Black leaders share their advice on how to help black Americans succeed
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In celebration of Black History Month, CNBC Invest in You offers weekly stories from CNBC employees and members of the Financial Wellness Council, including the lessons they learned from their childhood, their advice to black teens, their inspirations, and the way they work Close the racial wealth gap.
More needs to be done to help black Americans find financial and professional success, say several black leaders.
This includes access to the same financial resources and employment opportunities as white Americans.
Many black Americans have lagged behind in the economic recovery. In January, the unemployment rate for black or African American workers was 9.2%, compared with 5.7% for white workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The overall unemployment rate was 6.3%.
This is what CNBC staff and members of the CNBC Financial Wellness Council have to say on the matter, including their recommendations to those in power and America’s black youth.
Akbar Gbajabiamila, host of the “American Ninja Warrior”
Akbar Gbajabiamila, who grew up in South Central Los Angeles by migrant parents from Nigeria, firmly believes that financial literacy can help bridge the race and wealth gap.
“There are too many people in my community who consider CDs to be the highest investment they know [certificates of deposit],” he said.
“The knowledge is not there,” added Gbajabiamila. “There’s this lack of trust.”
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However, to learn more about money, resources need to be available, said Gbajabiamila, who played soccer for the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins before co-hosting “American Ninja Warrior”.
“Sometimes I wish I could just be the black financial superman and just go home and say, ‘Hey, here are the resources,'” he said.
Gbajabiamila believes that those in power must step up and contribute to opening up financial advice to all.
“We have to tear down this wall,” he said. “I want everyone to come in. I want everyone to win.”
Helima Croft, RBC Capital Markets
Helima Croft ended up on Wall Street after spending the earlier part of her career with the Central Intelligence Agency.
She hopes companies will recognize that adding diversity to the workplace also brings the best views and ideas into the conversation. For those black men and women who won a seat at the table in Corporate America, Croft wants them to always believe they have a right to be there.
“Silence the voice in your head that says you are, and not one of, a choice for diversity,” said Croft, executive director and head of global commodities research at RBC Capital Markets and a member of the National Petroleum Council.
“Always know in your heart that you are making this room better, that your views and talent are important to get the best results for any organization you belong to.”
Robert Johnson, BET founder
Robert Johnson, who became the first black billionaire in the United States when he sold Black Entertainment Television to Viacam in 2001, urges powerful businessmen to help black Americans thrive in the country.
“They achieved their success through opportunity,” said Johnson, now founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies.
These people can say to black Americans, “We’ll give you the same opportunities we had, we’ll give you access to capital we had, and we’ll make sure you get a chance and a fair shot.” Take part in the American dream and help us to make this country the largest country in the world, “he said
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, black workers hold only about 3% of managerial or managerial positions in Fortune 500 companies.
Jason Snipe, advisor to Odyssey Capital
Once you are successful, giving back to your community is important, said Jason Snipe, founder and chief investment strategist at Odyssey Capital Advisors
“It’s very easy to forget where you came from,” said Snipe, a Fortune 2020 named Top 40 under 40 Wealth Manager.
“There is a generation behind us that needs to impart the same knowledge that we were given.”
For those looking to get into a business, be curious, bold, and look for mentors who have a vested interest in your success, he added.
Kourtney Gibson, Loop Capital Markets
To fill the racial wealth gap in the country, several things must happen, said Kourtney Gibson, president and partner of Loop Capital Markets.
“Access has to happen, there has to be an opportunity, and people need to empower our young people, not just mentor them to help them find positions for growth,” said Gibson.
The median net worth of a white family in 2019 was $ 188,200, compared with $ 24,100 for black families and $ 36,100 for Hispanic families. This is according to the Federal Reserve’s 2019 consumer finance survey published in September 2020.
Gibson practices what she preaches. She serves on the board of directors of the Dibia Dream Foundation, a program for underserved youth, and is the chairman of the Chicago Scholars Foundation, which selects, trains and mentors students from underserved communities.
Degas Wright, Decatur Capital Management
Early in his career, Degas Wright, Founder and CEO of Decatur Capital Management, knew he had a lot to offer his employers. That belief helped him during one particular experience when he arrived at an office for an interview for an analyst position.
“I was very excited about the opportunity,” he said. He was told to sit down in the reception area to wait for the manager to meet.
“I was the only person sitting there,” Wright recalled. “When the manager walked into the reception area, he asked the receptionist, ‘Has Mr. Wright gone?’
“You see, this manager didn’t see me,” he said. “He did not see that the person sitting in that reception area was the same person described on the resume.
“But it didn’t matter to me because I knew my worth.”
– Reuters contributed to this report.
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