Bryan Gill has big plans for recruiting and welcoming neurodiverse colleagues to JPMorgan Chase.
On his desk in Plano, Texas, Bryan Gill has several guitar picks from Graceland with the initials TCB, which stand for Taking Care of Business — a personal motto Elvis Presley adopted in the early 1970s.
The motto has personal meaning for Gill, the new Global Head of the Office of Disability Inclusion for JPMorgan Chase. He and his team are creating a comprehensive strategy for cultivating neurodivergent talent with structured, tailored processes for support and career development.
“Taking care of business is a mindset I’ve always had,” Gill says, “because there are times when you’ve just got to put your nose down, get in there and get things done.”
And this is one of those times.
Gill was named global head of JPMorgan Chase’s Office of Disability Inclusion in October 2022. Previously, he served as the firm’s first global head of Neurodiversity and led BeST (the Business Solutions Team), a program to increase opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
A 19-year veteran of the firm, Gill is operations focused. While working as National Operations Manager for Commercial Banking Wholesale Lending Services, Gill was tapped in 2018 to help a team explore a question from a client: Could colleagues with IDD do value-added work aligned with the firm’s culture and how it does business?
After a year of research and benchmarking with other employers, the team wrote a business plan, submitted it to the HR Operating Committee and gained their approval. Then, when a position was posted to lead BeST, Gill knew he couldn’t pass up the privilege of being considered for the role.
“By that point I’d spent time with the community and understood the amazing opportunity we were missing, so I was compelled to apply for the job,” he says. “It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career.”
Fast forward to 2022: BeST has been rolled out in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago markets, and the firm’s Autism at Work program is established in nine countries. In addition to moving those programs forward, Gill is using his operational mindset to better enable and support the firm’s neurodivergent community as a whole.
“There are more than 600 different neurodivergent conditions out there, and we know many of them are represented here at the firm,” says Gill, citing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) among them.
While Autism at Work and BeST utilize clearly defined sourcing channels (e.g., colleges and universities, advocacy agencies, vocational rehabilitation programs, referrals), many employees with neurodiverse conditions across the globe joined the firm through conventional recruiting channels.
Gill points out that JPMorgan Chase has a responsibility to make the workplace the best it can be for people who think differently, regardless of whether they choose to self-identify their disability status with the company.
“A colleague may not self-disclose as being neurodiverse, and that’s a very personal choice that I respect,” he notes. “But this colleague needs to know how and where to get help when they need it. Conversely, if they do self-disclose — which we advocate — then we’ll work with their manager and support framework to help ensure they get what they need to be successful.”
Gill and his team are continually evaluating the firm’s global “ecosystem” — in other words, resources ranging from Health and Wellness and the Employee Assistance Program to Recruiting and Global Real Estate — to identify not only opportunities for support but also gaps for improvement.
“My goal is to amplify, elevate and enhance the amazing resources we have that support all employees, and ensure they take into account our neurodivergent colleagues’ needs,” he says. “The way I view my job is to remove barriers and enable talented neurodivergent colleagues to enter the workforce and thrive here, and to scale the firm’s neurodivergent hiring efforts more rapidly.”
Gill notes that neurodiverse job candidates first have to be qualified to do the work before being considered for employment. And he emphasizes that the strategy being honed is not charity-focused or a marketing play — it’s a business strategy.
“I’m an operations practitioner, so I think about everything in terms of process and process improvement,” he says.
Gill admits that you can have all the talent engagement processes in the world, but if they’re not driving results — and, in this case, tapping underrepresented talent segments — then the work is for naught.
He credits his small team for being the “secret sauce” — operational practitioners who are skilled at matching people’s capabilities to business needs and running the strategy like a business. And they know the value of fostering a company culture that treats people with respect while appreciating their different ways of thinking.
“The colleague you encounter at the coffee bar may process information differently than you, but you expect to meet diversity here at JPMorgan Chase,” Gill concludes. “If more of us can position ourselves as patient coaches and engage with our colleagues in a way that supports them, then this will be a better place for everyone.”
When we consider the state of the United States in 2022 both socially and economically, it’s clear that our demographic is shifting and that Americans believe that social responsibility is more important than ever.
Companies that want to stay relevant in this economy need to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs and initiatives. A 2017 Cone Communications CSR study stated that 87 percent of consumers would purchase a product that aligned with their own values, and 76 percent would boycott a brand if it supported an issue that went against their beliefs. So, it’s a good time for companies to evaluate what their corporate social responsibility (CSR) looks like and where it needs improvement.
There are four types of corporate social responsibility: Environmental, philanthropic, ethical and economic responsibility– and supplier diversity programs have the potential to achieve all four categories. In a world that’s increasingly looking to employers to create stability and treat employees fairly, supplier diversity programs not only give companies a competitive edge but also make them more likely to maintain high standards of ethics. Implementing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) positions businesses to create a positive experience for employees, vendors and the community at large.
Here are three reasons why every company should take supplier diversity programs seriously:
You Get to Be a Leader in Social Responsibility
Companies that choose to focus intentionally on investing in Black and Latinx, women-owned, and LGBTQ+ businesses build trust with their customer base and inspire other business leaders to examine their own company practices. When we create transparency related to how products are sourced and/or hiring and management practices, we put our money where our mouth is, and so will your customers. According to Cone Communications, three out of five Americans believe that companies should spearhead social and environmental change. And eighty-seven percent of Americans said they’d buy a product because a company advocated for an issue they care about.
Although there may be some challenges in finding minority-owned vendors that comply with a buyer’s procurement requirements, there are two solutions to this. One being creating mentoring and training programs for diverse suppliers to help them meet the standards of the certification process. The other is to partner with relevant councils and chambers of commerce that provide these support systems. When value is created through tangible solutions, everyone wins.
Investing in DEI will Foster Innovation and Sales
Treating DEI like an option or something that isn’t deserving of attention means that customers will see that you’re not taking your CSR seriously. Corporate social responsibility initiatives can be the best public relations — as well as marketing — tool. Gen Z and Millennials are experts at spotting inauthenticity. A company that positions authentically with real company-wide efforts and accountability will be viewed favorably in the eyes of consumers, investors and regulators. Honest initiatives attract opportunities and employees that match an organization’s convictions.
CSR initiatives can also improve employee engagement and satisfaction — key measures that drive retention. Finally, corporate social responsibility initiatives by nature force business leaders to examine practices related to how they hire and manage employees, source products or components and deliver value to customers. All of these things create happy employees and customers, which lead to innovation, sales and a good reputation.
You Get to Make an Impact on Structural Inequality in America
Supplier diversity programs are a catalyst for true social impact because thriving small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy. Strong local businesses create jobs and higher wages, which put money back into the community and drive economic growth. Another plus of supplier diversity is the impact it will have on the company at large and the economy overall. Supplier diversity promotes healthy competition by increasing the pool of possible suppliers. This can lead to potentially lower costs and a better product quality. Not only that, bringing in people from different backgrounds or from backgrounds that reflect the community your company serves can result in better marketing, unique solutions to old problems, as well as innovative ways to meet your customer’s needs.
With midterm elections underway, it’s a good idea for businesses to be on the right side of key issues, including racial and gender equality and environmental sustainability. This gives corporations the opportunity to work collaboratively with businesses in a way that combats racial discrimination, all while empowering the public, creating economic opportunity and enhancing their business.
Yvette Montoya is a Los Angeles native and journalist who is equal parts content creator and writer. She covers everything from issues of spirituality and politics to beauty and entertainment. Her journalistic work has been featured on Refinery29, Teen Vogue, ArtBound, HipLatina, Mitu, and she’s a regular contributor for POPSUGAR.
When we published our research on workplace mental health in October 2019, we never could have predicted how much our lives would soon be upended by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Then the murders of George Floyd and other Black Americans by the police; the rise in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs); wildfires; political unrest; and other major stressors unfolded in quick succession, compounding the damage to our collective mental health.
One silver lining amid all the disruption and trauma is the normalization of mental health challenges at work. In 2019, employers were just starting to grasp the prevalence of these challenges, the need to address stigma, and the emerging link to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In 2020, mental health support went from a nice-to-have to a true business imperative. Fast forward to 2021, and the stakes have been raised even higher thanks to a greater awareness of the workplace factors that can contribute to poor mental health, as well as heightened urgency around its intersections with DEI.
Although employers have responded with initiatives like mental health days or weeks, four-day workweeks, and enhanced counseling benefits or apps, they’re not enough. Employees need and expect sustainable and mentally healthy workplaces, which requires taking on the real work of culture change. It’s not enough to simply offer the latest apps or employ euphemisms like “well-being” or “mental fitness.” Employers must connect what they say to what they actually do.
Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work Report in partnership with Qualtrics and ServiceNow offers a rare comparison of the state of mental health, stigma, and work culture in U.S. workplaces before and during the pandemic. This follow-up study to our 2019 Mental Health at Work Report uses the same metrics and includes additional questions and segmentations on the effects of the pandemic, racial trauma, and the return to office; it also fleshes out our less comprehensive study from April 2020. As in 2019, we collected responses from 1,500 U.S. adults in full-time jobs, with statistically significant representation across racial and ethnic backgrounds, gender identities, membership in the LGBTQ+ community, generational divides, primary caregiver statuses, levels of seniority, and other factors. Here’s a summary of what we learned and our recommendations for what employers need to do to support their employees’ mental health.
The Employee Mental Health Experience
When we examined the data on how employees experience mental health challenges, we found that prevalence increased from 2019 to 2021 and that younger and historically underrepresented workers still struggle the most.
Increased attrition. More employees are leaving their jobs for mental health reasons, including those caused by workplace factors like overwhelming and unsustainable work. While the 2019 rates of attrition were already surprisingly high, they’ve gone up even more since then. Sixty-eight percent of Millennials (50% in 2019) and 81% of Gen Zers (75% in 2019) have left roles for mental health reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily, compared with 50% of respondents overall (34% in 2019). Ninety-one percent of respondents believed that a company’s culture should support mental health, up from 86% in 2019.High prevalence. Mental health challenges are now the norm among employees across all organizational levels. Seventy-six percent of respondents reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year, up from 59% in 2019. While that’s not surprising due to the many macro stressors, it supports the notion that mental health challenges affect nearly all of us on a regular basis.
Our 2019 study showed the same prevalence of mental health symptoms across all levels of seniority, debunking the myth that successful leaders are immune. Perhaps as a result of having to lead through this unprecedented era, our 2021 study showed that C-level and executive respondents were now actually more likely than others to report at least one mental health symptom. Let’s finally put the stigma to rest and admit that mental health challenges affect us all.
Widespread disclosure. More employees are talking about mental health at work than in 2019. Nearly two-thirds of respondents talked about their mental health to someone at work in the past year. This is an important step in the right direction, especially in terms of reducing stigma, which affects willingness to seek treatment. That said, only 49% of respondents described their experience of talking about mental health at work as positive or reported that they received a positive or supportive response, which is comparable to 2019 rates.DEI implications. Demographics continue to play a strong role in workplace mental health, with younger workers and historically underrepresented groups still struggling the most. Millennials and Gen Zers, as well as LGBTQ+, Black, and Latinx respondents were all significantly more likely to experience mental health symptoms. Like Millennials and Gen Zers, caregiver respondents and members of historically underrepresented groups — including LGBTQ+, Black, and Latinx respondents — all were more likely to leave roles for their mental health and to believe that a company’s culture should support mental health. In fact, 54% of all respondents said that mental health is a DEI issue, an increase from 41% in 2019.
The Company’s Role in Employee Mental Health
Employees don’t experience mental health challenges in isolation. Employers play a role, too — both good and bad.
Certain workplace factors negatively affected mental health. The way we’re working isn’t sustainable, and it’s hurting our mental health. Until recently, the conversation has primarily centered on preexisting mental health conditions and the related stigma. Increasingly, the focus is on work’s effect on everyone’s mental health.
An overwhelming 84% of respondents reported at least one workplace factor that negatively impacted their mental health. Younger workers and members of underrepresented groups were affected even more severely. When looking across all respondents, the most common factor was emotionally draining (e.g., stressful, overwhelming, boring, or monotonous) work, which also worsened since the pandemic. This was closely followed by work-life balance.
The other workplace factors that most notably worsened since the pandemic were poor communication practices and a low sense of connection to or support from one’s colleagues or manager, perhaps unsurprising in a predominantly remote workforce. The workaholism that characterizes much of U.S. culture has only been exacerbated by the challenges of the pandemic, leading to increased employee burnout.
Companies increased investment in employee mental health — sort of. Companies are finally investing more in mental health support out of necessity, but they still haven’t achieved true culture change. Our respondents noted that the availability of many resources provided by employers grew since the pandemic, including extra paid time off, company-wide mental health days, and mental health training.
In addition, employees used accommodations to a much greater extent — especially those that provided day-to-day support. These included extended or more frequent breaks from work and time during the workday for therapy appointments. Utilization rates for other accommodations included time off and leaves of absence, which saw no growth from 2019. This highlights a contrast in what employees used versus what employers provided, which were often more temporary, Band-Aid solutions. In fact, the “resource” most desired by respondents (31%) was a more open culture around mental health.
Companies took steps toward culture change. While there is still a great deal to be done, some companies have made progress on the culture front, likely fueled by the pandemic. Fifty-four percent of respondents believed that mental health was prioritized at their company compared to other priorities, up from 41% in 2019. In addition, 47% of respondents believed that their company leaders were advocates for mental health at work (compared to 37% in 2019), and 47% believed that their manager was equipped to support them if they had a mental health condition or symptom (compared to 39% in 2019). These are both potentially results of increased training and discussion.
However, the added awareness surprisingly didn’t translate across all dimensions. There was a 5% decline in respondents who felt comfortable supporting a coworker with their mental health and a comparable percentage in who knew the proper procedure to get support for mental health at work.
Employers benefit from supporting mental health at work. Employers that have supported their employees with the pandemic, racial injustices, return-to-office planning, and/or mental health overall have better mental health and engagement outcomes. For example, workers who felt supported with their mental health overall were 26% less likely to report at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year. Respondents who felt supported by their employer also tended to be less likely to experience mental health symptoms, less likely to underperform and miss work, and more likely to feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work. In addition, they had higher job satisfaction and intentions to stay at their company. Lastly, they had more positive views of their company and its leaders, including trusting their company and being proud to work there. This reinforces the tie between workplace culture and its ability to support mental health at work when done intentionally.
What Employers Need to Provide
Employers must move from seeing mental health as an individual challenge to a collective priority. Given all the workplace factors at play, companies can no longer compartmentalize mental health as an individual’s responsibility to address alone through self-care, mental health days, or employee benefits. Here’s what they need to provide to make real progress.
Culture change. Culture change requires both a top-down and bottom-up approach to succeed. Workplace mental health is no different — our recommendations from 2019 still hold. Mind Share Partners’ Ecosystem of a Mentally Healthy Workplace Framework illustrates that everyone has a role to play, starting with leaders and managers.
Leaders must treat mental health as an organizational priority with accountability mechanisms such as regular pulse surveys and clear ownership. It should not just be relegated to HR. Leaders should serve as allies by sharing their own personal experiences to foster an environment of transparency and openness. Due to fear and shame, even companies with the best mental health benefits won’t see an uptick in usage unless a stigma-free culture exists.
Organizations have to train leaders, managers, and all employees on how to navigate mental health at work, have difficult conversations, and create supportive workplaces. Managers are often the first line in noticing changes and supporting their direct reports. Building an environment of psychological safety is key. Mental health policies, practices, culturally competent benefits, and other resources must be put in place and (over)communicated.
Investing in DEI to support employee mental health and address its intersectionality is also crucial. Black and AAPI employees have been hit especially hard by the trauma of systemic racism and violence. Workers who are caregivers — often mothers — have faced school closures and the associated burnout. Our study found that allowing employees to discuss challenging social and political topics at work is also part of a mentally healthy culture. At the grassroots level, employees should be empowered to form mental health employee resource groups (ERGs) and other affinity groups, become mental health champions, and start peer listening initiatives.
Click here to read the full article on the Harvard Business Review.
Whether you’re looking for some assistance paying your medical bills or struggling to put food on the table, you have more options than social security when it comes to funding. One of the most popular financial aids, for those who qualify, is an ABLE account — or tax-advantaged savings account designed to provide funds to those who are struggling to pay for day-to-day life because of their disabilities.
What is an ABLE Account?
Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts that are available to certain people with disabilities. ABLE accounts are designed to aide individuals pay for housing, education, health and other expenses.
How do I know if I’m eligible?
Individuals who meet the 26 and under criteria and are already receiving SSI and/or SSDI benefits are automatically eligible to open an account. If you do not meet the age requirement and are not currently receiving benefits, you may still be able to open an account if your circumstances meet Social Security’s definition of functional limitations and you have a letter of certification from a licensed medical professional.
What can ABLE account funds be used for?
ABLE account funds can be used for “qualified disability-related expenses” (QDE). A QDE is any expense the beneficiary incurs as a result of the disability. These may include expenses related to education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, healthcare expense, financial management and administrative services, and other expenses that help improve health, independence and/or quality of life.
Although you do not need to submit receipts for the expenses, they should be kept along with other documentation of the expense. If you’re unsure whether something is a QDE, you can check with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the only organization that can make that decision.
How do ABLE accounts affect my Social Security disability benefits?
If you receive SSDI, are working, and deposit part or all of your earnings into an ABLE Account, Social Security still considers this deposited money as “countable earnings” and applies work incentives to determine if you’re engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). However, deposits made into an ABLE account by others are not considered countable income for determining SGA.
However, if you receive SSI benefits, the ABLE Act sets further limitations. According to the LEAD Center, the first $100,000 in your ABLE Account would be exempted from the SSI $2,000 individual resource limit. If and when your ABLE Account exceeds $100,000, your SSI benefit payment would be suspended until the account falls below $100,000. It is important to note that while your eligibility for a benefit payment is suspended, this has no effect on your ability to receive or be eligible to receive medical assistance through Medicaid.
How do I open an ABLE account?
The ABLE Act limits eligibility to people with disabilities who had an onset of disability before they turned 26. If you meet the eligibility criteria, you must choose the state where you plan to open your account. More than half of the states in the country have launched ABLE programs, and you are not required to establish your account in the state where you live. After you decide to open your account in a particular state, click on that state in the state review to access the program website and complete the online application. Some states, but not all, have an application you can download. You’ll need the following information and to make a few choices:
Federal law requires name, street address, date of birth, and Social Security number, among other information, to verify your identity.
Identification of your disability
Some applications include various categories. If you don’t receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you will need general information about the disability to certify that it began before age 26.
Information about anyone authorized on your account
This includes your legal guardian, conservator, or someone with power of attorney, or a parent or guardian of an account holder who is a minor.
Choices may include multiple savings and investment options with varying degrees of investment risk.
In addition to deciding how your money will be invested, you will be asked whether you would like to establish recurring deposits or withdrawals. These may include payroll deposits from an employer or withdrawals for recurring expenses like rent or utilities.
For more information on how you can setup and best utilize your ABLE account, visit ablenrc.org.
Source: Ticket to Work, ABLE National Resource Center
The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) Equity Honors awards are presented to corporate chief officers who have been recognized by their peers as the true leaders at the vanguard of economic equity and minority business integration.
Submit an application for your CEO, COO, CFO, CIO, CMO, CDO, and CPO of the Year. All applications* must be started** by Dec. 20 to be considered.
*Qualified applications submitted for The Equity Honors in 2022 have been cloned for consideration for the 2023 Equity Honors. Simply log into the NMSDC Awards Portal and update your application, then submit. Previous winners of The Equity Honors are ineligible to apply again for a minimum of 3 years.
**We will reopen the applications in March of 2023 to collect 2022 comparative data that will complete the application. All applications that have been started by Dec. 20 will constitute The Equity Honors Nominees for 2023 with nominees highlighted on the Forum website and invited to the 2023 Minority Business Economic Forum.
To create products that serve increasingly diverse customers and solve a wider range of social problems, technology companies need women engineers. However, only 25 percent of math and computer science jobs in the United States are filled by women, and one-third of women in the U.S. and China quit these jobs mid-career due to factors like social isolation, a lack of access to creative technical roles and difficulty advancing to leadership positions.
At Bloomberg, we’ve established a company culture that supports gender equality in a multitude of ways – from company-wide Diversity & Inclusion business plans to a newly expanded family leave policy. But we know that’s not enough. In recent years, we’ve adopted a system-wide approach to increasing the number of women in technical roles, taking steps to remove barriers to advancement both inside our organization and beyond Bloomberg, supporting female talent from middle school through mid-career.
While the number of women in technical jobs at Bloomberg is growing, we’re committed to making progress faster and completing all the steps needed to solve the equation. Here are some of the ways we’re tackling this important deficit – and making quantifiable change.
Bloomberg supports organizations that help increase women’s participation in STEM and financial technology, exposing students to various career options through Bloomberg Startup and encouraging our female engineers to engage with the next generation of talent.
Collaboration, creativity, and a love of problem-solving drew Chelsea Ohh to the field of engineering. Now she works at Bloomberg as a software engineer team lead, helping to provide critical information to financial decision makers across the globe.
Women engineers can sharpen their technical skills through open courses, on-site training sessions, and business hackathons held throughout the year. Bloomberg is committed to inspiring our female employees, eliminating barriers like impostor syndrome, and encouraging them to pursue opportunities in engineering.
Community & allies
To strengthen its network of female engineers, global BWIT (Bloomberg Women in Technology) chapters organize more than 150 events, mentoring sessions, and meet-ups a year. The community also engages male allies and advocates, sharing strategies to help them support their female colleagues.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 and has made workplaces much more accommodating to disability workers in America. As of June 2022, 38.1 percent of persons aged 16–64 with a disability is in the American workforce.
Many workers have disabilities that may or may not be visible. Either way, those people have needs that every workplace must address. Making a safe and accessible workplace isn’t as easy as adding a few ramps and lifts. There are many measures that a person can take to ensure their workplace exceeds safety standards for disability workers.
The most important thing to ensure workplace safety is to listen to the workers. Disabled workers deserve to have their voices heard just as much as anyone. No one understands what a person needs better than themselves. Listening to the people affected by these measures is the most effective solution. It is not enough to simply make a series of measures and leave it at that. All safety practices must be subject to alteration and addition as necessary. Receptiveness to disability workers’ needs will go a long way toward making a safer workplace. Ensure that all employees know that they can bring suggestions forward.
Create Specific Emergency Plans
One of the best ways to manage workplace safety is to have a clear and specific emergency plan. Although every building requires a plan of action for fires or other emergencies, these plans often do not account for those with disabilities. It is too easy for someone to be left behind in widespread panic. Create an emergency plan that everyone knows and can follow. A clear plan will reduce panic and make the workplace response much smoother. Talk to your disability workers about the safety measures they require in an emergency.
For example, someone may benefit from designated rescue assistants. Others may require immediate and easy access to assistive technologies. Mobility devices should be accessible to all employees without hassle in case of such an event. Modify and add emergency response plans based on the needs of your workplace and workers. No matter the case, a clear action plan will reduce risk factors for disability workers. Most importantly, work with the workers themselves to design a plan that works for them. Not all safety measures are universal. Personalize them for the workplace and those in it.
Educate Other Employees on Specific Needs
Workplace safety measures work best when everyone is on the same page. For this reason, all relevant parties must know of a worker’s specific needs. Of course, the only information that your disability workers are willing to disclose should be provided, and only to those concerned by the plan. Disability workers have a right to confidentiality that must be respected at all times under the ADA. If a worker wants to disclose their disability status to the workplace or include coworkers in their emergency plans, educate those other workers. Allow the worker in question to outline their boundaries and needs. Make it clear that others in the workplace will abide by their needs and reinforce said position whenever necessary.
Supporting disability workers in their ability to self-advocate and create measures for themselves will contribute heavily to any safety practices.
Utilize Assistive Technology
Many disability workers will already possess some form of assistive technology as they require. Assistive technology is any tool that aids in a person’s ability to engage in everyday life. You can never be too careful when it comes to workplace safety. Backup aids stored in the workplace can provide peace of mind and specific response plans.
For example, consider having wheelchairs and other mobility aids stored in an accessible area. Utilize optional screen readers if computers play a large part in the workplace or supply noise-canceling headphones if loud sounds are a concern. There are many ways to include assistive technology in the workplace. While some common tools are helpful for any workplace such as wireless panic buttons, all should strive to support the specific needs of those who work there. Offer to store backup glasses, medications, or other technology in a safe and secure place on site. This may ease disability workers’ worries and create a much safer environment.
Ensure All Areas of the Workplace Are Accessible
A big part of workplace safety is accessibility. The ADA outlines standards for public buildings and areas, but these accessibility tasks are the bare minimum, not the extent. For example, a workplace may have a ramp that allows wheelchair access to the building, but what about access to rooms and hallways? What about tools and resources that a person with a disability may have trouble accessing without risk?
Workplaces should strive to improve accommodations at all times. Comfort is not the only reason to adjust workplace layouts and paths. Accidents are much less common in workplaces created with accessibility in mind. Outlined below are some common measures that will improve safety.
One method is to make all walkways wide enough for mobility aids. Non-accessible areas are a significant risk. Reduce the number of them wherever possible to reduce the number of accidents that occur. Accessible routes also provide more options for disability workers in an emergency.
Keep commonly-used supplies near the areas of intended use. Workers with disabilities that impair movement will benefit from this simple matter of convenience. More importantly, these items should also be kept in a place that anyone can access without help. Avoid heavy impediments, high shelves, and other inconveniences whenever possible.
Refer to ADA standards for accommodations required in public spaces. As mentioned before, use these standards as a guide, not the result. An accessible workplace is always a safer one.
Bloomberg Engineering’s culture champions innovation. This is made possible by the different perspectives of our 6,000+ software engineers around the globe, who come from diverse backgrounds and geographies and who possess a variety of technology specialties.
Meet four of Bloomberg’s software engineers – all of whom are active members of the Bloomberg Black in Tech Community across our New York, San Francisco and London engineering teams – and see how they’ve been empowered to impact our business globally.
Our conversations with them cover their paths to and work at Bloomberg, how they’ve grown professionally, their impact in technology, the importance of an inclusive workplace, and their efforts to attract more diversity to tech. Interviews were edited for length and clarity.
TITLE: Software Engineer BLOOMBERG OFFICE: New York
How did you get to Bloomberg? What do you work on now? I lived abroad for 5 years, during which time I taught English in South Korea for 3½ years. I then served in the U.S. Navy for 4 years, after which I felt the urge to embrace my technical talents. This career change turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.
While finishing my MBA, I decided to apply to the Grace Hopper Program at Fullstack Academy, one of the country’s top-ranked coding bootcamps. This decision was the beginning of my path to Bloomberg, which I was drawn to for its philanthropic programs, the eclectic and dynamic nature of the Bloomberg Terminal, and the opportunity to be immersed in a culture of strong, talented software engineers.
I’m currently in the training program for new engineers. Prior to starting my training, I had the privilege of pre-training on the Commodities team, where I worked on building a map UI in React and Node.js and integrating it with a remote procedure call framework. I really enjoyed the learning process in discovering how to merge open source technologies with proprietary technologies.
Did you have any mentors or influential managers to guide your career along the way? One of my mentors is Erik Anderson, the software engineer who helped created MAPS<GO> and many of Bloomberg’s chart functions. Erik has helped me a great deal in building my confidence to tackle things outside my comfort zone. He really has helped me see that I was capable of more than I thought and encouraged me along the way, which really made me more driven to put in the long hours of practice and study that it takes to get to Bloomberg.
What do you love most about working in tech? I really enjoy the way it has evolved over the years and how it continues to change so rapidly. Working in technology forces me to continue learning and embrace my status as a ‘forever’ student. The moment we get too comfortable in this industry is the moment we are in danger of falling behind. There are so many advances and new technologies that, even after just one year, the older versions are quickly out-of-date. What I love most is that it is an industry that never gets too comfortable; it is about constantly improving the product and making applications faster and more efficient. The associated mental challenges and continuous learning excite me the most!
What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry? Entering a male-dominated industry doesn’t come without trepidation. Knowing that people come equipped with certain biases that they themselves may not even be aware of plays a role; it is just the way we have all been socially-programmed by the media, our parents, and our communities. The tech industry is challenging by itself and people of color may have to face a few additional challenges, dealing with variations of micro-inequities, and the burden of not contributing to certain stereotypes. However, what I enjoy the most are the raised awareness and open discussions seeking to address these imbalances. It really shows how we, as a human species, are evolving our consciousness around these issues.
In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important? How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community? Diversity and inclusion are crucial to the strength of any great organization. In order for technology to serve a wider range of users, understanding their needs and wants is very important. With the advent of globalization, this type of understanding can only be reached by increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
I also enjoy sharing my experiences traveling and living abroad with my co-workers. It highlights the importance of travel as a way to break down barriers in understanding different cultures, which I believe is a pivotal step towards this objective. I am also a member of many different communities here at Bloomberg, so as not to limit the definition of myself to one particular ethnicity or background, but to expand my sense of self in order to represent the many different cultural experiences I’ve had and those I’ve adopted along the way.
TITLE: Senior Software Engineer BLOOMBERG OFFICE: New York
How did you get to Bloomberg? I was an industry hire out of a Bloomberg recruiting event in Seattle, where I met the engineers who would eventually be my managers. They were great and provided an amazing vision of the technical challenges and company culture at Bloomberg.
What do you work on now? I am presently working on designing and building out the underlying platform that supports Bloomberg’s Asset Investment Management (AIM) compliance workflows.
Did you have any mentors to guide your career along the way? Most definitely! I was fortunate to have an awesome mentor when I first started at Bloomberg. He was one of those engineers whose code nuances and expressiveness are like revelations. I learned a lot about my team and Bloomberg’s culture just by contributing to his code. I was also fortunate to have supportive managers who accommodated my desire to be challenged. They were able to provide interesting, tangible and business-critical projects to broaden my scope and contributions.
What do you love most about working in tech? It has been said that engineers are the gatekeepers for civilization. Being in tech is like a calling. The work one does has a direct impact on the well-being of others. It gets more interesting when your work pushes the boundaries of what is considered possible. When this happens, there is no greater feeling than creating something new. Then you realize that, in some small way, you’ve (hopefully) helped make the world just a bit better than before.
Are there any particular technologies that interest you? Machine learning, especially around the areas of natural language processing and understanding. The best technologies are those that feel so completely natural and intuitive that you may forget that you are interacting with a machine. Ironically, it is extremely difficult to create such a system. Applications of ML have the powerful potential to change the way we all interact with technology, if not the very nature of the machines we use.
What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry? There are very few of us in the tech industry. This truism begs us to ask why, as demographics don’t support this reality, as 10% of all college graduates and computer science majors are people of color. It’s sometimes hard not to feel excluded when there are very few people who look like you in the places that you are or want to be. There is often a significant effort required to go from ‘person of color,’ to ‘person,’ to ‘extremely capable person’ in the minds of others that people of other backgrounds do not face.
In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important? Antifragility is a term coined by bestselling author Nassim Nicholas Taleb that describes systems that thrive in the face of volatility, shock or adversity. It represents the next step beyond robustness and resilience. I believe that, by their very nature, antifragile systems are diverse. Events that could take down a monoculture are often integrated and used for the greater good by an antifragile system. Diversity and inclusion promote antifragility by fostering teams that are tolerant, supportive, engaging and dynamic.
How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community? I am one of the co-founders of the Bloomberg Black In Tech (BBIT) Community, which is composed of individuals in technology roles across Bloomberg – in engineering, product management, data science, etc. BBIT’s singular goal is to make Bloomberg the best place for minorities in tech across the industry. We host regular events to foster professional and personal development and create a fun, safe space. We work very hard to engage, support and empower the community at large through mentoring, recruiting, and outreach events on college campuses and at tech conferences with significant minority representation.
TITLE: BQuant Specialist, Desktop Build Group BLOOMBERG OFFICE: San Francisco
How did you get to Bloomberg? What do you work on now? I spent the first five years of my career at leading French banks where, among other things, I designed and implemented technology to automate processes on trading floors. Bloomberg found me on LinkedIn and recruited me to our London office in 2013. I’ve now worked in our San Francisco office for five years.
I’m currently a BQuant Specialist in our Desktop Build Group. In this role, I educate our clients’ quantitative financial researchers, analysts, and data scientists to leverage BQuant, our interactive data analysis and quantitative research platform and new Bloomberg Query Language (BQL). To do this, I first have to understand our clients’ workflows and determine how and where our quant research solutions can help them derive value. Often, we can help clients reduce the amount of time and manual labor spent reviewing financial statements. We can incorporate probability and statistics that help clients make faster and more accurate decisions on their financial strategies. Many times, I create the specifications, design a custom application for a team of about 20-50 users, test the app, and implement it at the client site. Finally, I help train users to program in Python in order to leverage BQuant.
Did you have any mentors or influential managers to guide your career along the way? It has been challenging finding a Black professional mentor. David Mitchell, a team leader for our market specialists, has been a huge inspiration for me. We both started our careers in finance and moved to tech, so I feel like we have much in common. I appreciate how he reaches out periodically to check in on me. I admire his leadership of Bloomberg’s Black Professional Community and am really impressed by his career trajectory and the network he has built. It’s really important to see a person of color in a senior position because it makes that rank seem attainable for the rest of us.
Sandra Lee, who works in Bloomberg’s Product Oversight Office, has also been an influential mentor since we first met in 2016. She’s been with Bloomberg for more than 20 years, and she has helped me understand Bloomberg’s culture and navigate internal networks. I often use her as a sounding board to help me articulate my vision and get a second opinion. On a personal level, she shows me the value of work-life balance.
What do you love most about working in tech? I love being in a position where I’m learning something. Technology is perpetually evolving, and you always need to be on your toes to remain competitive. I will often think about a complex engineering challenge that I am trying to solve, and will have a candid conversation with a colleague or I will read an article, and then a solution will emerge. I then implement it and it is so satisfying when it works. I also like that tech has tangible results.
Are there any particular technologies that interest you? I am really excited about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). I love the idea that technology can show us patterns that humans cannot otherwise see because we cannot scrape through large volumes of data as quickly. From there, we can extract specific insights that influence our decision-making.
My interest in AI and ML led me to complete a graduate-level certificate program at the University of San Francisco. While I’m not using these skills in my current role, I’m excited that Bloomberg is doing cutting-edge work in natural language processing and other areas related to ML and AI. I’ve also joined Bloomberg’s Machine Learning Guild so I can stay connected to this technology; otherwise, it is hard to stay on top of it when you don’t apply it on a daily basis.
What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry? One word: R-E-P-R-E-S-E-N-T-A-T-I-O-N! We need to see peers and leaders who are people of color. When I don’t see people of color in leadership positions, I feel like it’s less possible to attain success. When I see Black leaders, I get a lot of motivation and affirmation that it could be me one day.
In my experience, people of color aren’t taken as seriously by their peers unless there are other people of color in leadership positions. I personally feel like I need to be better than anyone else in whatever I’m doing. I don’t want to give any opening for the quality of my work to be questioned. For that reason, I often spend extra time double-checking my work in order to make everything is perfect. No one asks me to do this, but I feel I must. This adds a dimension of extra stress because that workflow is not scalable or sustainable and can lead to burnout.
In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important? How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community? Life is so much more fulfilling when you can interact with people from different backgrounds and ways of life. At work, a diverse team can help prevent tunnel vision when solving challenges or meeting client needs. Everyone comes with baggage and biases that sometimes makes communication uncomfortable, but this ultimately leads to rich learning experiences.
I’m always trying to recruit and advocate for more underrepresented minority candidates, because we are only likely to stay at Bloomberg if we continue seeing more diversity on our teams.
Jonathan “JC” Charlery
TITLE: Senior Software Engineer BLOOMBERG OFFICE: London
How did you get to Bloomberg? I was on my way to interview with a different company during the career fair at Howard University, when I ran into Kerry Joseph, an engineer who was recruiting for Bloomberg. We got to chatting about the company and he invited me to an info session later that night. What struck me was how down-to-earth and genuine he was. He wasn’t trying to sell me anything; he just talked about his own experiences at the company and how the job allowed him to grow.
In talking about his own background, we discovered we were from neighbouring islands in the Caribbean so we shared a cultural background. Having that conversation, and seeing and hearing someone like me at Bloomberg who had such a positive experience is what really sold me on the company.
What do you work on now? I’m on the Local Development team in London, which is part of our Developer Experience (DevX) group. Our team creates and supports the tools and workflows that allow engineers to develop and test their applications locally on their laptops using whatever tools they prefer, instead of relying on a limited shared environment.
Did you have any mentors or influential managers to guide your career along the way? Zac Rider, who leads our Real-time Distribution Platform engineering team, and Becky Plummer, a software engineering team leader in DevX (and my current manager) are two of the most influential managers I’ve had during my tenure at Bloomberg. They’ve provided me with many opportunities for growth and helped me build up my confidence in my own abilities. They were instrumental in putting my career on its current trajectory.
Femi Popoola, a technical team lead in London, has also been an amazing mentor to me. We’ve spoken about many different topics related to personal and technical growth, like knowing which opportunities are right for you and how to manage them, to understanding when you’re ready to take on a new challenge (hint: you’re never going to be “ready,” but don’t let that stop you).
What do you love most about working in tech? I love the rate at which everything changes in the tech industry, and the ease of being able to get involved.
The tech industry evolves so quickly that you’ll miss it if you blink. In the last 20 years or so, we’ve gone from having one dedicated phone line per family and maybe having a computer for the household to us all having a computer in our pockets and everyone having a phone. All the information this puts at our fingertips has made it much easier for anyone to become involved and even to transfer into tech-related fields from any profession.
Are there any particular technologies that interest you? Docker and container technologies are particularly interesting to me. The ability to simulate an entire environment and have repeatable declarative processes have really changed the way we think about development, testing, and stability of our systems.
What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry? Without seeing other people who look like them or can stand as a role model for them, people of colour tend to get discouraged from entering the tech industry. It is hard to continue being self-motivated or to believe you can achieve something if all the stereotypical icons don’t represent you in any way. It’s why Kerry stood out to me so much. He was West Indian and able to succeed in the tech industry. This isn’t spoken about often, but it creates a real psychological barrier for many people. Being able to connect with someone who shares your heritage or cultural background, and being able to see yourself in that person, are some of the greatest motivating factors.
In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important? Diversity and inclusion are very important as they provide different perspectives. Having someone who can see something in a different manner and who brings their own background and experiences can help elicit a new style of thinking and new direction when it is needed the most. When all options have seemingly been exhausted, something which may seem intrinsically basic to someone can actually be just what is needed to get things moving again.
How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community? I’ve spoken at events aimed at promoting and highlighting diversity and inclusion, as well as been a representative, speaker and mentor at both internal and external events aimed at empowering underprivileged youth to encourage them to pursue careers in STEM and grow their networks. This includes serving as a mentor to both university students and secondary school students.
I have been an advocate for and given advice about different ways to recruit effectively at select Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) across the U.S. I’ve also attended university career fairs where I directly engage with students, serving not only as a company point of contact for them, but also sharing my experiences with them. I talk to new hires about my career progression and serve as a mentor to help them navigate the company’s culture.
Open, candid conversations about diversity and inclusion in our society and workplace must continue in order to support the fight for equality. Thankfully, these conversations continue to take place across Bloomberg, in various forms and forums.
One of the goals of these exchanges is to explore different facets of identity and experience from the first-hand perspectives of employees across the firm.
In this edition, we delve into the lived experiences of our colleagues as they have persisted in breaking glass ceilings and bucking conventions, and shows us how we can best support progress for women in the workplace.
Nayla Razzouk, Dubai
“Bring a new perspective, don’t try to blend in, embrace your differences. Learn something new every day. And most of all, be productive.”
Nayla grew up during the civil war in Lebanon, and naturally ended up covering these conflicts across the Middle East. She joined Bloomberg in 2010 to cover Iraq and energy/OPEC news, and recently took on the role of Managing Editor for the Middle East and North Africa.
In what way have you broken glass ceilings or conventions? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?
Working as a journalist can have its challenges as a woman, and there are additional challenges in this part of the world, where the circles of power are dominated by men. Often, you’re the only woman in the room or at the front, so it can be intimidating and even dangerous. I’ve encountered situations where people I wanted to interview would try to intimidate me because I was a woman. Some wouldn’t speak to women – I once asked my driver to act as a go-between while I stood behind a door. It can only build character, and this has helped me acquire the confidence to say that I will always find a way to do my job — even more so today, in my new challenge as the first woman to lead the MENA region.
What strengths do you believe your identity and experiences bring to your professional and personal life?
Having grown up and worked in tough environments has helped me acquire assertiveness and an ability to tolerate stress in a calm manner, while showing empathy to others. These traits and experiences were very valuable in leading our teams through COVID-19, making sure everyone is safe, continues to perform well, and knows that they can count on us in uncertain times.
Stephanie Flanders, London
“Though a proud feminist, I would still hesitate to describe any particular attitude or experience as uniquely female.”
Stephanie has been both an economist and an economic journalist — she joined Bloomberg in 2017 and now does both, leading Bloomberg Economics and following a lifelong passion to demystify the global economy for a wider audience.
In what way have you broken glass ceilings or conventions? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?
When I became the BBC’s Economics Editor, I was the first woman to occupy a specialist editor job. Happily, there have been plenty more since then, and in general I would say that economics has become a little less male-dominated over the course of my career. In a previous role, I was aware that I was paid much less than several male colleagues in similar roles. That’s a challenge I failed to overcome, but overall I don’t feel I have been held back by my gender. If anything, it has given me an edge — it’s striking how many of the major global banks now have female chief economists.
What advice do you have for future convention- and ceiling-breakers?
When you’re making a case for yourself, don’t start with the skills you don’t have. I thought it was just an outdated stereotype until I started interviewing women and men for jobs. So many women really do lead with the stuff they can’t do. It’s extraordinary.
Vandna Dawar Ramchandani, Singapore
“Understand and accept that every person and situation is different, so be empathetic and encouraging, and build trust so women feel empowered to share and take risks.”
Vandna was born and raised in India. She joined Bloomberg in 1997 as a Terminal Sales rep, while living in Jakarta, Indonesia, and is now leading Corporate Philanthropy for APAC.
In what way have you broken glass ceilings or conventions? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?
In Asia, particularly in India, a woman’s role is primarily expected to be that of a home-maker. I was committed to growing my career — even after having a family — taking on additional responsibility and relocating. When I first took on the roles of APAC Global Data Manager and then Singapore Office Committee chair, the first female in those roles, I did feel nervous about the step up, but there is so much support at Bloomberg, women just need to believe in themselves and lean in.
The biggest challenge is creating a balance that works for you, and often managing your guilt as a mum. There are no shortcuts so you start to run your life through “to-do” lists and constantly prioritize. My social life and personal time became secondary; my work and family were the priority. I wanted to live the life I dreamed of for my daughter and “walk the talk.”
What strengths do you believe your identity and experiences bring to your professional and personal life?
Authenticity, drive, hard work, empathy, and the desire to constantly challenge the status quo! Multi-tasking is not a choice, so you just become good at it. You learn to problem-solve and be creative, which lends itself wonderfully to a career at Bloomberg.
Nita Ditele-Bourgeois, New York
“Take risks and embrace failures. Be determined, never settle, and let your skills speak for themselves; not your gender.”
Originally from the South, Nita was raised in New York at the heart of a family that fostered continuous learning. She joined Bloomberg in 2007 as a Legal Negotiations Specialist, and is now a Product Operations manager in Enterprise Data.
In what way have you broken glass ceilings or conventions? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?
Last year, after 13 years in Legal, I joined Enterprise Data. I saw an opportunity to leverage transferable skills, challenge myself, and grow. I wanted to be part of an exciting journey with the business from a different vantage point.
After encountering gender stereotypes and micro-aggressions throughout my career, I’ve found that the confidence and determination instilled at young age provided me the resilience and fortitude to address challenges head-on.
What strengths do you believe your identity and experiences bring to your professional and personal life?
Active listening has made the biggest impact. It takes time and intentionality, but the outcomes are enormous: positive engagement, sharing ideas, productivity, and stronger communication between individuals.
Celine Shi, Shanghai
“My experience has really been about breaking ceilings in my own mind.”
A native of Sichuan, China, Celine joined Bloomberg Analytics in 2011 in Singapore before taking on the challenge of expanding team coverage in Beijing. She now manages buy-side product specialists in Shanghai.
In what way have you broken glass ceilings or conventions? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?
Early in my career, I didn’t want to draw attention to my sexual orientation, as I truly believe it has no relevance to how well someone performs at work. I kept my identity as a queer woman to myself, even though Bloomberg has been very supportive and open about our LGBTQ community. I later realized that this secret impacted how comfortable I was with colleagues and friends — I wasn’t being myself. I came out in 2017 and was able to fully embrace my friendships and work relationships, which helped me become more confident and perform better.
What advice do you have for future convention- and ceiling-breakers?
Do not set your own glass ceiling. Many of the women I know feel less confident about opportunities and question themselves: Am I really qualified for this? Do I have what it takes? We should be more confident in the different values and experiences we bring, and give ourselves a chance to be seen.
Deanna Hallett, London
“Seek out individuals and groups of people who will support you, lift you up, challenge you, and affirm your identity and your goals — no one can reach that glass ceiling alone.”
Deanna interned for Bloomberg twice before joining full-time after graduating university in 2019. She currently works in UK government and regulatory relations and is the co-lead for the LGBTQ+ and Ally Community in EMEA.
In what ways have you broken glass ceilings or conventions?
I was the first woman in my family to apply to university, the first to run for local councillor, the first to move abroad, and the first woman to come out as LGBT+ in my family. I faced a lot of challenges growing up, including poverty, and psychological and physical abuse from my father, which was particularly acute when I came out as gay. More broadly, I grew up in an environment where I was just expected to manage, have kids, and then become a full-time mum. It was difficult pursuing my own goals and independence when it didn’t marry the view of what my family expected.
What can our colleagues and communities to do become better allies to women in the workforce?
Actively listen. It’s only by taking into consideration people’s experiences that we can ensure the glass ceiling is shattered for all women — particularly LGBT+ women and women of colour, who are too often left behind.
The second installment of Bloomberg’s Power of Difference series on Black wealth offered a deep dive into issues that impact intergenerational Black wealth transfer. The three part series, hosted by Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, seeks to highlight and encourage dialogue about the structures that aid in Black wealth accumulation and extraction.
Speakers discussed why wealth transfer remains pivotal to building wealth in the United States and explained how the historical lack of opportunity for Black families to preserve and pass on wealth has contributed to the prevalence of racial wealth inequality today.
Inherited wealth plays a pivotal role in advancing the economic launch point for future generations. Despite the pervasiveness of the American rags to riches story, the wealthiest families have certainly benefited from this capital infusion power–about 30% of the Forbes 400 inherited at least $50 million. Middle and working-class families can use transferred capital and assets to boost emergency savings, make down payments on homes, pay tuition for private schools and higher education, and invest in the financial markets or new entrepreneurship.
Black families, however, are five times less likely than white families to receive a sizable inheritance. When they do, the amount is still typically three times lower on average than what white families receive. This disparity has contributed to Black Americans falling behind in wealth accumulation while white generational peers are empowered to move towards further economic stability and advancement. Black families have certainly been capable of growing assets even in the shadow of Jim Crow and other forms of systemic racism that persist to this day. So why haven’t they been able to hold on to this wealth and pass it to their heirs?
Before the Race Massacre of 1921, the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a vibrant, thriving community of Black residents, like many of the “Freedmen’s Towns, and “Freedom Colonies established after the Civil War. Families there owned land, operated businesses, and ran community-sustaining institutions to create property wealth with an estimated value of over $200 million in today’s dollars, earning Greenwood the moniker “Black Wall Street.” When the Greenwood neighborhood was burned to ashes during a violent racial attack, hundreds of residents lost their lives and businesses, thousands of survivors were left homeless and impoverished, and many of them were hunted down, executed, or imprisoned. Laws were passed by the city of Tulsa to impede the rebuilding of Greenwood by survivors and their families. The most disheartening part of Greenwood’s story: this was not an uncommon occurrence.
In Chicago alone, approximately 1,000 Black homes and businesses were burned down during the Red Summer of 1919, a season of racism-fueled on Black communities across the nation. The segregation and violence of Jim Crow, in particular, have been theorized to have had a pervasive impact, stifling Black innovation and entrepreneurship with the threat of violent reprisal for Black wealth building.
In the latest Power of Difference event, speakers discussed how racially driven violence toward Black people like in Tulsa, Chicago, and elsewhere — particularly during the several decades following the abolishment of slavery — was used to rob Black people, destroy their property and intimidate them from building wealth. Government policies, local and federal, often neglected to protect Black communities from this ongoing threat, and instead have codified many racially discriminatory policies such as redlining, government seizures under eminent domain, and disenfranchisement. In turn, such practices have systematically destroyed and eroded the value of Black wealth since the Reconstruction era, with the effects felt to this day.
Pathways to recovery and resilience
Despite economic impediments and discriminatory policies, strategic options and vehicles for securing assets can help more Black families strengthen the economic mobility of future generations. Session speakers painted a detailed picture of how to address these systemic injustices: loopholes in state property inheritance laws can be closed; discriminatory institutional practices and local ordinances, such as those that might assign more value to land according to who owns it, can be revoked; and concentrations of wealth in Black communities, like those created in Greenwood can be systematically encouraged through initiatives that can start at the individual level.
Sean Anderson, a curator from The Museum of Modern Art, discussed the Reconstructions, Architecture, and Blackness in America exhibition he created with scholar and architect Mabel Wilson and 11 Black architects, designers and artists. Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the project aims to encourage reflection on how Black communities strive to build and rebuild in the face of economic and social challenges, and “…how history can be made visible and equity can be built”. The exhibition sparks questions about topics such as “What might our nation look like today if all-Black towns of the past had been allowed to thrive?” and “How might Black community spaces be used to prepare for threats imposed by climate change?”
Reggie Lee, Partner and Chief Transformation Officer at The Carlyle Group described the ten-year journey he took to reclaim the family land that his great grandmother, a formerly enslaved person, had purchased during the Reconstruction era. His story serves as a case study for reclaiming and preserving family-owned assets. For example, to keep the newly reclaimed property intact for future generations, using a trust to ensure legacy building.
The panel Q&A delved into reasons for the continued loss of Black assets and different ways better laws, policies, and individual practices could help reverse this trend. Lack of wills and vehicles like trusts, for example, can make family land and other asset claims vulnerable to loopholes in policies, such as heirs property laws (aka ownership in common) or inheritance taxes. However, it is estimated that 70% of Black Americans do not have a will or estate plan.
The United States is currently experiencing a massive demographic shift, led in large part by the nation’s Latinx population. This group is growing rapidly, quickly becoming the most culturally and economically influential community in the country.
According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the country’s Hispanic or Latinx population grew from 50.5 million in 2010 (16.3% of the U.S. population) to 62.1 million in 2020 (18.7%). That’s an increase of 23 percent. In fact, slightly more than half (51.1%) of the total U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2020 came from growth in the country’s Latinx population.
It is no surprise then, that Latinx people have a massive effect on the U.S. economy. Their buying power is expected to reach $1.9 trillion by 2023, according to a report from Nielsen. This is up from $213 billion in 1990, marking an over 200% growth rate, more than double the growth in buying power of non-Latinx consumers.
This community’s economic influence reaches all industries, and it is critical that businesses gain a deeper understanding of Latinx culture. Doing so will allow business leadership to both better support employees and more effectively appeal to customers.
Hypercultural Latinx people are often first-generation Americans who straddle both U.S. culture and their parents’ native Hispanic cultures. This group feels deeply connected to both aspects of their identities and has, in a sense, created their own blended, hybrid culture. As Ilse Calderon, an investor at OVO Fund, wrote on TechCrunch, a Hypercultural Latinx person is “100% Hispanic and 100% American.”
So, what do they want to buy? While Latinx people are clearly not a monolith, there are a few key trends across the community. According to research in the PwC Consumer
Intelligence Series, the Latinx population is especially enticed by new tech products. They are active on TikTok and exceedingly more likely to use WhatsApp and other social media platforms than other groups.
Nielsen also found that 45% of Latinx consumers buy from brands whose social values and causes align with theirs. This is 17% higher than the general population. Latinx people also share strong family values, as well as pride in their distinct cultural heritages. That is why organizations must engage the Latinx community and invite Latinx people to share their experiences.
It is pivotal that business leaders understand that “Latinx” is not a single streamlined culture. Rather, it is a diverse mix of traditions, nationalities, and values.
Embracing these cultural nuances is a key to understanding Latinx audiences. Organizations must consider methods to appeal to distinct Latinx groups, rather than marketing to the group as a whole.
Cultivating and advancing Latinx talent in the workplace
It isn’t only consumers that businesses should be thinking about. Latinx talent has also accounted for a massive 75% of U.S. labor force growth over the past six years, according to Nielsen. Nevertheless, only 3.8% of executive positions are held by Latinx men, and only 1.5% of are held by Latinx women.
Clearly, companies have a lot of work to do to attract and cultivate Latinx talent—and it all starts with recruitment. To ensure a diverse work force, companies must utilize culturally competent recruitment strategies that not only make new positions appealing to a variety of job seekers, but also give every applicant a fair chance.
According to an article in Hispanic Executive, understanding cultural differences can help recruiters create job descriptions that more effectively appeal to different communities. For example, the Latinx community feels a more communal sense of identity, compared to the more individualistic sense of identity in European-American culture. Recruiters should keep this in mind when thinking about what necessary skills they are highlighting for available roles.
Click here to read the complete article on Bloomberg.