America’s (Corporate) Identity Dilemma

By Katrice L. Mines, editor | kmines@atlantatribune.com

As we prepared for this issue, as has happened over the past few years — we grappled with the ever-changing meaning of “diversity in America.” According to a recent New York Times article by Tanzina Vega, the United States Census Bureau is at a similar crossroads.

There are a plethora of launching points for us content-wise as we look at the makeup of today’s workforce in both corporate and small business sectors. But because the premise that undergirds our work is to be a source of information for African-American workers, we are drawn to survey what is happening as it relates to African Americans … the ethnic minority in the labor force. Diversity Inc. reports that there are six African-American CEOs of FORTUNE 500 companies, accounting for 1.2 percent of all FORTUNE 500 CEOs. It bears mentioning that there are nine Asian and 10 Latino CEOs, making up 1.8 percent and 2 percent respectively.

There is still a long way to go. And therein lies our focus.

First things first: America has not entered a post-racial period. America is, however, fastly becoming the most diverse place in the world, according to Kenneth Prewitt, former director of the U.S. Census Bureau. Prewitt has said of the United States that “we’re on our way to becoming the first country in history that is literally made up of every part of the world;” a marker that makes Census race and ethnicity classifying that much more interesting as the Bureau works toward its decennial count in 2020. The problem: Not enough race identifying options.

Does America have an identity problem? Some would answer “yes” to the query that has crossed generations. But, research has shown that diversity pays — a fact that hasn’t gone unnoted by corporate America. We’ve long heard that gender, race, and cultural diversity create better organizations and a profit margin. Yet, before a strategy and fulfillment of racial diversity in C-suites is realized, America is moving on to other underrepresented groups for building out. Think sexual orientation, religion, age, etc. And so I asked diversity commentator Dr. William A. Guillory if there is cause for concern among African-American executives not only vying for a seat at the table but in the highest levels of management considering the shift in the diversity focus. His reply, “yes.”

Guillory shares some perspective on the future of workforce diversity in a Q&A on pg. 42.

Also, this month, associate editor Kamille D. Whittaker lays out the landscape of power in Atlanta — people and companies.

On the cover:

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BronzeLens Film Festival Founder Kathleen Bertrand and Roger Bobb, chairman of its board, talk about their work to bring more color to the silver screen. AT

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