A Wharton video series on DEI in industries and the racial wealth gap

A limited four-part series hosted by Wharton’s Kenneth Shropshire called ‘Opportunity Matters’ explores the intersection between diversity, equity, and inclusion in industries, and their influence on the racial wealth gap.

A limited, four-part series launched by the Wharton School and hosted by Kenneth Shropshire delves into diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within industries like health care, finance, sports, and entertainment—and their influence on the racial wealth gap.

In “How Does Your Financial Wellbeing Shape Your Health Outcomes?,” Shropshire, faculty director for Wharton’s Coalition for Equity and Opportunity (CEO), is joined by Wharton professor Guy David; Fareeda Griffith, managing director of the CEO; and Surya Kolluri, head of TIAA Institute.

A person shaking hands with an interviewer at a job interview.
Image: iStock/nortonrsx

They unpack the intricate ways income and wealth inequality influence health care and outcomes. From examining the impact of social determinants to navigating innovation in technology and AI, the conversation explores how these factors can either uplift underserved communities or exacerbate existing disparities.

“I would argue the biggest gaps in health care from a disparities perspective are going to be in health insurance coverage and in access to health services,” says David. “I don’t just mean hospital care, but also primary care, even pharmacy. Now, you can argue that these are the disparities in health care. But they’re not just stemming from the health care system. We have to understand that there are disparities in a lot of other dimensions.”

David says the lack of economic stability, housing, transportation, and health and financial literacy, as well as education, food insecurity, and exposure to violence and trauma, all spill over into disparities in health status. “And if health equity means really ensuring that everyone has a chance to be as healthy as possible,” he says, “it starts with realizing that not everyone has the same opportunities to achieve the same level of health.”

In Episode 2, “How Does Prioritizing Diversity Reshape the Business and Culture of Sports?,” Shropshire joins Xavier Gutierrez, the NHL’s first Latino president and CEO, and Jonathan Beane, the NFL’s senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer to discuss the world of sports.

They examine the unique role sports play in providing opportunities for underserved communities, and why women are more likely to foster a positive and inclusive work environment. They also address the diversity challenges in team ownership and highlight the ongoing efforts to increase opportunities for minorities in leadership roles within sports organizations.

“We’ve been very intentional on our efforts to attract more diverse ownership,” says Beane. “What’s important is, we want the primary ownership, but we also want those limited partners as well.” He cites two clubs for sale in recent years that have seen significant diverse ownership—the Denver Broncos with Melody Hobson, Condoleezza Rice, and Sir Lewis Hamilton, and the Washington Commanders with Magic Johnson and others.

“Before that process even started for both of those clubs, we made a statement where we said, as organizations are putting together their offers for a club, we will see it very favorably for there to be diverse ownership as a part of that overall package and proposal. Just making it very clear that that is something we are looking for and hoping for going forward. And we’ve been able to see that.”

In Episode 3, “What Can We Do to Narrow the Wealth Gap?,” Wharton professor Keith Weigelt and President and CEO of Castle Oak Securities L.P. David R. Jones join Shropshire to talk about the inequities in finance and financial wellbeing.

They discuss the racial wealth gap, and the role of access, opportunity, and education; the solutions Wharton is pursuing to address these disparities; and how business leaders and financial institutions like Castle Oak can contribute to closing the wealth gap.

“If you look at society as a network, the wealth disparity hole is a central node. It causes all of these other disparities in our society. There’s growing and growing evidence that says that the health of a household depends on the wealth of a household. So, if we have a wealth gap, we have a current health gap, which is going to get bigger,” says Weigelt. “We’ve seen this in COVID, where minority households were affected significantly worse. We have an education disparity—low wealth households do not have as many resources to spend on their children’s education. We have a home ownership disparity. Home ownership is one way you can grow wealth. We have a criminal justice disparity, because low wealth households do not have the resources to fight the criminal system.

“So again, wealth is really, really important. And I think that’s why this program fits in with the vision of Dean Erika James and the vision of her coalition about using business practices to really transform people’s lives. In our program we have empirical evidence showing how we have transformed people’s lives.”

And in Episode 4, Shropshire is joined by industry leaders Nzinga “Zing” Shaw, CEO of Attack the Glass, and sports and entertainment attorney Jaia Thomas, to address pay equity and underrepresentation in entertainment. “Can Diversity Initiatives Break Barriers in Entertainment?” is the final episode of the series.

They discuss their experiences in developing diversity initiatives, including targeted hiring practices, mentorship programs, and curating resume databases. Shaw and Thomas offer insights on how to enhance visibility and opportunities for women, people of color, disabled communities, and LGBTQ+ professionals in sports and entertainment.

“I started Diverse Representation about four years ago. As a Black woman attorney, one of the issues I was seeing in the industry was that a lot of my clients were Black, and oftentimes I was the only Black person on their team,” Thomas says. “Whether that was a Black athlete or a Black entertainer, I would be their attorney, but their agent would be white, their publicist white, their financial advisor white, their manager white. Their entire team would be white. And I felt like this was an issue we weren’t talking about.

“I felt like when we talked about diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry, the focus was always on the talent, making sure that the faces we saw on screen were diverse, but paying very little attention to the folks who were representing those people on screen. Because if you really started to peel back the layers, those faces were not diverse at all.”

Listen to all “Opportunity Matters” episodes at Knowledge at Wharton.