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Navigating Corporate Diversity: Key Takeaways from the 2023 Black Equity Index

todayDecember 1, 2023

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Photo:  Christina @ 

Story was written with assistance from ChatCPT

In a world where diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are increasingly recognized as vital for business success and societal progress, Coqual, a leading global think tank, has emerged as a pivotal player. Founded with a commitment to helping companies design workplaces where every person belongs, Coqual’s research and data-driven strategies have been instrumental in addressing bias and barriers for underrepresented groups. In this effort, Coqual introduced the Black Equity Index (BEI) in 2022 – a comprehensive benchmarking tool that offers companies a way to measure, track, and showcase their commitment to racial equity in the workplace.

The BEI is not just another corporate initiative; it’s a revolutionary approach to embedding DE&I in the DNA of modern businesses. The index provides a nuanced view of companies’ journey toward inclusivity by focusing on key areas such as representation, accountability, and investment. This is especially crucial in a landscape where the public and legal scrutiny of DE&I efforts is intensifying, and the need for transparent, measurable progress is more critical than ever.

Understanding the Black Equity Index: A New Era of Corporate Responsibility

At its core, the BEI is designed to catalyze meaningful change. It harnesses the power of data across six domains – accountability, advancement, representation, investment, sustainability, and public engagement – offering a holistic view of an organization’s commitment to diversity and equity. This approach is informed by Coqual’s extensive research and expertise in DE&I, presenting a unique opportunity for companies to align their efforts with best practices and emerging trends.

Accountability stands as a cornerstone of the BEI. It challenges companies to reflect on how they embed DE&I principles at every level, from boardrooms to entry-level positions. Advancement and representation are equally critical, pushing for equitable opportunities and visibility for Black professionals within organizations. Investment in DE&I initiatives, sustainable practices, and public engagement further underscore the comprehensive nature of the index, making it a robust tool for organizational transformation.

2023 BEI Key Findings: A Reality Check for Corporate America

The 2023 BEI report, based on responses from over 40 diverse companies, reveals some stark realities and areas for improvement in corporate America’s DE&I efforts. A glaring insight is the lag in Black representation at various organizational levels. While some strides have been made, particularly at the board level, significant gaps remain in leadership and workforce representation. For instance, only 7% of people managers and a mere 3% of executives are Black, highlighting a critical area for targeted improvement.

The report also sheds light on accountability measures. While most participating companies include DE&I focuses in C-suite evaluations, fewer link these aspects to performance evaluations or C-suite pay. This indicates a need for a stronger alignment between DE&I commitments and leadership accountability.

Implications for Corporate America: Challenges and Opportunities

The findings of the 2023 BEI report are more than just numbers; they are a call to action for companies to deepen their commitment to racial equity. The diminishing public visibility of DE&I conversations and the potential implications of the US Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action case presents both a challenge and an opportunity. Companies must navigate these complexities while staying true to their DE&I goals, ensuring that efforts are not just performative but deeply ingrained in their corporate ethos.

Actionable Recommendations: Charting the Path Forward

The 2023 BEI report by Coqual not only highlights the current state of racial equity in the corporate world but also offers a roadmap for companies to make meaningful progress. These recommendations are grounded in Coqual’s deep research and aim to provide practical, impactful steps for organizations at different stages of their DE&I journey.

  1. Cultivating a Culture of Sponsorship:
    • Understanding Sponsorship vs. Mentorship: Companies must recognize the difference between mentorship and sponsorship. While mentorship involves guidance and advice, sponsorship is about active advocacy and support in career advancement.
    • Implementing Effective Sponsorship Programs: Companies should develop sponsorship programs for Black professionals. These programs must be monitored for effectiveness, ensuring they lead to real career advancement opportunities.
    • Training for Sponsors: Training potential sponsors on supporting and advocating for their protégés effectively is essential. This includes understanding the unique challenges Black professionals face and how to navigate them within the organization.
  2. Recruitment from the Top Down:
    • Diversifying Leadership: Focus on diversifying the board and executive team. This sets a tone at the top and demonstrates a commitment to racial equity.
    • Evaluating Recruitment Practices: Regularly review and adjust recruitment practices to eliminate biases and barriers that may prevent Black professionals from entering leadership roles.
    • Transparent Reporting: Regularly report to stakeholders on the diversity of the leadership team and board, holding the organization accountable for its progress.
  3. Data-Driven Approach: Disaggregate to Understand and Act:
    • Beyond Overall Numbers: While overall representation numbers are important, it’s vital to disaggregate this data. Look at where Black professionals are within the organization – are they overrepresented in certain roles and underrepresented in others?
    • Reflecting Regional Diversity: Aim to reflect the diversity of the company’s regions. For instance, in areas with higher Black populations, strive for representation that mirrors this demographic.
    • Actionable Insights from Data: Use disaggregated data to inform targeted recruitment, retention, and promotion strategies.
  4. Leveraging Technology for Equitable Recruitment:
    • Tech as an Enabler: Utilize technology to make recruitment and hiring processes more equitable. This includes AI-driven tools for unbiased resume screening and virtual platforms for broader outreach.
    • Critical Evaluation of Tech Tools: While technology can aid in reducing bias, it’s also vital to critically assess these tools to ensure they don’t perpetuate existing biases.
  5. Engaging with Black Youth and Communities:
    • Long-term Investment in Talent Pipelines: Go beyond college recruitment by partnering with schools, non-profits, and community programs that serve Black youth. This helps build a pipeline of future talent.
    • Mentoring and Internship Programs: Establish mentoring and internship programs specifically targeted at young Black individuals, offering them exposure, experience, and networking opportunities in the corporate world.
  6. Continuous Learning and Adaptation:
    • Ongoing Education: Encourage continuous learning about racial equity and inclusivity within the organization. This can be through workshops, speaker series, and inclusive leadership training.
    • Feedback Mechanisms: Establish mechanisms for regular feedback from employees, especially Black professionals, on DE&I initiatives. This feedback should be used to adapt and improve strategies continuously.

Conclusion: A Continuous Journey Towards Racial Equity

The journey towards racial equity in the workplace is ongoing and requires a sustained commitment from corporate America. The BEI serves as a crucial tool in this journey, offering insights and direction for companies dedicated to making a difference. As we move forward, it is imperative for businesses to not only participate in initiatives like the BEI but also to integrate these principles into their core operations. By doing so, they can contribute to a more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous future for all.


Written by: HYFIN

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