Bloomberg Equality Summit: Event Highlights – Day 2
March 18, 2021
By Bloomberg Live
Words matter. Actions matter more. As we turn the page on the most tumultuous year in modern history, corporate leaders and institutions are weighing bold and decisive action that reflects new and diverse voices in their ranks. They’re also looking to allies across industries and regions to repair the damage of a pandemic that has exposed even greater inequities across gender, class and race.
Which companies are leading the way to closing gaps in health care distribution, responsible investing, retail, technology, and other areas? How can institutions leverage their platforms to bring about lasting change, and what are the moral and economic cost of failing to do so?
At the fourth annual Bloomberg Equality Summit, we convened leaders at the front lines of industry and policy to showcase these and other topics, as well as the steps they’re taking to move forward. The Bloomberg Equality summit is the preeminent forum for corporate executives, thought leaders and advocates who are working tirelessly to create a more just business climate for all.
Click here to view video of today’s event.
- Esther Aguilera, CEO, Latino Corporate Directors Association
- Cherie Blair CBE QC, Founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
- Dorothy A. Brown, Asa Griggs Candler Professor, Emory University School of Law
- The Honorable G.T. Bynum, Mayor, Tulsa OK
- Ken Chenault, Chairman & Managing Director, General Catalyst
- Josh Childress, Co-Founder & CEO, Landspire Group
- Lee Daniels, Award-Winning Filmmaker; Founder, Lee Daniels Entertainment
- Alphonso David, President, Human Rights Campaign
- Katherine Franke, James L. Dohr Professor of Law, Columbia University
- David Kenny, CEO & Chief Diversity Officer, Nielsen
- Michael Lopez, Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
- Baroness Helena Morrissey DBE, Founder, 30% Club and Chair, The Diversity Project
- Michael Novogratz, Founder & CEO Galaxy Digital and Chair, The Bail Project
- Sanda Ojiambo, Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact
- Sheryl Palmer, Chairman & CEO, Taylor Morrison Home Corporation
- John W. Rogers Jr., Founder, Chairman, Co-CEO & Chief Investment Officer, Ariel Investments
- Robert Rooks, CEO, REFORM Alliance
- Ceclia Rouse, Chair, Council of Economic Advisers
- Howard Schultz, Former CEO and Chairman Emeritus, Starbucks
- Carolyn Tastad, Group President – North America & Chief Sales Officer, P&G
- Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation and Partner, The Board Diversity Action Alliance
- Jon Winkelried, Co-CEO, TPG
- Telisa Yancy, Chief Operating Officer, American Family Insurance
Bloomberg moderators included:
- Sonali Basak, Wall Street Reporter, Bloomberg Television
- Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder, Bloomberg LP & Bloomberg Philanthropies
- Shartia Brantley, Deputy New York Bureau Chief, Bloomberg; Senior Editor, Bloomberg Live
- Scarlet Fu, Anchor, Bloomberg Television
- Patrick Garrigan, Global Head of Bloomberg Live, Bloomberg LP
- Rebecca Greenfield, Team Leader, Equality, Bloomberg
- Mallika Kapur, Deputy Global Editor, Bloomberg Live and Host, Out of Office
- Carol Massar, Host, Bloomberg Businessweek Television & Radio
- David Merritt, Senior Executive Editor, EMEA, Bloomberg
- Mark Miller, Global Editor, Bloomberg Live
- Taylor Riggs, Anchor, Bloomberg Television
- Rakshita Saluja, Executive Editor, Equality, Bloomberg
- Jacqueline Simmons, Senior Executive Editor, Americas, Bloomberg
- Justin B. Smith, CEO, Bloomberg Media
- Ben Steverman, Reporter, Bloomberg
- David Westin, Anchor, Bloomberg Television
Key highlights included:
- On the racial wealth gap in America: John W. Rogers, Jr., Founder, Chairman, Co-CEO & Chief Investment Officer, Ariel Investments, spoke about the “frightening history” in the U.S. in which “white Americans have a hard time seeing black Americans in leadership roles, creating wealth, and competing with them head-to-head, toe-to-toe.” He continued, “It’s part of the reason we haven’t been able to make a dent in the wealth gap in this country and why our wealth gap continues to get worse and worse generation by generation.” Rogers concluded, “Relative to white Americans today, Black Americans are worse off than their grandparents were, which is pretty shocking.”
- On prejudice inherent in the U.S. tax system: “My 25 years of research shows that, regardless of the activity, when white Americans and Black Americans do the same thing, U.S. tax policy gives advantages to white Americans with tax cuts and loopholes but it disadvantages Black Americans”, said Dorothy A. Brown, Asa Griggs Candler Professor, Emory University School of Law. She continued, “Roughly three-quarters of Black Americans are not poor; so the idea that because blacks are poor they don’t pay a lot in taxes, belies logic. It doesn’t matter how much income you have, tax law disadvantages black Americans across the income spectrum.”
- On responsible innovation: “I believe companies exist because society allows us to exist and we have a responsibility to improve society. We need to go through social due diligence and have a mindfulness of impact to broader society”, said Ken Chenault, Chairman & Managing Director, General Catalyst, when he was asked about how businesses can better innovate. “What we are doing with our companies and founders is focusing on a framework whereby we understand the impact of our technology when building a business – does it leave some people behind? Does it marginalize some people? In the venture and start-up world let’s get it right at the beginning,” he added.
- On the OneTen initiative: Chenault said, “there were more black CEOs in the early 2000s than there are now. As we look at the pipeline, the feeder group who could become CEOs, it is not very good.” Chenault explained that OneTen is designed to influence employment for Blacks in America by tackling systemic issues. Chenault explained that there are cases where “some of the job requirements are not relevant to the actual performance of the job. For example, “75% of Black Americans who are eligible for jobs do not have a four-year college degree”, he said. Chenault continued, “there is a need to get corporations collectively focused on this issue with a specific target of one million jobs in ten years because the reality is that collectively large companies have not done a great job on diversity.”
- On equality in Hollywood: Geena Davis, Academy Award-Winning Actor and Founder & Chair, The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, said, “Our research has shown that if there’s a female writer, producer or director on a project, the percentage of on-screen female characters goes up. And I’m sure it’s also true with black directors, producers and writers.” Davis cautioned that off-screen diversity was tougher to balance, “I find it’s easier to convince people to add more characters than it is to get them to add people behind the camera. The numbers for black and female and intersectional directors and producers is hard to measure; it’s so glacial,” she said of charting progress in this area.
- On the need for a wakeup call on racial equality in America: “As a filmmaker, my spirit tells me to do whatever is in the air,” said Lee Daniels, Award-Winning Filmmaker and Founder, Lee Daniels Entertainment. “When I did [Lee Daniels’] The Butler it was really about hope because Obama was president and that’s what he was talking about then. When I got the script about The United States vs. Billie Holiday, I started thinking about what was in the air. The Floyd incident hadn’t happened but I could feel it was going to happen. Billie is a call to arms. Is there a correlation to today? For sure. This movie is important right now, it was important back when Billie did it, I think it will be important in the next 40 years unless we’re doing the work. America is fractured and I think this is the first time we are actually able to see the sore that exists in America and hopefully, Billie will make us take a deep dive into knowing what we have to do to fix it.
- On incorporating diverse communities in business models: “What we’ve decided to do at the firm is really try to go right to the issue of trying to put diverse people into the seat of being capital allocators,” said Jon Winkelried, Co-CEO, TPG, a sponsor of the summit. “Until we solve the problem of putting diverse people into the seat of being capital allocators, running funds and being able to use their networks to flow capital in that direction. I don’t think we’ll solve this problem.”
- On the American dream: “I’m literally living proof of the American dream, having grown up in public housing, where the government federally subsidized the way I grew up,” Howard Schultz, Former CEO and Chairman Emeritus, Starbucks, said in a special edition of the Bloomberg Live Out of Office podcast. “I learned firsthand that your station in life does not define who you would be and where you can go.”
- On solutions for criminal justice reform: “If we think about root causes, people on probation need jobs, they need to be employed, they need to be connected back to family, they need to be part of civic society,” Robert Rooks, CEO, REFORM Alliance, said about supporting formerly incarcerated people. “They don’t need to be in jail at their homes.”
- On momentum post-George Floyd: “The uproar around George Floyd, when everybody saw him get murdered in real life, it changed the psychology of America. I think it opens up a window for us to actually make real change,” said Michael Novogratz, Founder & CEO, Galaxy Digital and Chair, The Bail Project. “But this change is hard because it’s fought at the state and local levels with arcane politics and people that have a vested interest not to change.”
- On the atmosphere in the White House: “There is a deep understanding of not only the challenges of this past year and the fact that there are those for whom this past year has been an inconvenience, and for others for whom it has been utterly devastating personally, professionally, economically,” Cecilia Rouse, Chair, Council of Economic Advisers, said about President Biden’s administration. “The first focus of all of my colleagues has been what can we do to help people get to the other side of this pandemic.”
- On the definition of diversity: “When we talk about diversity we have to be very clear, because I think sometimes when we say diversity, what that means to some, is white women,” said Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation and Partner, The Board Diversity Action Alliance. “We’ve seen significant progress of inclusion of white women but we have not seen commensurate gains for African Americans and Latinx.”
- On the next generation of boardrooms: Esther Aguilera, CEO, Latino Corporate Directors Association, said board members should treat their seats like a succession plan. “You want to start to get to know a broader swath of phenomenal diverse talent even before you have the vacancy,” she says. “We have a large number of boards that are all white in the U.S. If that’s the case, have a search of only diverse talent, you’re going to find phenomenal people if you take some very, very basic steps.”
- On reflecting consumers: “There’s such a big understanding that clients, most particularly the next generation of consumers, they expect that the companies that they buy products from, that they buy services from, to be like them, to understand their issues,” said Baroness Helena Morrissey DBE, Founder, 30% Club, and Chair, The Diversity Project.
- On Reversing Women’s Exodus from the Workforce:
- Carolyn Tastad, Group President – North America & Chief Sales Officer at P&G, said, “Gender equality took a step back during Covid-19, but we at P&G are trying to move forward and not stepping back.” She said that P&G has adjusted its policy and benefits structure during the pandemic to fully support their employees, recognizing all types of family circumstances. “The common agenda for all of us should be enhancing education and advancing women entrepreneurs and their ideas,” she said. P&G was a sponsor of the Equality Summit.
- Cherie Blair CBE QC, Founder at Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, thinks that things haven’t moved backwards during the pandemic, but rather it exposed the sharp divide in women’s home and work balance. “Hopefully, after the pandemic we will accelerate the move forward,” she said. “Some businesses are not family friendly, and it forced women to become entrepreneurs,” she said, stressing that one in 10 women consider COVID-19 as the single greatest challenge for them, and that it’s more difficult to get finances/investment for their business as financial institutions do not take female entrepreneurs seriously.
- Sanda Ojiambo, Executive Director at United Nations Global Compact said that the pandemic has had a big impact on education, jobs and wellbeing. “Attention should be paid that the Government’s economic stimulus packages are gender sensitive,” she then continued to say – about addressing the issues with education – “We are facing the possibility of a lost generation.” Ojiambo emphasized “We need a “re-set” to truly re-build a more inclusive and diverse workforce.”
- On Tracking Gender Equality in the Workplace:
- Sheryl Palmer, Chairman & CEO at Taylor Morrison Home Corporation, thinks that unconscious bias of “looks like me” exists at the workplace. She said, “The impact of Covid is great and women were disproportionately affected,” adding that the pandemic hasn’t stopped them from promoting or hiring new people, 40% of whom have been female. “We have attracted a number of female employees and they know they can be successful in our company,” Palmer continued. “We need to provide more support for workers during COVID to achieve personal and professional life balance.”
- Corey Thomas, Chairman & CEO at Rapid7, said that education plays a role in creating a less diverse workforce pool. “We realized we had biases from where we recruit,” he said, adding that we are tribal by nature and we need to reconsider and address our natural biases. Thomas also stated that childcare falls disproportionately on women, and organizations need to provide more support to women as “this is a new normal now.” Mentoring and sponsorship at the workplace are essential, and Thomas acknowledged that for some employees mentoring happens naturally while some don’t have easy access to mentoring or sponsorship in the workplace.
- On The Future of LGBTQ+ Rights: What’s Next for the Courts:
- Alphonso David, President at Human Rights Campaign, said the “Equality Act,” which would expand federal civil rights law to prohibit anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in housing, employment and other areas of public life, is vitally needed to provide comprehensive protections. He added that many major U.S. corporations support the act, which was recently passed by the U.S House of Representatives and is under debate in the U.S. Senate. He also emphasized that the Equality Act would not harm women’s sports or religious institutions. “Covid had a devastating impact on the LGBTQ+ community and workers,” he said, adding that the impact has been worst for LGBTQ+ people of color. “We need to talk about poverty,” stressing that 5% of LGBTQ+ community live in poverty. “We need to see beyond ourselves, once we do it, we will start supporting changes.”
- Michael Lopez, Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, when asked about the importance of the Equality Act, said the “LGBTQ+ community [size] is increasing,” as more and more people are coming out of the closet in the workplace and in the overall community. “We need to support those people; we need to stay together.”
- Katherine Franke, James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University praised the Equality Act, saying that it protects the LGBTQ+ community on a federal level. She said that the Equality Act is targeted to cover public institutions and is not intended to erode any religious rights or the liberties of various communities.
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