By Saidah Gomez-Fleury
On July 20, 2020, Canadian business leaders and CEOs participated in the inaugural BlackNorth Initiative Summit. The initiative was created by Wes Hall of Kingsdale Advisors and its purpose is to encourage CEO signatories and business leaders to sign a pledge, which “commits business leaders and their organizations to specific actions and targets designed to end anti-Black systemic racism”.
Participants in the summit included C-Level executives from Cisco Canada, CIBC, and Fairfax Financial. From the sports world, Raptors President Masai Ujiri and hockey players Evander Kane and Akim Aliu shared their experiences with anti-Black systemic racism as well as their views on how its dismantlement could benefit the league.
In a short period of time, over 200 organizations have signed the pledge, representing $1 trillion in market capitalization. As Canadians living in Geneva, we have the opportunity to observe what is taking place in the business world back home and apply learnings to our current organizations.
Further to the horrific murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, some international businesses have started to engage employees in unconscious bias training and discussions about anti-Black racism. But trainings and discussions may yield poor results if they do not provoke us to consider how our everyday actions (or inactions) inhibit or promote diversity and inclusion.
Furthermore, if we remain within the confines of an isolated context (senior leadership groups, work groups, professional organizations, etc.) within which there is little diversity in terms of one’s physical characteristics, we will not advance.
Multiple studies demonstrate that businesses are more profitable and perform better when they truly embrace diversity AND inclusion (and not just pay them lip service). I share one such study by McKinsey & Company here on my website. A 2018 study by Edelman shows that consumers are increasingly looking to businesses to initiate societal change as opposed to government.
This is an opportunity. I invite you to take a look at the pledge listed on the BlackNorth.ca website.
If you would like advice on how to set up safe spaces in which work groups can hold “uncomfortable” discussions about anti-Black racism, diversity and inclusion, or to learn about actionable steps you can take, please feel free to contact me.
Email Saidah HERE.