There are only four black CEOs that sit at the helm of biggest Fortune 500 companies in America. However, they are using their respective platforms to speak out about racial inequality.
They are: Marvin Ellison of Lowe’s, Kenneth Frazier of Merck, Roger Ferguson of TIAA, and Jide Zeitlin of Tapestry.
Jide Zeitlin is the CEO of the luxury goods brand Tapestry. The company owns luxury brands, Kate Spade, Coach, and Stuart Weitzman. Zeitlin posted a personal message on LinkedIn to his employees.
“I sat down several times to write this letter, but stopped each time. My eyes welling up with tears. This is personal,” Zeitlin wrote.
Zeitlin discussed the looting and damages, however, he viewed the destruction as secondary to the real issue.
“We can replace our windows and handbags, but we cannot bring back George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, and too many others. Each of these black lives matter,” he wrote.
However, Tapestry is being proactive.
They are planning changes to address these inequalities. Also, company leadership is working to “convene a number of social justice, legal, and corporate entities to formulate a longer-term plan for addressing systemic inequality.”
The focus is in areas like health, economic opportunity, and public safety.
“We hope to join with government, but events of this past week make it clear that we cannot wait,” he wrote in the letter.
Do It Right For Less
Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison got personal with his staff in a letter. He reiterated the company’s zero tolerance for racism and his commitment to fostering an environment of safety.
“I grew up in the segregated south and remember stories my parents shared about living in the Jim Crow South,” wrote Ellison. “So, I have personal understanding of the fear and frustration that many of you are feeling.”
“At Lowe’s, we are committed to helping people make their homes better, and today, we recognize that our homes extend beyond our walls, and into our neighborhood, communities and country,” said Ellison.
Leadership will have new resources to better support employee and communities, the letter states.
Racism Getting Merck’d
Merck CEO Ken Frazier realizes that he could have just as easily been George Floyd.
“What the African American community sees in that videotape is that this African American man, who could be me or any other African American man, is being treated as less than human,” Frazier told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Frazier grew up in the inner city of Philadelphia in the 1960s. He was part of a handful of kids chosen by the city to be bused 90 minutes to white schools.
He was just one of nine black students and that set him on a different trajectory in life. However, he noted the “huge opportunity gaps” still exist today.
“It is the responsibility of corporate America to bridge those gaps,” Frazier said. “If we don’t try to create opportunities for these people to be employed; joblessness creates hopelessness.”
The TIAA Way
Roger Ferguson, the CEO of TIAA, a retirement services company spoke out as well.
“Personally, I am outraged by the recent incidents of racism, violence and police brutality against members of the African American community. The haunting video of Mr. Floyd’s last breaths is a sobering reflection of this national crisis,” Ferguson said in a statement to CNN.
Ferguson’s father was a cartographer for the U.S. Army. He says his family didn’t have a lot of money. Still, Ferguson attended Harvard where he studied economics and cleaned bathrooms at the dorms.
“Particularly with the pandemic issues we are confronting in 2020, this is a time when we must embrace our differences and become more inclusive,” Ferguson told CNN of the disparities facing people of color.
“No group should ever be targeted for racism, harassment or other form of discrimination. At TIAA, we are committed to playing our part to constructively engage as difference makers, consistent with our guiding values and, indeed, our legacy of inclusive leadership.”
Ferguson along with the Executive Committee of TIAA sent a letter to employees. It addressed the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.
“Incidents like this bring to light the fear, inequality and concerns of racism that still pose a threat to our humanity.”