Flipping the pyramid: Steps companies can take to close the opportunity gap

Flaring racial tensions and the coronavirus pandemic, which is disproportionately affecting Black and Hispanic communities, are bringing renewed attention to the disparities that exist across the spectrum between whites and people of color in the U.S.

Scott A. Snyder, a senior fellow at the Wharton School’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management and partner at Heidrick & Struggles, along with co-author John Hope Bryant, who is founder, chairman and CEO of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Operation HOPE, offers specific steps for companies and organizations to boost opportunities for minorities. Now is the moment, they argue, for business leaders to equalize the playing field and change the narrative around what it really means to succeed in America.

“According to the 2018 census, the median net worth of Black households was $17,600, compared with $171,000 for white households. Somehow, prosperity is not reaching the bottom of the pyramid in our own backyard,” the authors write.

“The recent COVID-19 pandemic has made the disparities even wider. Those who are able to work digitally and thrive in a highly distributed, virtualized society are also those at the higher end of the income pyramid. Those who cannot are not only limited to fewer economic opportunities, they are also at greater risk for contracting the disease because their jobs and living conditions dictate close proximity with others. The digital divide begets an economic divide, which begets a health risk divide—and the downward cycle drives the gap wider and wider.”

For companies to address this gap in wealth and innovation, the authors present ideas on how to close the health and wellness divide, and the digital divide. Their paper also suggests ways companies can create fluid access to capital and customers for fledgling businesses and entrepreneurs coming from the most underserved communities, and create new technologies and governance structures for rooting out racial bias in all business and government decisions, and increasing diversity in not only the workforce but also the C-suite and boardroom. 

Read more at Knowledge@Wharton.