Tearing down the institution of racism and building a more equitable and just world
A more equitable world starts with providing access to prosperity for those who have historically been denied. Jacobs was proud to sponsor another incredibly insightful session from Studio/E, “Access for All: A Conversation with US Bank's SVP & Chief Inclusion Officer Greg Cunningham”. Tearing down the institution of racism and building a more equitable and just world begins by providing more access to those who have historically been kept away from important building blocks of self-sustaining prosperity.
Greg started the conversation with answering the question, “What’s missing?” Greg explained that what is incomplete is our country’s promise and that the journey we are on is to continue to perfect what everyone was promised at the beginning. “The Black experience is the one that has always challenged the promise of America.”
Greg on the role of business:
Greg shared a personal story about the role of business in creating a more equitable world. After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, his father’s butcher shop was looted and burned but was denied a loan from the bank. He stressed that businesses need to reinvest back into the community, close the gap in home ownership, and fund entrepreneurs. “Sustaining the businesses so people can grow prosperity.”
Greg on defining “access”:
Access is an equitable pathway. Just give us access to the tools and the same systems of power (vote, ability to hold office, access to capital for small businesses, access to healthcare, etc). We need to ask, how do you cast a broader net for everybody and make the pie bigger.
On defining “inclusion”:
When you let everyone in, you give everyone a seat at the able and a voice – “inclusion is the verb” – (not tokenism – one Asian, one Black, one Hispanic on the board). My voice is just as valuable as others. We have diversity, but it’s not inclusion.
When you say [I don’t see color] to someone, you’re denying their experience in the world.
If you are a person of privilege and are curious enough to get to know and become a part of the broader fabric of community.
"It starts at home. Start having conversations about race and culture with your family. Examine the history of what we were all taught. Let’s have a nuanced lens on what’s below the surface. Be a student of history in a much more contextual way. Change your inputs and how you’re getting your information to expand your worldview." - Greg Cunningham
Jacobs President, Jackie Gibney, was able to ask Greg this question: At our company, we want to make sure we’re getting the perspective, but not have the employees feel like the burden is on them. Greg provided this guidance:
Greg's response: Examine the values of the organization versus the reality of the experience for the employee and understand where the gaps are for that employee. Are their policies and practices that get in the way? Have the organization, at the top, make a firm commitment of what the end game is. Is there parity at every level of the organization? There has to be a mandate at the top that sets a clear vision of what it looks like and put some clear accountability – compensation, leadership reviews, etc. It can’t be a program. It can’t be a responsibility of the employees of the color. How am I as a leader and how am I recognized as a leader?
We ended the session with this exercise:
Great exploratory leaders are competent at understanding and acting into the concept of CURRENT MEANS. In essence, start with what you have, don’t wait for what you think you need.
Here's what we all have:
Knowledge (we’ve learned things)
Time (we can devote our energies intentionally)
Talent (we have individual gifts)
Relationships (we have people we know)
Think about a person or organization for whom you’d like to create ACCESS while leveraging your CURRENT MEANS. Think in specifics as to how you want to leverage your gifts. And, if you’re able write it down and assign yourself a date on which you will take action.
One way Jacobs, as an organization, was able to leverage some of our current means was to make a donation to Urban Ventures. Urban Ventures works alongside 70 local partners to address opportunity gaps in academics, nutrition, physical activity, parenting resources, and more—all with the overarching goal to prepare and send every youth in our neighborhood to college or postsecondary education. Jacobs also is matching team member donations to the following organizations: Support the Cities, Black Vision Collective, Northside Funders Group, MEDA, Bethlehem Lutheran in the Midway, and West Broadway Business and Area Coalition.
We are truly grateful for Studio/E and Greg Cunningham for providing this extremely valuable session.