While conversations around diversity and racial equity have been in the spotlight over the past year, the shadows that have been cast for so many decades are not easily erased. When reflecting on the opportunities that once existed for Black entrepreneurs, a powerful message becomes apparent for business leaders today: They need to support Black entrepreneurs in order to help create sustainable and successful communities that will, in turn, add strength to the fabric of our economy.
Here’s how business leaders can help the next generation of Black innovators and entrepreneurs to succeed.
Understand racial equity is a financial and global business imperative, not just a moral one
Appreciate that not all founders or job candidates have the same story
Black entrepreneurs more frequently lack access to key resources while having a smaller financial safety net to rely on when their businesses face obstacles.
So when evaluating a pitch or metrics from a Black founder, it’s critical for investors to consider how different backgrounds bring unique perspectives and experiences than traditional Silicon Valley-based or Ivy league graduates. Investors must also resist the urge to “pattern-match” Black founders against non-Black founders, as that approach is riddled with bias. Pattern-matching is an informal system Silicon Valley investors use to evaluate startups and entrepreneurs based on companies or founder personality types that have been successful. But innovation isn’t based on one formulaic approach. They must dig deeper, step out of their comfort zone and embrace diversity as an asset, not a risk.
The above also holds true for those business leaders looking to recruit more Black employees and more Black talent. They need to step away from the algorithmic approach of hiring and look at what will add value to their teams in the form of new, fresh and strategic thinking.
Evaluate your equity practices in purchasing and suppliers
What’s more, throughout the second half of 2020, 15% to 30% of Blavity Inc.’s content was labeled “not brand safe” by several ad agencies and some of our clients because of keywords in our articles like “police,” “race,” “Trump,” and “brutality.” As a result, these articles could only be published without ads running adjacent to or within the content. As you can imagine, this dynamic exacerbates the cycle where content for Black audiences isn’t incentivized or promoted because it is deemed not as lucrative.
Business leaders must actively rethink their own equitable business practices, as well as those of their partners and subcontractors, to ensure that economic incentives align with the ability of Black businesses to create real change and innovation.
Build a board and an HR team that aligns with your company’s values
Having more diverse decision makers to help deliver a more authentic message and approach will be key for businesses to survive and succeed in the market. Just as we’ve seen with the conversation around women in leadership and board roles, Black professionals need a seat at the table to drive this change and enable organizations to succeed.