75% of executive positions are held by white men. Less than 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs identify as African American. These are not new numbers. In fact, recruiters are reminded about them in every KPI meeting or goal setting conversation.
But what is new is the onset of the COVID pandemic and the rise of the BLM movement. These two historic moments in our history have only illustrated the widening opportunity gap that plagues low-income communities and communities of color.
At SuitUp, a 501c3 education non-profit that increases career readiness for students in underserved communities, we challenge the status quo. We tell each of our students that they are CEOs for the day and put them through a real business simulation. By the end of working with SuitUp, students can see the corporate world as part of “their world” and know that job titles, such as CEO, CFO, VP of Marketing, etc. are now in their grasp.
So how can recruiters join SuitUp and other likeminded individuals to further future diversity across a myriad of industries?
At the end of the day, we need to shift our thinking. We need to look at the 10-year-old child from the South Bronx and tell him that one day he’ll be in the driver’s seat. And even though he may look different than the CEOs he sees on the TV. They may be older. Speak differently. Have different life experiences. We need to tell him that he has the floor. We want to hear his ideas. We need to tell him his clothes don’t matter. That “suiting up” is about a professional persona. Not the blazer he can’t afford. Or the tie that his dad never taught him to put on. And if he hears it long enough. And loud enough. He begins to believe it. He begins to believe that he can be a CEO or the next VP of Marketing. And that’s way we recruit for a new world. A world where all people, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, gender, etc. can pursue the college and career of their choosing.
If you’re looking to get involved with SuitUp, please visit www.volunteersuitup.org
Lauren Reilly is the Executive Director of SuitUp, a national non-profit organization that increases career readiness for students in underserved communities through innovative business competitions. She joins SuitUp after serving as a board member and Chief Learning Officer for Practice Makes Perfect. Lauren is a Teach for America alum and NY certified teacher, having taught both middle and high school in the Bronx and Harlem. Lauren has received the SOCAP Entrepreneur, Gratitude Network, and NYU Senior Leaders Fellowships and has been recognized by the Obama administration as a White House Champion for Change. Most recently, Lauren is an alum of the Goldman Sach’s 10K Small Business Program and 1 of 17 businesses selected to participate in Santa Clara’s Global Social Benefit Institutions’ Accelerator Program. Lauren graduated with a Master's degree in Education from Fordham University and a Bachelor's degree in History from Vassar College.
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