This last year has been particularly hard for many Americans, but communities of color have been hit hardest. Recent analysis by the New York Times found that women and communities of color have been impacted the most by the health and economic crisis of the past year, with Black and Hispanic women still being unemployed at higher levels than white men.
In 2019, Robert F. Smith released a bold plan, the 2% solution, which called on corporations to designate 2% of their profits to promote racial equality and provide improved services to underserved communities, including Black populations across the country. So far, companies like Netflix, PayPal and Goldman Sachs have announced major initiatives aimed at ending racial inequities.
Even with these important donations and initiatives, there are still so many other ways we can work together to address racial disparities, eliminate racism and help everyone thrive. Here are three solutions proposed by leaders to address these important issues.
Zoë Baird, Marc Morial and Brad Smith: Creating Good Jobs That People Want
More than nine million people are still looking for work after job searching for at least a year. In a CNBC op-ed penned by Zoë Baird, President and CEO of the Markle Foundation, Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League and Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, the authors discuss the need to build pathways to better paying jobs, specifically for Black and Latino communities.
Right now, we have an opportunity to not only recover, but to focus on building for the future by expanding access to good, high-wage jobs, and ensuring people have equitable access to them. In the op-ed, the authors write: “we have released new research that shows that [unemployed workers who previously held low- and mid-wage roles] have the skills necessary for higher-wage jobs and their access to these jobs is key to closing America’s equity gap.”
The authors identified 77 occupations in particular that have proven to be economic springboards for workers — they call these jobs “Gateway jobs.” Their estimates project that the United States will create nearly 500,000 of these jobs in the next year, but that falls far short of the 5.8 million jobs we need to allow qualified workers, particularly women, Black, and Latino workers, move up the economic ladder. The authors call upon the United States to make investments in good jobs for long-term economic success, particularly for communities of color.
Robert F. Smith understands the importance of helping people gain access to careers where they will feel fulfilled. The Fund II Foundation’s paid internship program, internX, works with college students of color in the STEM field to help match them with employers, so they can get the experience they need to enter their field post-graduation. The program ultimately aims to create an ecosystem where students and young professionals can thrive in a diverse, equitable and inclusive way. Smith is the founding director and President of Fund II Foundation.
Cynthia Choi, Manjusha P. Kulkarni and Russell Jeung: How Businesses Can Make Workplaces More Equitable for AAPI People
In an op-ed in Quartz by Cynthia Choi, Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) and Co-Founder of Stop AAPI Hate, Manjusha P. Kulkarni, Executive Director of Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), and Russell Jeung, Professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, the authors discuss the need for the private sector to help advance racial equity for Asian Americans. Between March 19, 2020 and March 31, 2021, the group Stop AAPI Hate received more than 6,600 reports of incidents of anti-Asian discrimination, and over 32% of the reported incidents happened in the workplace or places of business.
One of the key things that the authors discuss is that work is not necessarily a safe place for people in the AAPI community. Many incidents of workplace violence, especially in the last year, have either targeted or disproportionately impacted AAPI workers. Everyone deserves to feel safe at work, and employers have a responsibility to help make that happen.
The authors argue that companies should be making strategic investments in diversity and inclusion. To do this, companies need to truly evaluate the needs of their employees and go beyond just checking the non-discrimination boxes. The authors invite companies to join the fight for racial equity by doing the following: prioritize and invest in strategic equity and inclusion efforts, assess and change corporate policies, uplift AAPI employees and customers, engage in transparent and accountable business practices, partner with community organizations and consider ways to engage customers and consumers.
Van Jones: The Important Work to Keep All of Us Healthy
The current health and economic crisis has hit African American communities particularly hard. CNN Host and CEO of the REFORM Alliance, Van Jones, says that’s because of long-standing health inequities impacting African Americans. The drivers of those inequities are often complex, says Jones. One of the drivers of health inequality is the fact that African American people are more likely to work in physically-demanding jobs, which can be harmful to their long-term health.
Another reason for these disparities, Jones explains in his CNN op-ed, is food deserts common in African American neighborhoods, which contribute to worse health outcomes experienced by many African Americans. He says, “[African American people] tend to live in neighborhoods where the stores sell less healthy food; fast food joints and liquor stores provide too many meals in urban America.”
Jones encourages everyone to take proactive steps to improve their health, but also implores the United States make systemic changes to expand access to healthy foods, good health care and more tools to end the structural inequalities impacting Black Americans that have existed for far too long.
Robert F. Smith: Corporations Have a Big Role to Play
Robert F. Smith believes that corporate dollars can play a big role in helping to address racial disparities in America, and that corporate investments have the potential to advance economic justice for Black Americans. In an op-ed penned by Smith in Quartz, he calls on businesses to up their contributions to advancing social and economic justice by donating just 2% of their earnings to initiatives helping to deliver racial equality. He explains that this number isn’t arbitrary, 2% is the amount of income the average American family donates to charities each year.
These capital investments can invest in Black-owned businesses and local organizations, and unlock potential in Black communities across America. We all have a role to play in fighting for racial equality, and corporations are no exception.
The bottom line: companies have a lot of options to help champion racial justice and make their workplaces safer and more equitable spaces for people of color. To learn more about The 2% Solution and how to get involved.