Being Black in corporate America is a thankless job.
Not only are we working “twice as hard, to get half as much,” but many Black employees feel marginalized, find it exhausting to be authentic and despite all of that, are often overlooked for promotions and raises to help accelerate their career path. Thankfully, the formation of the Black Executive CMO Alliance (BECA) will help to champion diversity at the corporate leadership level.
Led by Jerri DeVard, an industry veteran and former executive at Office Depot, The Black Executive CMO Alliance includes Black executives from 26 major companies, including Unilever, UPS, Adidas, ViacomCBS, Amazon, Netflix and BET Networks. “The vision for BECA was inspired by my own journey as a Black global marketing executive,” said Jerri DeVard. “Many of our founding members, like me, have worked incredibly hard throughout their careers to achieve positions of leadership and quickly realized that ‘few others look like them’ and have experienced the discontentment of being the ‘lonely only’ at the top.”
The founding members of BECA pledge to be catalysts for change by addressing inequities, while developing tangible actions to better prepare, support and cultivate Black marketing talent. This includes mentorship programs, first-hand executive exposure and coaching, career pathing and identifying skill opportunities to grow the Black marketing leadership talent pool.
And it’s no secret that corporate America’s current efforts to increase diversity are failing, according to a 2019 study by Coqual (formerly the Center for Talent Innovation) in New York City. According to the report, Black employees account for only 3.2% of senior leadership roles at large corporations, a statistic also consistent with the 2020 diversity report from the Association of National Advertisers. Continues DeVard, “I created this Alliance of Black marketing executives because it didn’t exist and is so desperately needed. BECA will challenge the corporate diversity gap and change the census by mentoring and building the pipeline of talented Black executives who will follow in our footsteps.”
Realizing a group at “the intersection of Black and C-suite and marketing” did not yet exist, DeVard set about gauging the interest of fellow Black executives and recruiting leaders who’d come to lay the framework of BECA, all based around four key pillars: “Share, learn, elevate, and pay it forward.”
The BECA is more timely than ever. Black representation at corporations is still largely non-existent, with less than 1 percent of all Fortune 500 CEOs are Black, 3.2 percent of executives and senior manager-level employees are Black, and nearly 60 percent of all Black executives have said that they experienced racism on the job.