Why corporate America ‘can’t unlearn’ protest’s lessons in building diverse workplaces

As protests erupt globally over the death of George Floyd, more companies are lending a hand to the movement through donations and pledges to expand their workforce to be more diverse — gestures that experts warned won’t be enough by themselves.

The latest companies to address racial inequalities are Adidas (ADDYY), who pledged to fill 30% of their open U.S. positions with black or Latino people, and Nike (NKE), Twitter (TWTR) and Square (SQ), who announced June 19 would be a paid company holiday to celebrate black culture.

But Jeff Lindor, founder and CEO of The Gentlemen’s Factory, told Yahoo Finance that while this is a start, the present pledges won’t define the long-term change that needs to happen.

“One thing that corporate America needs to understand, and the world needs to understand, is that black and brown people can’t unlearn what we’ve just experienced,” he told “On the Move” in an interview.

“We’re evaluating where we’ll be six months from now, a year from now, and I believe that if the community is not happy with satisfaction, then we’ll be marching again,” Lindor stated.

“We need to see exactly where that money goes” in the future to see the true results,” he added.

Millennial black businesswoman addressing colleagues at a corporate business meeting, close up

BWG Business Solutions Principal Consultant Janice Gassam Asare told Yahoo Finance that many companies have an “unrealistic expectation of how long change actually takes,” and that their employees fear that the pledges may not be authentic.

“In one breath they’re preaching that ‘Black Lives Matter,’ [and] in another breath their organization is not diverse, and there’s no diverse representation in leadership positions,” she told “The First Trade” in an interview.

Asare stressed that for corporate America, it’s important to “make sure your house is in order before going out and trying to fix other peoples houses.”

She explains that some things that companies can do to develop long-lasting change in their workforce is to talk about race, provide monthly inclusion events, and address systemic issues.

Asare specifically pointed to referral hiring, saying it “often does the opposite” when trying to build a more diverse workforce, with the dynamic often favoring predominantly white managers who choose applicants with similar backgrounds.

Yet because this is now a focus of global conversation, Asare said she’s hopeful that change will “actually start to happen.”

McKenzie DeGroot is a producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @degrootmckenzie

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