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CEO Thought Leadership Series from Trade Show

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COMMIT! FORUM – Ron Parker

Doug spoke with Ron Parker, CEO of the Executive Leadership Council, following his presentation on racial disparity among the C-Suite in Fortune 500 companies. He also discusses how the Executive Leadership Council is preparing and developing the next generation of global black leaders.

“What we’re doing is within the ELCs that we have a CEO Academy that is taught by the existing black CEOs with the sole purpose of trying to fulfill the pipeline of talent, knowing that some of these individuals like Ursula and Ken Chenault, and Kent Frazier, as well as Bernard Tyson will be moving on.”

DOUG SIMON: Commit Forum 2017 at the MGM National Harbor in Maryland. I’m Doug Simon, CEO of D S Simon Media. My guest, Ron Parker, CEO of the Executive Leadership Council. He just gave a very important presentation. Thanks so much for joining us.

RON PARKER: Thank you, Doug, for hosting us.

DOUG SIMON: One of the things you pointed out that was really shocking and makes you take moment of the Fortune 500 CEOs, only four of them are African American males. So what are you doing to try and change that?

RON PARKER: Well, it is solemn entering the year of 2017 that we only have four African American males who are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. What we’re doing is within the ELCs that we have a CEO Academy that is taught by the existing black CEOs with the sole purpose of trying to fulfill the pipeline of talent, knowing that some of these individuals like Ursula and Ken Chenault, and Kent Frazier, as well as Bernard Tyson will be moving on. As they move out of those roles, we’re using them as the deans of this academy to teach the next generation as to what are some of the nuances of being a successful black CEO in today’s environment.

DOUG SIMON: Also create a pipeline and take away some of the excuses about not available candidates so you have more people trained.

RON PARKER: Exactly. You’re looking at the fact that the black consumer spends $1.3 trillion in goods and services. As we try to impress upon the millennial generation, that they too can aspire to these senior level private sector jobs, it’s important to have role models like Ken, like Marvin Ellison at JCPenney, like Bernard Tyson, for them to aspire to.

DOUG SIMON: Do you think there’s some changing attitudes, especially among millennials? I know we use the m-word quite a bit. That might create a better outcome in the future going forward?

RON PARKER: I think so. At early on, I was somewhat skeptical of the millennials. But I think they’re very much like the boomers. They are assessing organizations based on their footprint, their physical, digital, and social footprint out in the community.
The intelligence that we have from our institute is that these millennials are looking at organizations and determining what are they doing in the social spaces. Not only around their products, their services, and their professional opportunities, but what are they doing for their environment? What are they doing for communities? What are they doing for education? What are doing for the good of the planet in addition to goods and services that they provide to their consumers.

DOUG SIMON: One thing you spoke about that seems really smart is taking this issue out of just the diversity pigeon hole and actually putting it in the c-suite with the CEO. You’ve started CEO action for diversity and inclusion and getting CEOs to take the pledge. Can you tell us about that?

RON PARKER: Yes, we’re so pleased that being led by Tim Ryan of PwC, this initiative of CEO action for diversity inclusion where we thought we would get about 150, and we made that announcement in our initial launch back in June of this year. We now have dug over 300 plus CEOs who have signed the pledge to do three things.
One, to have the tough conversations around race and other issues that affect under-represented groups inside of corporate America. There’s a productivity play there. There’s an engagement play there.
Two, be able to share best practices. Normally, companies are competitive and they don’t like to share information that they think has an advantage.
The third one is to do unconscious bias training. Because we all have unconscious biases and they’re trying to make sure that they are preparing their particular organizations for the 21st century leaders who’ll be emerging through that millennial pool that we talked about earlier.

DOUG SIMON: It’s so important that you’re getting that now. Of those 300 and the ones you want to sign up, how large a company do they have to be? Do they be publicly traded, Fortune 500, or are you just trying to create involvement across the board?

RON PARKER: Good question. Initially, we started out with the Fortune 500. We have secured over 300 of those individuals, CEOs. Not the CHROs or chief diversity officers. But we are also looking at academic institutions.
Here, coming up in this month in October, the CEO action for diversity inclusion is going to be actually going off to college campuses and having a discussion with some of the universities and colleges and some of the students who are there as to what their responsibilities will be as leaders as they move out of college into the world of work.
If we think we can impress upon them the broader level of responsibilities beyond the P&L, beyond market share, beyond growing shareholder value, that we will create a holistic leader entering the workplace in the 21st century.

DOUG SIMON: At risk of trying to correct you, it’s not just beyond the P&L, it’s an issue that really pertains and directly affects the P&L. I mean, we talked about $1.3 trillion of expenditure in the African American community. You’ve got to be representing that to go there.

RON PARKER: Exactly. What we’re finding is that these millennials are making free employment decisions based upon the broader aspect of what a company is engaged in beyond just the normal metrics of market share profitability and shareholder return.
They’re making those decisions on the things that are in the world of good social global corporate responsibility.

DOUG SIMON: So it sounds like if they want to do well, they’re going to have to start doing some good. Thanks so much for being with us.

RON PARKER: Thank you, Doug, for having me.