Diversity and inclusion requires renewed focus on youth and education

You would be hard-pressed to find a Fortune 500 company whose website and philosophy didn’t reflect a bended-knee commitment to a statement of cultural maturity regarding race, sexual orientation and physical ability. If you’re on the career page of these corporations you’ll see that these statements focused on diversity have been elevated to a place under their own tabs, utilizing buzz words that indicate sincerity.

Walmart: “… understanding, respecting and valuing diversity—unique styles, experiences, identities, ideas and opinions—while being inclusive of all people.

Apple: “Explore a collaborative culture of inclusion, growth, and originality, supported by resources that make a difference in your life.”

And CVS Health could win the prize for the best use of SEO language: “We believe that for our business to thrive, our workforce must reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. And all of our colleagues must feel empowered to succeed. We work hard to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace, accepting of all employees who bring unique perspectives.”

But the words shroud a problem rather than outline a program — that something important may be lacking in an organization’s makeup.

White people actually make up an overwhelming 92.6% of the Fortune 500 CEOs; 3.4% are Latinx, 2.4% East or South Asian, and only 1% are African American. Women, the disabled and the LGBTQ community are also important actors in what factors into the diversity equation.

Is corporate America even the place to “catch up” for disadvantages that likely started in elementary school?

A plethora of studies tells us that the combination of poverty and minority status contributes greatly to disparity in education. Students in high-poverty areas have less access to college-prep courses. Schools in high-poverty areas are less likely to offer STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes.

Can a corporate diversity and inclusion program be effective — and genuine — without addressing the issue of education disparity at an early age?

The power and might of a billion-dollar earning corporation partnering with impoverished schools might produce an equal impact later in life for those students when it comes to employment and better outcomes in general.

Without recognizing that diversity and inclusion means youth and education the words take on the same well-meaning but vacant hyperbole as “thoughts and prayers.” The American corporation can do better than that.

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