People know that corporations are powerful in our economy and as societal influencers. In this climate where trust is a critical element, the alignment of word and deed is under scrutiny. There are two things that we look for during a time of crisis: competency and empathy.
In this time of COVID-19, economic crisis and the damage to many small minority-owned businesses, corporations and nonprofits will need to work together to address the needs exacerbated by an administration who was unprepared for either crisis. While budgets will be stretched, the only way for our economy to get back on track is to get focused on your community. Sometimes, in a hyperlocal way, working with smaller grassroots organizations to rebuild communities and trust. Funding, board participation and loaned executives are all part of the equation.
This is a critical moment in America, and the deep divisions must be addressed with systemic change. At this moment, taking a real stand for racial equity in our social fabric is the measure of leadership.
We are in a moment of crisis, but we are also in a moment of change. We will not go back to how we operated before. When we think about the future, who do we want to be as a country when we come out of this? This crisis demands that we learn from this social movement. Our best minds, our incredibly creative and innovative American leadership must reimagine how we deploy our resources to address the historic issues that have been laid bare.
What we did in Chicago was small and unique to the civic corporate community here, but what CEO Action has done has taken that kind of ethos and energy and spread it at a large scale. That tells us that there's a wonderful opportunity. I see this work as much more about accountability for change in the future than we realized in the past.
AMID THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC AND PROTESTS
Why is corporate leadership in diversity and inclusion work critical during times of crisis?
How is corporate leadership in a position to offer impactful support to communities beyond their employees and employees’ families, particularly Black Americans?
Looking forward, what long-term support is needed to provide not only relief but recovery?
against systemic racism in America, a daunting set of challenges are testing corporate leadership’s ability to not only support their employees, but their communities as well. For some, learnings from American organizations born from crisis hold critical insight for present-day issues and concerns.
Fifty-two years ago, Chicago faced an intimidating set of challenges. The civil unrest that followed a political assassination left the Windy City with deaths, arrests, damaged city blocks and injured morale. But out of the uncertainty that gripped the city came growth, when a number of corporate leaders and business owners from Chicago’s Black community founded an organization called Chicago United.
And throughout the past five decades, the nonprofit has worked to help CEOs and corporate leadership teams develop inclusive diversity practices to create a stronger social and economic climate for all races in Chicago.
Like many American cities, Chicago is hurting right now. Nonprofits need help, and the private sector has the power to act fast. Still, many corporate leaders need guidance in looking at response actions through the lens of inclusion. Fortunately, diversity and inclusion thought-leaders such as Gloria Castillo — who served as the president and CEO of Chicago United for 17 years until her retirement in April — can provide that support.
In association with CEO Action, we asked Castillo for her advice on how corporate leaders should think about supporting their communities and nonprofits during times of crisis, drawn from her experience on the frontlines of diversity and inclusion.
Chicago United is one of more than 1,000-plus organizations — representing 15 million employees — that have joined CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion (CEO Action), a coalition of CEOs who have pledged to share their leading practices that address the ongoing inclusion needs of their people and communities.
Gloria Castillo speaking with colleagues including Helene D. Gayle, President and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust (pictured left).
Gloria Castillo speaking with Juan Carlos Avila, President and Founder of Faro Associates.
Employees know when there is an inconsistency between inclusive words and divisive deeds. Organizations such as CEO Action are well positioned to help their signatories move beyond inclusive words. They require commitment to specific actions within their workplace. I believe the next step that CEOs must take is to ensure the power of their profits, when donated politically, are in alignment with their stated diversity, equity and inclusion values.
two things that we look for during a time of crisis: competency
Taking a stand on national standards in law enforcement, which address the unequal, unfair and life-threatening treatment of Black and Latinx members of their community is the way to secure lasting effect. Our more local government and civic organizations will be closest to the issues that affect us immediately. Supporting the local community trust or civic-minded foundation to host forums to explore what a safe and healthy community looks like and create the framework to act on the findings could also have a lasting impact.
The cornerstone of our democracy is the right to vote. Their first action would be to encourage state officials to ensure all of their employees and their families have access to the ballot through early and mail-in voting. Absent of a public policy stand, they can take corporate action by committing to allotting their employees a time to vote. Many companies have made November 3rd a paid holiday to ensure that their employees’ voices are heard through the ballot box.
Gloria Castillo in downtown Chicago.
“We are in a moment
of crisis, but we are also in a moment
Photography by alyssa schukar
& INCLUSION ?
Q&A WITH GLORIA CASTILLO
Gloria Castillo at Chicago City Hall.
Gloria Castillo at Chicago City Hall.