C-Suite Leaders Share the Biggest Challenges They’re Facing in Their Racial Equity Work

It’s been nearly a year since the movement against racial injustice reached a tipping point that corporate America could not ignore. Companies issued statements, made commitments, and announced financial pledges to address the impacts of systemic racism at an unprecedented pace and scale. Whether companies had a role to play in advancing racial equity was not a question. How they should take action, however, remained unclear.

In response, we teamed up with PolicyLink and FSG to develop A CEO Blueprint for Racial Equity. The Blueprint outlines ways for CEOs to take action in their workplaces, the communities they operate in, and society at-large. The aim of the Blueprint is to help CEOs go beyond their statements, recognizing that a commitment to advancing racial equity is just the first step.

We wanted to hear from executives themselves on where they need the most guidance along this journey. Today, we’re sharing what we learned from one-on-one conversations with 40 corporate leaders in a new report: Corporate Insights Into The CEO Blueprint For Racial Equity.

The partners joined former Microsoft executive and Social Venture Partners International founding president, Paul Shoemaker, to hear from CEOs, directors, and other C-suite leaders – together representing 4.3 million workers across a range of industries, such as healthcare, retail, and finance. We asked these leaders how they’ve approached their racial equity work beyond public statements, and which barriers and growth opportunities alike have arisen along the way. We also asked if they’ve used the first iteration of the Blueprint to guide their strategies and how it has been useful, as well as where they need greater support.

The new report centers on seven key takeaways from these conversations, including:

  • There is a deeper awareness of “shared complicity” in perpetuating inequity and a greater commitment to listen and learn, but also a fear of making mistakes in moving forward.
  • Many business leaders understand that transparency matters now more than ever, underscoring the painful lack of robust data and accountability.
  • Business leaders have not fully embraced all the benefits of advancing racial equity within their workplaces and across society.
  • The ongoing tension between near-term perception and long-term impact, compounded by prevailing mindsets about the nature of equity work, presents a significant barrier to more meaningful change.

These takeaways will help inform refreshed guidance PolicyLink, FSG, and JUST are publishing in a forthcoming June update to the Blueprint. With these firsthand insights from executives, this update will include new recommendations for CEOs to address the key hurdles shared in this latest report. The Blueprint update will also serve as a North Star for our work toward developing new racial equity reporting standards, critical for real progress in this space.

Advancing racial equity will remain a top priority for the country and companies alike. Hearing from corporate leaders directly can help provide the most comprehensive resources for action. With a shared understanding of the hurdles they’re facing and the tools to tackle them, executives can collectively help advance action that is commensurate with the scale of this challenge – inside their companies, within their communities, and at the broader societal level.

Download the full report.

For additional details on JUST’s work advancing racial equity in corporate America, visit our Initiatives page, and to get engaged, please reach out to our Managing Director of Corporate Engagement, Yusuf George.

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