Institutional racism affects the Black community on a health, financial and societal level as seen during the unprecedented COVID19 pandemic. Black people are dying at disproportionate rates from disease and faced higher unemployment rates than their White counterparts.

Earlier this week, First Lady of New York City Chirlaine McCray appeared on a ESSENCE Wealth & Power panel when she dropped this gem, “Black and brown communities only achieve financial equity when their communities are healthy in every way.”

Picking up on that conversation during week two of the ESSENCE Festival Of Culture, Richelieu Dennis, ESSENCE Ventures CEO and Ford President & CEO Jim Hackett delved deeper into how companies can design a template that benefits their Black employees while simultaneously servicing the Black community as a whole.

“The idea of equity, I think now, is one that drives change is a systemic process, organized structural way in a long term view,” said Dennis leading the conversation. “That is this whole idea of design of how we design the path forward. How we design the future. How we design the institution and the structures that take out the systemic roadblocks and challenges that we see on a day-in, day-out basis.”

“All men are created equal, as inspiring as it is, doesn’t ensure that the designed design for all men is equity,” explained Hackett.

Ford remains one of ESSENCE festival’s most loyal sponsors and they continue to lead the charge for providing their Black female employees ample opportunities to transcend professional ranks.

“You raise the level of ethnographic research. You’re observing and understanding — you seek and understand. What is it about your life as a Black women at Ford that we somehow just don’t have any clue? Our problems begin with gender difference,” said Hackett.

During his tenure at Ford, Hackett oversaw the rebuilding of nurseries to better assist his Black female employees. Times have vey much changed since then.

“You design for intense understanding what does it means to be a mother while you’re at work?” Hackett rhetorically questioned. “In the Black culture, there is a significant care of others in their families; so therefore when you’re creating hours for work you don’t understand that they’re taking care of not only their immediate family but their extended family. The migration of that in and out of their lives and what does it do how they concentrate and how the hours they work.”

In an effort to impose structural change in the corporation, Ford is doing an audit to get a sense of the work life experience their Black female employees face.

“A lot of it has to do with ‘How do I get into the networks to be considered for a promotion.’ If you asked me, ‘How do Black women feel? They have all the talent in the world. I just want to be considered. That’s the inspiring part about it. Just give me the consideration, I’ll make my own way. I’m not asking for something I don’t want to earn.”

“And that’s equity,” added Dennis.

With corporations like Ford making an effort to reevaluate their practices, thus combating institutional racism, Black women can have a seat at the table. And that’s how you make change.

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