Join the Race Conversation...

It's old news that women and people of color are grossly under-represented in the higher levels of corporate America today. There is progress occurring. White women are making progress but women of color seem to be creeping along. Ever. So. Slowly.

Black Enterprise recently released an exclusive report on African American representation on the corporate boards of 250 of America's largest publicly traded companies. Identified were 177 African American directors at S&P 500 companies, including Starbucks, Walmart, ExxonMobil and Ralph Lauren, to name a few.

That is good news. Yet...

It is still jarring to see facts like this other featured report from Black Enterprise come to light...

Seventy-five of the largest 250 largest companies on the S&P 500 do not have even one African American on their boards of directors. Despite the millions they make from selling their products to these consumers.

That is 30 percent, folks. We're talking about companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, the Gap and more. All companies who benefit from African Americans' consumer dollars in order to gain market share.

Unacceptable. Especially when you consider that...

NON-profit boards are eerily similar to FOR-profit boards in their lack of minority representation.

Katie Bascuas, associate editor of Associations Now, recently reported:

"What we have seen over the last 20 years is that it hasn't changed a lot," Vernetta Walker, vice president of consulting and training at BoardSource, said of minority inclusion. "About 20 years ago [nonprofit boards] were 86 percent Caucasian, and in our 2012 Nonprofit Governance Index, that number dropped to about 82 percent." Still, nonprofits do better than the Fortune 500, where 87 percent of board members are white.

30 percent of the roughly 1,300 nonprofit CEOs surveyed by BoardSource also reported that 100 percent of their board members were white...

To accomplish change, Walker shared that boards must first focus on communication.
"Step one, we have to do a better job communicating and having the conversations that go deeper than the surface level to find out what our barriers [to inclusion] are and how we connect diversity and inclusion to our mission."

Bias must be disarmed. And inclusion must become a part of the culture for boards - whether non-profit or for-profit.

And THAT is precisely what the Dallas Theater Center's Board of Trustees is doing -- right now. Knitting it into their culture.

They recently asked me to lead them in a board retreat focused, in-part, on building representation of people of color. And I was thoroughly impressed. Impressed and filled with hope for the city I live in.

DTC Board Trustees, led by Chair Rebecca Fletcher, acknowledge the need to diversify their board and create an inclusive culture. Because of that, they have formed a task force led by an insightful and intelligent man named Jeff Bragalone. And wise and visionary DTC staff members like Ramona Jordan and Mel Lopez.

They recognize the importance of remaining relevant. They recognize that the demographics are shifting. They recognize the need to innovate. All of that requires diversity of thought. And all of that requires communication... conversations.

And conversations are precisely what they are having. Why? Because nothing will really happen until these (difficult but absolutely necessary) conversations occur. Internally and externally. That is why the Dallas Theater is intentionally using plays as conversation starters... much like the New Orleans Film Festival did with 12 Years a Slave.

Dallas Theater Center has opened their 2013 season with A Raisin in the Sun, a play that opened on Broadway in 1959 and was written by an African American woman who was the first to break that barrier. The play tells the story of a black family preparing to move into an all-white neighborhood.

Here is the exciting part (and I can't explain it better than Kevin Moriarty, DTC's Artistic Director, did in his opinion piece for the Dallas Morning News):

It's time to talk about race in Dallas.

At a moment when mayor Mike Rawlings, county commissioner Elba Garcia and council member Dwaine Caraway have called on residents to enter into conversations about race and how it impacts our city, and as we look ahead to the Dallas Faces Race national conference that will convene here in 2014, it's clear that the time has come for everyone in our community to join in frank, open and honest conversations...

Inspired by the call of our civic leaders, and with a belief in the power of Dallas to continually reinvent itself, we are going to invite DTC's audience members to come together after every performance of both 'A Raisin in the Sun' and 'Clybourne Park' to engage in post-show conversations about race with members of the cast and each other. We hope these conversations will continue in the car ride home and with family and friends in the days and weeks that follow.

As these conversations build and expand, they will model a future for Dallas marked by honest dialogue and genuine respect. And from that, change will come...

Honest dialogue. Genuine respect. Change.

I like the sound of that. Do you?

Join the conversation...