For those of you who may not know, I do plan to run my own company one day.
Though I’ve struggled with the idea for quite some time (hey, entrepreneurship is a hard pill to swallow!), nothing seems more exciting, thrilling, and downright terrifying than waking up everyday, working to build up a company culture, its morals, and its influence in the larger scheme of businesses. However, it’s a constant reminder that though I have the ambition, the drive, and even the stamina, the color of my skin is a hard pill that yes, even corporate America, isn’t ready to swallow.
Did you know that there is still a shocking lack of diversity in upper levels of corporate America in 2017? I remember writing a piece on the departure of Ursula Burns from Xerox, but surely I believed there was another. Nope. Fortune magazine released its annual Fortune 500 list, a formal ranking of the top 500 most profitable corporations in the U.S. As you can imagine, we can almost automatically assume two things regarding the CEO’s of said companies: they’re white, and they are male. A few days ago, the 2017 ranking showed the most number of female CEOs ever in the list’s history, however the number still hit about 6%.
These numbers always fascinate me, immediately followed by crippling tension that I rarely see a woman who looks like me. How is it that in today’s climate, a space and time where women are marching for “equality”, where we make up around 47% of a workforce, and where women of color (who make up one-third of the workforce) are constantly at the epicenter of fixing things when they go haywire, there are TWO, yes, only TWO, women of color on this list. And while I wish to commend women such as Geisha Williams from PG&E, who became the first Latina ever featured on the Fortune 500, or Indra Nooyi from PepsiCo, I’m upset that there isn’t a single black woman on Fortune 500 CEOs list. There is no woman with my genetic makeup sitting there, smiling for the camera while she’s secretly telling me that I, too, can be where she is.
While I know I don’t have a prescriptive answer on how to adjust and amend the makeup of corporate America, I do know that I will take the tools I have everyday and build, build, build. I don’t have the solutions, but the simple ownership of black-owned homes, businesses, and brands is a start. Volunteering and working at non-profit organizations to raise up our next generation of thoughtful leaders, provoking antagonists, and ring leaders is in our DNA. While I may not see any women who look like me heading the big corporations in CEO or even senior-level positions, I have to work hard to get to the C-suite, open doors for other women to walk in, and keep this conversation going, no matter the cost.
I was talking to a friend the other day, who said at her job, she’s never even heard the term “diversity” muttered. Not having the conversation is not the answer to coating a problem that has slowly, but surely, permeated its way into the very corner offices and meeting agendas we print. It is a problem if we are not discussing that women of color in the workforce are facing both gender and racial biases, discriminatory practices, and hiring instabilities. We must force our ways into positions of power, using that power to better the next sister, and the one after that, and so on and so on.
That is why speaking on your platforms, supporting movements, and even working on TBM is a necessity, not a questionable act. I have to stay true and steadfast to the goals that lay ahead of me, whatever the cost. Whatever it is you’re seeking in this world, stay strong to your morals and values, but always keep a steady target ahead of you. Know where you are going, and though the obstacles may seem bleak, know that you’ll get there.
I don’t have all the answers, but I have a heart and a mind that ambitiously seeks to destroy these ideals that women of color can’t be on this list. That somehow, we aren’t worthy of calling the shots. That ends effective immediately. Good morning, my name is Jamé Jackson, and I’m planning on changing the world.