Article Background: Although leaning much heavier on an opinion piece, it does share personal experiences from working in both corporate America and the start-up world. And I felt it was timely because of the current state of our world, namely the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, the recent L.G.B.T.Q. Supreme Court victory, and the ongoing fight for women’s equality in the world.
As the founder of a start-up, I have seen the unbalanced reality that exists within the start-up and founder community. As a white, straight female under 40, with past Executive experience, one may think my journey has been smooth. It has not. And that can only make me empathize with how much more difficult someone’s path to run a successful company or move upwards in their career would be if they are not white, not straight, or starting out as an older adult.
I have seen how certain companies and founders roads to success are seemingly evenly paved, contain only green lights for go, and the weather is always a sunny 76 degrees. But for others the terrain is rocky, there are stop signs after stop signs with U-turns, red lights, and no one is giving out directions.
Thankfully, all it takes is expecting transparency and being aware of the inner workings of the companies, founders, and executive offices that we support to shift this current state and level the playing field.
This is my Op-Ed.
Millions of Americans have spoken openly about the Black Lives Matter movement, white privilege, and condoning racism. The majority of companies have issued public statements taking a stand against racism and vowing to be part of the solution.
And it does feel like many of us have spent the last weeks listening, learning, and reflecting on ways we can make a difference. Hopefully recognizing our blind spots, seeing the role we can play to be an actionable ally, and figuring out the steps we can take to move our society forward.
Out of all the things that need to happen to level the playing field, transparency is the one word that has continued to resonate in my mind.
Webster’s dictionary defines the word transparent as: characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices.
Like it or not, we live in a society where money – how we spend it, where we spend it, and what we spend it on matters. Yet the majority of us remain unaware about the inner culture, demographics, belief system, or back office set up within the companies we give our dollars to. It is why we are outraged when we see a picture and discover that the CEO of a well-known brand is a big game hunter. Or why we are disappointed when we see a company supported a political candidate we would not vote for. Or when a small business owner posts something on social media that lets us know they are racist. Transparency has not been something we valued when it came to deciding where we spend our money.
There was a time when remaining quiet on public issues seemed responsible and polite, but we cannot continue to glide by using this outdated way of thinking. It is partly what got us here. Monumentally important issues face us today; issues that will shape our future. It has been proven over and over again that people who speak up and out have the ability to effect change. Which is why expecting transparency from the companies that make up and influence our culture is necessary to course correct the path that we have been on.
Currently there are only 4 black CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, and only 37 women. And most Executive Boards and upper management organizational charts do not look that different, remaining devoid of minority, women and LGBTQ representation. I personally worked for a large billion-dollar corporation for 10 years. While I was aware that no female or person of color was in a C-suite role, I never openly questioned this because I was complacent, and believed I was not in a position to change it. That was before I knew the power that the collective we can hold. Maybe I cannot change it, but we can.
Once I started my own company, I saw first-hand how we grow through diversity. A diverse infrastructure provides new thoughts, ideas, opportunities, and expansion. It fuses different perspectives and life experiences together, which ultimately is better for all of us as it creates more seats at the table, not less. Having it any other way is archaic and demands change.
Yes a company may issue an apology or make a donation, but if noticeable change is not happening inside of their organization, how can we trust that they intend to progress forward? Consumers are the ones in charge. Take our dollars away and the business no longer exists. We need to expect companies to make visible strides and fix this inherent problem. At a minimum we should be made aware of who is behind the companies we support, the ethics system in place, and be given answers when companies fall short of anything less than representing equality.
We cannot continue to shop, watch, listen, or partner with companies that do not support all of us. If they see us as good enough to be their customer, we should be good enough to be in rooms where decisions about us are being made. It is time to insist on equality in the companies we support and expect doors that were previously closed to be open to everyone. We need transparency and authenticity over branding and statements. We need to see values in action behind the scenes. We hold the power to effect positive change by expecting transparency.
Citations regarding CEO numbers:
Yurkevich, Vanessa. “There are just four black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Here’s how they are addressing the death of George Floyd.” CNN Business https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/01/business/black-ceos-george-floyd/index.html
Ebrahimij, Alisha. “Female Fortune 500 CEOs reach an all-time high, but it’s still a small number.” CNN Business https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/20/us/fortune-500-women-ceos-trnd/index.html
Nicki Carrea believes that true beauty is synonymous with well-being. In 2015 she established Genuine Glow, an inside-outside wellness and skin care brand, and is a published beauty and wellness writer and speaker. Drawing on her life experiences she conceptualized and launched the Genuine Glow blog, which spotlights authentic voices, and creates a platform for shared experiences and human connection. Nicki is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and currently resides in New York City. You can connect with Nicki here: LinkedIn
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