AND BELONGING EFFORTS MUST BE PREMISED ON GENUINE AND ACTIONABLE CIVIL RIGHTS PROTECTIONS IN THE WORKPLACE.

Does this company promptly, thoroughly, and objectively conduct investigations into alleged violations of the policy and take actions to ensure any violative behavior does not reoccur? A policy which fails to delineate the action an employer will take if that policy is violated is of little value in theory or in practice. For employers, a policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment is essential from a legal and human resources perspective. For employees, the policy should provide some level of comfort that certain conduct will not be tolerated by the employer and that conduct contrary to the policy will be addressed. However, there will be mutual disappointment when the employer does not ensure that a report or complaint that the policy has been violated is not responded to with some sort of action. Occasionally, the alleged violation will be clear and easily remedied: a racial slur followed with violent intimations or actions will likely – and should – result in termination fairly quickly.15 At other times, the allegation, if true, would not rise to a level of a violation because the connection between an insensitive remark and race may be too tenuous or non-existent.16 However, for those matters which warrant an intentional review as to whether a policy has been violated, an employer should develop a process whereby a neutral and independent fact-finder is able to seek and obtain information through data requests, interviews, monitoring, technology, and research in order to reach a fact-based conclusion.17 A neutral and independent fact-finder need not be an external third-party or retained counsel. Employers can and should have trained in-house investigators who are empowered to obtain facts without fear that uncovering troubling, inappropriate, or even illegal conduct will negatively impact their own careers.18 Similarly, those investigators should be disinterested in the outcome of the investigation beyond the ability to report the truth of the matters investigated and whether or not a policy is violated; a human resources business partner who played a pivotal role in a hiring decision should not then be responsible for investigating an allegation that a rejected candidate was not selected because he is Black.19 Rather, the human resources business partner should

27


COEFIELD

be obligated to participate in an investigation into whether that partner, or others, made a discriminatory decision to reject the Black candidate, or knew the discriminatory decision happened and did nothing to object. And, if that partner neglected to oppose discrimination or participated in the discrimination, that partner should be subject to appropriate discipline for their acts or omissions. Most importantly, investigators should be able to check their own biases for or against a Black person whether the person is the accuser or the accused. The employer’s investigative process should be fair to all those who might be involved and give each person who is interviewed or engaged during an investigation a meaningful opportunity to participate.20 Investigations may take a variety of forms and utilize an array of procedural steps or applicable timeframes for completion. Regardless of the structure of an investigative report, the facts should be considered in light of the policy. A Black employee’s allegations should not be dismissed because the employee is considered “sensitive” or “defensive.” Moreover, investigators should not assume an individual has violated a policy from the outset of the investigation and seek only information which supports that conclusion. A seasoned investigator should know how to get to the root of certain issues with thoughtful questions, how to confront witnesses with contradictory evidence, how to ask difficult and direct questions about sensitive and uncomfortable topics, and the investigator should be encouraged to assess the credibility of witnesses when there is insufficient direct evidence of a violation. Investigators must not subscribe to stereotyping of Black employees while conducting investigations or documenting their investigative results – the use of words like “angry” or “intimidating” or “threatening” should be used when they are objectively appropriate and not because of traditional labeling of Black people. When the investigator reaches a determination the employer’s policy is violated, the offending employee should be subject to corrective action or discipline. Conversely, if there is no finding

28


THE FORGOTTEN FOUNDATION - DIVERSITY, INCLUSION, EQUITY, AND BELONGING EFFORTS MUST BE PREMISED ON GENUINE AND ACTIONABLE CIVIL RIGHTS PROTECTIONS IN THE WORKPLACE.

of a policy violation, great care should be taken to explain the reason for the decision to the complaining employee. This is especially so when a Black employee has voiced concerns of being subjected to racist behavior which may be recognized as a trauma-inducing event. While the accused should be advised that the investigation is over and thanked for their participation in what could be an unsettling process, that individual should be clear on why the allegation was raised and what, if any, exhibited behaviors of which they should be conscious. Accountability is a critical portion of any employer policy prohibiting discrimination. While employees may expect their allegations against an individual or individuals for violating a workplace policy warrants immediate termination of the offending employee, employers should mete out discipline in a way that will address the behavior while considering the egregiousness of the violative conduct. Every individual who has been found to have violated the policy may not be exited from the company and the complaining employee should know this is a possibility from the onset of the investigation. However, employers must understand that failing to communicate its expectation that employees must not engage in discriminatory or harassing behavior towards Black people is a message on its own. When Black employees believe the company has not punished policy violators, those employees are more likely to distrust the policy, the process, and the employer, causing them to seek recourse through external litigation or the media. While employers are loathe to publicly convey disciplinary actions because of valid confidentiality concerns, the complaining employees should, at a minimum, be privy to the fact that an investigation was done, a finding was reached, and appropriate action was taken in response to their allegations. It serves to note that no employee should be exempt from the sanctions following a substantiated allegation. While employers may want to protect senior-level or tenured employees from the public or private shaming that might follow an employee found to have engaged in race-based discrimination and harassment, an employer who takes its commitment to diversity and inclusion

29


COEFIELD

seriously, and wants to obtain or retain credibility with its Black employees, will highly consider disciplining any employee who violates its policy, including termination. Does this company utilize the data, insights, and trends from its investigations to change the company’s culture to improve the experience of Black employees? There is likely no better indicator of whether the Black employees at a company truly have a sense of belonging at that company than reviewing the outcomes of investigations into whether employees believe they were treated unfairly because they are Black. To this extent, employers should leverage the information obtained from the allegations and findings of race-based investigations to determine whether there are processes, procedure, policies, or people who are actually impeding the possibility that Black employees feel they belong at the company. While maintaining the confidentiality of the aforementioned investigative process is paramount, employers can and should review anonymous or sanitized versions of the investigative conclusions to facilitate change within the company to truly impact the Black experience.21 Employers should develop intentional educational opportunities on bias in hiring when a series of investigations indicate the talent acquisition team has repeatedly asked questions identified as racially insensitive by Black employees during an investigation. If a specific team is experiencing an increase in race-based complaints levied against a particular leader, that leader’s interaction with the leader’s Black employees should be monitored and evaluated to determine what behaviors are creating the impression that the leader is not effectively leading Black employees. If a particular office protocol is considered to be offensive by Black employees and alleged to be discriminatory in its intent or impact, employers should conduct a dedicated review of the policy, its actual effect on those Black employees, and share the outcome of the review along with anything done to address the issues raised. In short, employers should take great care to show Black employees their stated concerns about lived experiences at work are taken seriously regardless of whether there is disciplinary action. Further, ongoing 30


THE FORGOTTEN FOUNDATION - DIVERSITY, INCLUSION, EQUITY, AND BELONGING EFFORTS MUST BE PREMISED ON GENUINE AND ACTIONABLE CIVIL RIGHTS PROTECTIONS IN THE WORKPLACE.

examination of the investigative outcomes and the frequency of policy violations should be considered an indicator of the severity of the issues facing Black employees and used to understand what must be done to improve those circumstances. While Mr. Floyd’s murder thrust racial injustice and inequity into the forefront of the minds of some corporate decision makers and onto the agenda of their Zoom meetings in 2020, the legitimacy of those responsive actions might be questioned or disregarded by the Black employees whose day-to-day work lives were not impacted in a significant way by those actions. A viable policy with an effective investigative process will yield valuable insights as to the experience of Black employees and serve as an indicator of whether a company’s public statements regarding 2020’s “racial reckoning” were performative actions or not. Note: This article does not provide legal advice. This article reflects the author’s personal viewpoint and is not authored on behalf of Lockheed Martin Corporation.

31


COEFIELD

Notes: 1 – Thelwall M, Thelwall S. 2021. Twitter during COVID-19: George Floyd Opening a Space to Address Systematic and Institutionalized Racism? SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3764867. 2 – Ibid. 3 – 7 ways companies are advancing racial justice in business. World Economic Forum. [accessed 2021 Aug 2]. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/06/7-ways-companies-are-advancing-racial-justice-in-business/. 4 – Ibid. 5 – Adams J. 2019 Dec 18. We Need to Stop Saying “People of Color” When We Mean “Black.” Medium. https:// level.medium.com/we-should-stop-saying-people-of-color-when-we-mean-black-people-29c2b18e6267. 6 – Kendi I. 2016. Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas In America. New York: Bold Type Books. 7 – Ibid. 8 – n D. 2017 Aug 3. Supply Wisdom - Impact of Lawsuits and Litigation on Brand Image. Supply Wisdom. https://www.supplywisdom.com/resources/impact-of-lawsuits-and-litigation-on-brand-image/. 9 – Coverage of Business/Private Employers | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. www.eeoc.gov. https://www.eeoc.gov/employers/coverage-businessprivate-employers. 10 – Ibid. 11 – Smashburger to Pay $70,000 to Settle Race Harassment Lawsuit. JD Supra. https://www.jdsupra.com/ legalnews/smashburger-to-pay-70-000-to-settle-54741/. 12 – Black Tech Employees Rebel Against “Diversity Theater.” Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/black-techemployees-rebel-against-diversity-theater/. 13 – Rogers A, Drey Munar J, Sandberg K. 2021. Hairstyle Discrimination: A Wave of New Laws. AWI Journal. 12(1):1, 4–5. https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.awi.org/resource/resmgr/files/awi_journal_/AWI-Journal-2021-03. pdf. 14 – Ibid. 15 – Wagener M. 2021. Investigating Anonymous Harassment Complaints. AWI Journal. 12(1):6–9. https://cdn. ymaws.com/www.awi.org/resource/resmgr/files/awi_journal_/AWI-Journal-2021-03.pdf. 16 – Ibid. 17 – Oduro A, Tontillo M, McKinley S. 2020 Dec. Case Law Cautions for Workplace Investigations. https://cdn. ymaws.com/www.awi.org/resource/resmgr/files/awi_journal_/AWI-Journal-2020-12-01.pdf. 18 – Ibid. 19 – Moore JA, Van Dermyden SA. 2018. Sham Investigations and the Law: What Workplace Investigators Need to Know. AWI Journal. 9(1):1, 4–9. https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.awi.org/resource/resmgr/files/awi_journal_/ awi_2018_april_journal_layou.pdf. 20 – Strauss L, Abraham S. 2020. One Firm’s Experience: Building a Solid Internal Investigations Function. AWI Journal. 11(3):1, 4–7. https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.awi.org/resource/resmgr/files/awi_journal_/AWIJournal-2020-09.pdf. 21 – A B. 2020. Case Note: King v. U.S. Bank National Association. AWI Journal. 11(4):14–16. https://cdn. ymaws.com/www.awi.org/resource/resmgr/files/awi_journal_/AWI-Journal-2020-12-01.pdf.

32


JUSTICE, DATA, COVID-19, AND BLACK LONGEVITY

Justice, Data, COVID-19, and Black Longevity by Daniel E. Dawes, Damara Lauren Catlett, Christian Mauricio Amador As we have studied racial disparities throughout our careers, we have seen first-hand how data can reveal health inequities that have gone unnoticed and force real policy change. But without this information, vulnerable communities continue to be ignored. Racism is driving the public health crisis in Black America, and we won’t be able to solve that crisis unless we collect and release data capable of showing its true scope and severity. DANIEL E. DAWES, J.D., a widely respected scholar, researcher, educator, and leader in the health equity, health reform, and mental health movements, is director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine and a professor of health law, policy and management. DAMARA LAUREN CATLETT is a principal at the Raben Group where she focuses on tech policy, civil rights and campaign strategy. CHRISTIAN AMADOR currently serves are the Director of Health Equity Initiatives at Satcher Health Leadership Institute (SHLI) at Morehouse School of Medicine.

T

THE PANDEMIC has brought to the surface what many of us in and out of the public health field have already known for quite some time: Race-based inequities abound in our healthcare system. If we extend this concept further, these health inequities can be highlighted as fundamental social injustices in our modern-day society. Many of us have heard of the social determinants of health1, which essentially tells us that our health outcome is not solely determined by our genetics alone but also by where we live, eat, work, and play. But what many of us have not heard of is the political determinants of health2, which are the true creators of the social determinants 33


DAWES, CATLETT, AND AMADOR

of health. These are the factors, systems, or structures (laws and policies) that create, perpetuate, or exacerbate these differences, many of which are unfair, avoidable, and remediable. Political determinants of health create and perpetuate institutional racism. As we demonstrate below, this institutional racism leads to the undercounting of Black health issues, poorer health outcomes for Blacks, and decreased Black longevity. Thankfully, equity-based public health data can go a long way to addressing these issues. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately harmed people of color. During just the first six months of 2020, U.S. life expectancy dropped by a full year for all. According to the CDC3 study, however, non-Hispanic Blacks lost 2.7 years of life expectancy while the Hispanic population lost nearly two years of life expectancy. Fast forward to one and one half years later, the latest release of the life expectancy data4 shows that as of July 2021, the decline is even greater; all Americans lost 1.5 years whereas the non-Hispanic Black community lost 2.9 years and the Hispanic community lost 3 years. This unfortunate trend has also carried over to the vaccine space. As we continue to learn and roll out a national emergency management response to this pandemic, we have yet to achieve an equitable one. Although we have made great strides as a country in nearly reaching the 70% overall COVID-19 vaccination goal set by the Biden Administration as of the July 4th deadline, minority populations continue to have an uneven playing field. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Latest Data on COVID-19 Vaccinations by Race/Ethnicity5 article published July 8, 2021, “Blacks and Hispanic people have had consistently lower rates of vaccination compared to their White counterparts across most states.” No Data, No Problem From the start of the pandemic, people of color have been underrepresented and under counted. As the CDC began to collect COVID-19 case information from all states, a gap existed for data reporting specifically for “ethnicity and race.” The danger

34


JUSTICE, DATA, COVID-19, AND BLACK LONGEVITY

in this data gap is that it can suggest that if there is no data, there is no problem. This is particularly true for policy makers and policy influencers, who hold the power to implement solutions to these problems. To date, several states have yet to report any COVID-19 case data to the CDC, and of the total U.S. COVID-19 cases that have been reported6, more than one-third had unknown race and ethnicity. When we look at race and ethnicity, and case reporting for COVID-19 vaccinations, the same holds true: According to the latest statistics provided by the CDC7 – as of July 4, 2021, “race/ ethnicity was known for 58% of people who had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Among this group, nearly two-thirds were White (59%), 9% were Black, 16% were Hispanic, 6% were Asian, 1% were American Indian or Alaska Native, and <1% were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, while 8% reported multiple or other race.” Just a glance at these statistics proves how much leveling there is yet to be done on COVID-19 case reporting, vaccination equity, and the ultimate goal of achieving health equity for all members of our nation. So, how do we achieve an equitable, proactive pandemic response for people of color, especially the Black American, when the healthcare system lacks an equitable foundation, blueprint, or clear starting point? The COVID-19 pandemic provides us an opportunity to turn the tide for our most vulnerable. As a nation, we must prioritize and invest in the role of data and technology in closing the gap of disparities in outcomes and in driving equitable access to testing, vaccines, and delivery of health services. For example, disaggregated data was used to get 62 health equity-focused provisions specific to race, ethnicity, disability, and language in the Affordable Care Act. Thus, making it the most comprehensive and inclusive health policy realized in the United States. Without more data by race and ethnicity, we will never be able to fully measure and address institutional racism. Black maternal health is another public health crisis that was better understood and addressed through disaggregated data. Black maternal mortality is one of the areas where the U.S. lags the most compared to other industrialized countries. Our team at

35


DAWES, CATLETT, AND AMADOR

the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine and the National Birth Equity Collaborative worked to collect and analyze disaggregated data on Black maternal mortality to understand why Black women were dying at three times the rate of white women. Without that data, Black women were blamed for their higher mortality rates with critics arguing that the problem reflected a lack of education, poor lifestyle choices by Black women, including obesity and non-compliance with directives from their physicians. The data we collected told a different story, showing that Black women are far more likely to die regardless of income, education level, or insurance status. The data shows that Black maternal death is the result of substandard care, often rooted in the perception and substandard response to Black women’s pain. Data allowed Black mothers to share their truths and for researchers to see the truth.8 Notably, Serena Williams, a world-class athlete, almost died after giving birth to her daughter because her doctor simply would not listen to her. Mental Health and Behavioral Health Disparities in COVID-19 Outcomes One’s mental and behavioral health can also be compromised during this stressful time. Those with existing mental and behavioral health issues are at high risk for experiencing worsening of existing mental and chronic health conditions due to the stressors of the virus.9 Furthermore, this stress could also lead to increased consumption of alcohol and illicit substances, as well as result in more incidences of violence, especially domestic violence.10 What is currently not known is the overall impact on mental health equity in vulnerable populations, given the lack of reporting by agencies in this regard. Exacerbating this issue are the insufficient reporting efforts of various agencies. Until recently, many agencies failed to report the pandemic’s impact across racial and ethnic groups, socioeconomic status, comorbid factors, and health system access, thus failing to detail the actual impact of the disease in diverse populations. Even

36


JUSTICE, DATA, COVID-19, AND BLACK LONGEVITY

with more measures being reported, there is a lack of uniformity in what data is made available by these agencies, severely undermining the efforts health professionals can make to mitigate the widespread impact of this disease. Equity Solutions The Satcher Health Leadership Institute (SHLI) at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta has long battled in the health equity space to specifically address the “no data no problem” dilemma. We partnered with the CDC Foundation to bring diverse leaders to the table to form the Health Equity Task Force. We then invited Google.org, Gilead Sciences, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation -- in partnership with The Raben Group -- to the table to help us understand what health equity data are already being collected and to identify the data gaps that currently exist. Through this cross-sector collaborative process, we learned that if we can collect and clearly present the data, we can provide the basis for driving the response toward the areas in most need. The Health Equity Tracker Project was created as a way to do just that. During the last eight months, a team of Google.org fellows, including Google software engineers, product managers, UX researchers and designers, data analysts and more have been working with SHLI to identify and analyze quality public data sources with the goal of creating an easy-to-use, public-facing data platform that displays and contextualizes health disparities communities of color face throughout the U.S. This Health Equity Tracker maps data on the trajectory of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across the U.S., including its territories, broken down by race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status and other critical factors down to the county level, where available. The data, in turn, will help policy makers, health care executives, and business leaders better understand how to ensure disproportionately affected communities receive the targeted resources they need. For example, such focused support could battle the virus and close racial gaps by creating culturally relevant resources for community-based organizations to help build

37


DAWES, CATLETT, AND AMADOR

confidence and bolster equitable access to information related to COVID-19 vaccines. But the Health Equity Tracker Project is just one way in which data and technology are helping communities of color hardest hit by COVID-19. We now know enough to understand that there’s still more to be done. We’ve learned from this project that it will take the continued harnessing and collaboration of many to continue to drive change. A national strategy, ongoing and substantial investments, diverse working groups, and federal policies are also necessary to deepen the impact of the important work we have started. If we harness the power of data and technology to address health inequities, building a transformative and inclusive response to COVID-19 is absolutely possible. Black Longevity and the Unique Role of Black Corporate America The health, wellness, and longevity of Black Americans is integral to the overall health of our nation. Our proverbial culture wars would have us believe in the zero-sum game of racial equity, you gain and I lose. Yet, the facts don’t bear this out. Anti-racist workplaces, health systems, and policies lift all boats. As we begin to come out of the pandemic, the consequences of racial inequities in our nation could not be starker. In addition to contending with racism in all its forms, including as a public health issue, and the disparities made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, Black workers have even more to lose in this recovering economy. Getting at the root causes of unequal health outcomes by race is the next iteration of our work with the Health Data Equity Tracker. Over time, the tool will expand on tracking a more comprehensive range of comorbidities by race and county, as well as core drivers of shortened life expectancy and quality of life for all minority populations, including Black older adults. In order for us to go beyond simply naming inequities to actually remedying inequities, work must be done upstream to address the root causes of these inequities, which are often the consequence of political determinants of health. These political determinants of health create the social drivers—including poor environmental

38


JUSTICE, DATA, COVID-19, AND BLACK LONGEVITY

conditions, inadequate transportation, unsafe neighborhoods, and lack of healthy food options—that affect all other dynamics of health and longevity. For example, the practice of redlining in our country’s history geographically isolated Black people and subjected them to lower levels of investment than their white counterparts, which in turn created under-resourced communities. According to the University of Richmond’s Mapping Inequality Project11, Blacks make up approximately 28% of those residing in formerly redlined areas, but Blacks only comprise 13% of the U.S. population12. By understanding these determinants, their origins, and their impact on the equitable distribution of opportunities and resources, we will be better equipped to develop and implement actionable solutions to close the health gap and achieve higher longevity for Black people in particular. This reality beckons the leadership of Black Corporate America. More now than ever, our nation needs the leadership of Black corporate executives to co-create more culturally affirmative organizational cultures that allow Black workers to grow, thrive, and achieve optimum health. Ken Chanault and other Black executives showed us the power of the collective in their corporate accountability campaign against the voter suppression bills being passed in state legislatures across the country. How could we harness similar efforts to ensure anti-racism and longevity in the workplace for Black Americans? Black Corporate America and advocacy organizations can fight for the standards, practices, and policies to create a more culturally affirmative workplace, workforce, and marketplace in an effort to increase life expectancy. Health equity and preserving Black life is the next stage of our racial reckoning, and anti-racist and longevity policies should be built into the racial justice commitments made by corporate America. Support Data Equity Campaigns Corporations can create strategic partnerships as we did among Google, The Raben Group, and The Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine. Through our work we

39


DAWES, CATLETT, AND AMADOR

are adding several more variables SHLI’s Health Equity Tracker; developing the storytelling needed to educate diverse aging populations on a range of health equity issues (most pressing, COVID-19 and vaccine adoption); shaping critical intergenerational conversations on health; and generating thought leadership on the cultural competency and diversity needs of the health equity sector. Support Equity Benefits in the Workplace Corporate leaders can advocate for more comprehensive benefits with support from outside partners like the Black Women’s Health Imperative. Benefits include sick pay separate from paid time off. In fact, Kaiser Family Foundation research13 shows that employees with more time off are more likely to consider vaccination for recovery. Additional “equity benefits” to promote Black health include offering more robust mental health benefits; flexible schedules that offer remote work options; and childcare benefits. As an example, Vice President Kamala Harris recently highlighted that forcing employees to go back to work without childcare benefits is a costly driver of why Americans cannot reenter the workforce. Harris said the pandemic did not create the challenges parents have experienced with childcare, “but it’s certainly accelerated these challenges.”

40


JUSTICE, DATA, COVID-19, AND BLACK LONGEVITY

Figure 1. Workers Whose Employers Offered Paid Time Off Are More Likely to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine

Percent who report receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Employer provided time off for vaccine

75%

Employer did not provide time off for vaccine

51%

Employer encouraged vaccination

73%

Employer did not encourage vaccination

41% Source: KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor (June 8-21, 2021)

Conclusion Addressing America’s institutional racism will take years, but through data equity investments and equitable policies in the workplace, our policymakers, academics, and the private sector can help reduce COVID-19’s impact on Black America and begin to build equity tools for Black longevity.

41


DAWES, CATLETT, AND AMADOR

Notes: 1 – https://www.cdc.gov/socialdeterminants/index.htm 2 – https://satcherinstitute.org/priorities/political-determinants-of-health/ 3 – https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsrr/VSRR10-508.pdf 4 – https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsrr/vsrr015-508.pdf 5 – https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/latest-data-on-covid-19-vaccinations-race-ethnicity/ 6 – https://healthequitytracker.org/exploredata 7 – https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccination-demographic 8 – https://www.med.unc.edu/obgyn/study-finds-treatment-inequities-for-pain-following-cesarean-deliveries/ 9 – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html 10 – Ibid 11 – https://ncrc.org/holc-health/ 12 – https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=3&lvlid=61 13 – https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/poll-finding/kff-covid-19-vaccine-monitor-june-2021/

42


IMPOSTER SYNDROME: WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW?

Imposter Syndrome: What Do We Really Know? by Ramien R. Pierre, Ed.D. It is surprising how little we know about imposter syndrome—especially among Black corporate professionals. The term was originally coined by Clance and Imes1 to describe feelings of inadequacy that persisted among high-achieving professional women. These feelings persisted despite the success these women were experiencing. While the lay literature abounds with articles about “beating,” “overcoming,” “battling,” or “shattering” imposter syndrome, there is a paucity of research literature on the topic. In fact, academic literature does not refer to it as “imposter syndrome,” but instead typically describes it as “imposter phenomenon,” though sometimes the syndrome/phenomenon is also called “fraud syndrome,” “perceived fraudulence,” or “imposter experience.” There was not even a systemic review of imposter phenomenon peer-reviewed research studies until 20202. RAMIEN R. PIERRE, ED.D. is Director of The Executive Leadership Council’s Institute for Leadership Development and Research. He is also an adjunct faculty member of the Organizational Leadership Program at The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

I

IMPOSTER SYNDROME AFFECTS HOW INDIVIDUALS INTERPRET THEIR OWN SUCCESSES While there is not as much empirical qualitative or quantitative data about imposter syndrome as we might like, many of us are personally or professionally aware of its insidious effects which have been characterized by the research3: ■ The need to be special or the very best, because imposters frequently conclude they are stupid or the very worst if they do not see obvious evidence that they are the very best

43


PIERRE

■ Feeling overwhelmed and disappointed by mistakes, because imposters tend to overgeneralize themselves as failures when they fail to meet their perfectionist goals ■ Fear of failure, because imposters are likely to experience feelings of shame and humiliation when they don’t perform at the highest level or make mistakes ■ Fear of success and feelings of guilt about success, because imposters disproportionately connect success with expectations of being socially distanced from or rejected by others As damaging as the above motivations may be to an individual’s success and well-being, what Clance4 described as “The Imposter Cycle” may be the most detrimental as it illustrates a devolving cycle where the imposter’s feelings of doubt and lack of selfworth are actually reinforced by that individual’s success. Figure 1 explains The Imposter Cycle as a process where (1) an individual experiences an achievement-related event which (2) generates feelings of anxiety, self-doubt and worry. As a (3) coping strategy, the individual either (4a) overprepares or (4b) procrastinates. If the individual successfully completes the achievement-related task, the individual is forced to (5) make sense of the experience which is typically characterized by feelings of relief and positive feedback. Depending on the coping strategy the individual used to mitigate anxiety, self-doubt and worry, the individual is likely to explain away success as either (6a) the result of the individual’s effort (i.e., over-preparing) instead of skill, knowledge or talent, or (6b) the product of random luck. Both conclusions generate (7a & 7b) increased doubt and sense of fraudulence, which (1) increases the likelihood the individual will react the same way the next time the individual experiences an achievement-related task.

44


IMPOSTER SYNDROME: WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW?

Figure 1. Imposter Syndrome Success Cycle Start

Individual engages in achievementrelated task

Increased doubt and sense of fraudulence

Increased doubt and sense of fraudulence

Individual experiences anxiety, self-doubt, worry

Effort

Luck

Coping Strategy

Over-Preparation

Procrastination

Success

Success

Relief

Positive Feedback

Sense-Making

Relief

Positive Feedback

Sense-Making

Source: Sakulku, J. & Alexander, J. (2011). The Impostor Phenomenon. The International Journal of Behavioural Science, 6(1), 75-97

Imposter Syndrome research does not consider the experience of Black corporate professionals For their meta-analysis of imposter syndrome studies published in peer-reviewed journals, Bravata et al.5 evaluated 66 articles 45


PIERRE

published between 1990 and 2018 that described 62 studies involving 14,161 participants. Most (60%) of the study participants were women and the weighted mean participant age was 20 years as a result of many studies having been conducted by college professors with students on their campuses. We do not know if, how or to what degree Imposter Syndrome might impact Black corporate professionals because there are very few professionals included in the 62 reviewed studies, and no studies looked specifically at Black professionals of any kind. The research data appears to suggest imposter syndrome is prevalent among ethnic minorities and might be a stronger predictor of mental health issues than the stress typically associated with minority status stress.6 The research literature does provide insights that might be relevant to Black corporate professionals, including: ■ Age. There is no consensus among the literature as to whether or not imposter syndrome decreases with age. ■ Career Short-sightedness. Employees who report higher degrees of imposter feelings are less likely to plan their careers or take on leadership roles. ■ Gender. Half of the studies reviewed investigated whether there was an imposter syndrome gender effect, found no differences between how the phenomenon is experienced by women and how it is experienced by men. ■ Locus of Control. The research suggests individuals experiencing imposter syndrome will not associate their performance with their actual competence, but instead will correlate with external factors beyond their control (e.g., luck). ■ Self-Concept. Imposter feelings are often correlated with both fear of failure and fear of success as well as low self-esteem. ■ Stress. People who experience imposter syndrome are likely to experience increased levels of stress and burnout and a resulting decline in job performance and job satisfaction as a result of aggressively pursuing high achievement, but not being capable of enjoying their success. 46


IMPOSTER SYNDROME: WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW?

■ Work-Life Imbalance. Researchers found a significant relationship between feelings of being an imposter and selfreported difficulty in managing work-life balance. We do not know how to effectively treat imposter syndrome While the lay literature abounds with advice and suggestions about easing or even eliminating imposter syndrome, there has been almost no rigorous study of potential imposter syndrome treatments or mitigation strategies. The research literature provides only tentative suggestions on the matter including the potentially positive roles managers might play in mitigating imposter syndrome in their direct reports. Data show when employees have more responsibility and less supervision (e.g., while working from home due to a pandemic), they may experience more feelings of self-doubt and fears of being exposed as a fraud.7 A paper by Matthews and Clance8 describes their method of providing private practice care for 41 people experiencing imposter feelings. Based on their experience, they suggest a three-step process to mitigate imposter feelings in others. Specifically: 1 Validate the person’s doubts and fears 2 Directly address the person’s fear of failure 3 Provide group therapy to combat the feelings of isolation common among those who experience imposter feelings

However, the research provides neither more specific tactics nor clear recommendations about treatment intensity or duration or suggested improvements on potential tools to diagnose imposter syndrome. Among the academic literature there are several tools used to assess imposter syndrome within individuals. Among the studies reviewed by Bravata et al.9 that used an assessment, most used the Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale which is a 20-item, 5-point Likert scale tool. Used to a lesser degree is the Harvey Imposter Phenomenon Scale which is a 14-item, 47


PIERRE

7-point Likert scale instrument. Other tools used are the Leary Imposter Scale, the Perceived Fraudulence Scale, and the Young Imposter Scale. Any attempts in the literature to standardize imposter syndrome assessment tools typically include a small number of ethnic minorities, raising doubts about whether the existing instruments are valid for ethnic minority populations in general and Black individuals in particular.10 Reframing Imposter Syndrome as a Learning Challenge and Not a Success Challenge From this very brief review of imposter syndrome scholarship, two things are clear. First, more systematic and rigorous research needs to be done on imposter syndrome. Second, imposter syndrome researchers should avoid convenience samples of graduate and undergraduate students, and instead explore if, how and to what degree the phenomenon exists among working professionals – including Black corporate professionals. The following thought-experiment may provide outlines of what an improved imposter syndrome research agenda might consider. Change the Story, Change the Feeling Common mythology suggests feelings are the products of data. In other words, some stimulus (e.g., a rainy day) leads to a feeling (e.g., sad). However, some years ago, while taking a Crucial Conversations® training course, I was introduced to the idea that the actual sequence of events is data story feeling, where “story” is the interpretation we make of the data. In the case of rainy day leading to sad feeling, what I might be failing to recognize is the incredibly fast and subtle stories (i.e., associations) my mind tells me about rainy days. For me, most of those stories come from 70s AM radio hits such as The Carpenters, “Rainy Days and Mondays”, or Donna Summer’s “MacArthur Park.” The minds of people experiencing imposter syndrome tell them any success they get is a product of either (a) overpreparing or (b) luck. What I learned from the Crucial Conversations training is that I might be able to change my feelings in response to a particular

48


IMPOSTER SYNDROME: WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW?

stimulus if I can find ways to slow down my mind enough to interject a different story between stimulus and response. In other words, even while experiencing the exact same data, my reaction (i.e., feelings) can be different if I’m able to change my interpretation of (i.e., story about) the data. As a result of taking my therapy seriously, I have had success creating “space” between stimulus and response by reminding myself on a semi-regular basis, that my feelings may be real, but they are not the whole story. Imposter Syndrome as a tension between learning and doing while learning It was only recently I found an effective “alternate story” to help me mitigate my own imposter feelings. Bourgoin and Harvey11 describe how consultants often feel like frauds because they are unexpected and unknowingly navigating the learningcredibility challenge: they are seeking to perform at their best for their clients while also simultaneously—and sometimes frantically—learning about their client’s business, challenges, opportunities, ways of working, and more. I began to play with this idea that imposter syndrome might be better explained as a learning challenge rather than an achievement challenge. Doing so led me to consider other learning theories, such as: ■ Growth Rings. Coined by Bill Eckstrom in a TEDx talk12 where he shares what he learned from an experience where being too comfortable got him fired from his job. According to the Growth Rings theory, individuals can be in one of four rings (i.e., mental states, head-spaces): Stagnation, Order, Complexity or Chaos. Growth Rings reminds me (1) not everything uncomfortable is bad for me, and (2) learning typically involves some level of discomfort. ■ Theory of Margin. One of the more practical adult learning theories I’ve encountered is McClusky’s Theory of Margin13 which suggests the ability of individuals to learn at any given time is directly impacted by their power (i.e., access to resources

49


PIERRE

allowing individuals to exercise autonomy) relative to their load (i.e., self and social pressures that individual is experiencing at a given moment). According to the theory, adults with low power and heavy loads won’t have much ability (i.e., margin) to learn. ■ Flow State. Flow state is described as being so engrossed in an activity that it feels effortless and you lose awareness of time and distractions. Originally defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi14, flow state occurs when a number of conditions are met, but primarily when an individual’s skill is so perfectly matched to the demands of the task they are undertaking that they are neither bored (e.g., when the individual has too much skill relative to the task), or overwhelmed (e.g., when the individual has too little skill relative to the task). It strikes me that while in a flow state, individuals are not experiencing any mitigating stories between stimulus (i.e., the real-time feedback they are getting about their performance of the task) and response (i.e., their actual performance of the task). In light of these theories, I posit imposter syndrome among Black corporate professionals may hamstring their ability to achieve and remain in a productive flow state, because these same professionals are often simultaneously over-burdened, under-resourced and under-supported which prevents them from effectively managing the tensions commonly experienced when individuals are learning while also performing. As a result, these professionals may remain in either a state of stagnation or chaos depending on whether the individual perceives no correlation between their ability and performance or random correlation between their ability and performance. But arguably, until more rigorous and systematic imposter syndrome research is conducted among adult professionals, this thought experiment is as irrelevant to the 21 st century Black corporate professional as virtually all the academic and lay research on imposter syndrome.

50


IMPOSTER SYNDROME: WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW?

Notes: 1 – Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15(3), 241–247. 2 – Bravata, D. M., Watts, S. A., Keefer, A. L., Madhusudhan, D. K., Taylor, K. T., Clark, D. M., Nelson, R. S., Cokley, K. O., & Hagg, H. K. (2020b). Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Impostor Syndrome: a Systematic Review. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 35(4), 1252–1275. 3 – Sakulku, J. & Alexander, J. (2011). The Impostor Phenomenon. The International Journal of Behavioral Science, 6(1), 75-97. 4 – Matthews, G. & Clance, P. R.. (1985) Treatment of the Impostor Phenomenon in Psychotherapy Clients, Psychotherapy in Private Practice, 3(1), 71-81. 5 – Bravata, D. M., Watts, S. A., Keefer, A. L., Madhusudhan, D. K., Taylor, K. T., Clark, D. M., Nelson, R. S., Cokley, K. O., & Hagg, H. K. (2020b). Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Impostor Syndrome: a Systematic Review. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 35(4), 1252–1275. 6 – Ibid 7 – Bravata, D. M., Madhusudhan, D. K., Boroff, M., Cokley, K. O., (2020a). Commentary: Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Imposter Syndrome: A Systematic Review. Journal of Mental Health and Clinical Psychology, 4(23), 12-16. 8 – Matthews, G. & Clance, P. R.. (1985) Treatment of the Impostor Phenomenon in Psychotherapy Clients, Psychotherapy in Private Practice, 3(1), 71-81. 9 – Bravata, D. M., Watts, S. A., Keefer, A. L., Madhusudhan, D. K., Taylor, K. T., Clark, D. M., Nelson, R. S., Cokley, K. O., & Hagg, H. K. (2020b). Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Impostor Syndrome: a Systematic Review. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 35(4), 1252–1275. 10 – Bravata, D. M., Madhusudhan, D. K., Boroff, M., Cokley, K. O., (2020a). Commentary: Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Imposter Syndrome: A Systematic Review. Journal of Mental Health and Clinical Psychology, 4(23), 12-16. 11 – Bourgoin, A. & Harvey, J-F. (2018). How Consultants Project Expertise and Learn at the Same Time. Harvard Business Review. 12 – TEDx. (2017, January 21). Why Comfort Will Ruin Your Life? Bill Eckstrom [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu. be/LBvHI1awWaI 13 – McClusky, H. Y. (1974). Education for aging: The scope of the field and perspectives for the future. In S. Grabowski & W. D. Mason (Eds.), Learning for aging (pp. 324-355). Washington, DC: Adult Education Association of the USA. 14 – Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper Perennial.

51


ASHE

52


LET’S TALK PRIVATE COMPANY BOARDS

Let’s Talk Private Company Boards by Gena Ashe Over the past few years, corporate board service has garnered significant attention, particularly among Black executives. Whether we’re discussing the need for greater diversity in the boardroom, the state of board activism, heightened scrutiny in the face of Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank regulations, the changing role of directors as a function of technological advances (Artificial Intelligence (‘AI’), CyberSecurity, Cryptocurrency, etc.), increased focus on ESG, the growing number of ELC members joining corporate boards, or simply how to land a board seat, it is certainly top of mind for just about every corporate executive, particularly those who have reached, or are approaching, the pinnacle of their careers. GENA ASHE is the General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at Anterix. She provides strategic legal guidance to the CEO, senior executives and board of directors.

I

IF YOU ARE AMONG THE MANY CORPORATE EXECUTIVES seeking a board seat, whether it’s your first or an additional board, understanding the different types of boards (public, private and nonprofit) and the differences between them is fundamental to developing an effective strategy for positioning yourself for board opportunities. To that end, including a private company board on your board service journey may be right for you at a given point in your career, based upon several factors as discussed below. What is A Private Company? A private company is a privately held company that does not issue stock for public purchase on the open market (i.e., on a stock exchange), but instead has its stock held internally by an established set of individuals or companies. Sometimes private companies are

53


ASHE

closely held; that is, shares in the company are held by only a few individuals, although this is not always the case. Types of Private Companies Private companies are generally either family owned, employee owned, or private-equity owned. And no matter the ownership type, while some private companies are small, they all come in different forms and sizes. For example: ■ Cargill – Family owned – Annual Rev. $114 Billion1 ■ Mars – Family owned – Annual Rev. $37 Billion2 ■ Deloitte – Partner owned – Annual Rev. $47.6 Billion3 ■ Petsmart – Private Equity owned – Annual Rev. $7 Billion4 Accordingly, there really is no “one size fits all” for private companies. So, executives are wise to remain open to all types of private board opportunities and to assess each one on its own merits as each experience will be uniquely a function of the company, its stage, its structure, its size, its ownership; its board maturity, its exit strategy (for PE companies), and its type. Differences Between Public Company and Private Company Boards As you consider the board opportunities that are best for you, here are some of the key differences between private company boards and public company boards. Private Company Board No public shareholders; no activists; relatively small group of owners; the board is the supreme governing body (except with private equity where the private equity firm is the supreme body); family-owned company boards present unique challenges as founder issues may surface; fewer regulations; more flexibility; potentially less liability than public boards; recruitment is frequently done via relationships; securing a seat is not necessarily easier, just a different path to landing a seat; a director role is often more operational in nature; much more hands on; potential issues include managing liquidity, growth, strategy, risk, and human capital management; relationship

54


LET’S TALK PRIVATE COMPANY BOARDS

driven; mainly advising the CEO for smaller companies; greater dayto-day demand on time. Public Company Boards U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations apply (registration; reporting; disclosure); greater potential liability; shareholders are supreme governing body; many owners and investors; recruitment is frequently done via large search firms; the role is predominantly one of oversight and is relationship driven; need to manage activist threats; greater scrutiny (impact on other aspects of your life); more strategic; more complex. Positioning Yourself for Private Company Board Service ■ Get on the PE firms’ radars (Apollo, Goldman; Carlyle Group; KKR; Vista Capital etc.) ■ Know your personal value proposition and make sure it is something that matters to boards: (AI; ESG; Cyber: Activism; CEO Succession; Crisis Management; Digital Transformation; Organizational Design; Customer Insights; Social Communication; Future of Work; M&A; Integration; Hyper Growth; Vertical experience; Finance; P&L; Tech). ■ Raise your visibility/profile. Publish articles; speak on topics of interest; make sure the right people know you want to serve on a board. ■ Nurture, then leverage, relationships with current board members who may be rolling off; CEOs; general counsels; and Nominating and Governance Committee chairs.

55


ASHE

Notes: 1 – https://www.cargill.com/doc/1432168989853/cargill-annual-report-2020.pdf 2 – https://fortune.com/best-companies/2020/mars/ 3 – https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/global-report-revenue.html 4 – https://www.forbes.com/companies/petsmart/?sh=58f822a97594

56


LET’S TALK PRIVATE COMPANY BOARDS

About the Contributors Christian Amador currently serves as the Director of Health Equity Initiatives at Satcher Health Leadership Institute (SHLI) at Morehouse School of Medicine. In his cross-sectional role, Christian oversees and provides operational support to all projects ensuring alignment with SHLI’s mission and vision to advance health equity. Currently, he is project lead on the Uber 10 Million Ride Share Initiative to advance COVID-19 vaccine equity among vulnerable and underserved communities across the nation working with many community-based organizations to accomplish this undertaking. Gena Ashe is the General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at Anterix. She provides strategic legal guidance to the CEO, senior executives and board of directors. Gena is on the board of directors of XPO Logistics, Inc. and serves as Vice Chairman of the Board for XPO Logistics Europe. Damara Lauren Catlett is a principal at the Raben Group where she focuses on tech policy, civil rights and campaign strategy. In her role, Damara manages a diverse portfolio of clients comprising tech companies, and traditional civil rights groups, including Discovery Channel, the African American Mayors Association, Policy Link, and Google. Damara is also the Executive Director of Full Color Future. Rahsaan J. Coefield is a civil rights attorney, investigator, and executive leader in government and corporate America. He is director of investigations for Lockheed Martin’s Global Diversity and Inclusion organization. Rahsaan is an alumnus of St. John’s University and Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University. He is a member of the New Jersey Bar, the national board of directors of INROADS, a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the Association of Workplace Investigators (AWI), NAACP, and SHRM. Daniel E. Dawes, J.D., a widely respected scholar, researcher, educator, and leader in the health equity, health reform, and mental health movements, is director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine and a

57


ASHE

professor of health law, policy and management. He is the cofounder of the Health Equity Leadership and Exchange Network (HELEN), which is a nationwide network of governmental and non-governmental leaders, researchers, and scholars focused on bolstering leadership and the exchange of research, information, and solutions to advance evidence-based health equity-focused policies and programs. Michael C. Hyter is the President and CEO of The Executive Leadership Council (ELC). An accomplished senior executive, leadership consultant, author and thought leader, Hyter is widely known for his success in developing enterprise leaders and their next generation successors. This article is an excerpt from his most recent book, The Power of Choice: Embracing Efficacy to Drive Your Career (2020), written during his tenure as Chief Diversity Officer of the global organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry. Ramien R. Pierre, Ed.D. is the Director of The Executive Leadership Council’s Institute for Leadership Development and Research. He is also an adjunct faculty member of the Organizational Leadership Program at The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development. He has more than 30 years of experience as an educator—more than half of which he spent designing and administering professional development programs for leaders in the aerospace and not-for-profit sectors. Hilda Pinnix-Ragland is a senior corporate affairs and business executive who currently serves as an Executive Consultant with TVA. She serves on the board of directors of RTI International, a scientific research firm as Chair of Governance and Nominating and Chair of the Audit/Risk committees, Southwest Water Company-Chair Audit and Risk Committee and the Advisory Board of 8 Rivers Capital, an energy technology company focused on global sustainable infrastructure.

58


A Research Journal for Black Professionals The Executive Leadership Council The Executive Leadership Council (ELC) is the preeminent membership organization committed to increasing the number of global black executives in C-suites, on corporate boards, and in global enterprises. Its mission is to increase the number of successful black executives, domestically and internationally, by adding value to their development, leadership, and philanthropic endeavors, thereby strengthening their companies, organizations, and communities across the life cycle of their careers. Its purpose is to open channels of opportunity for the development of black executives to positively impact business and its communities.