Black Women Making an Impact in Corporate America

Recognizing corporate social responsibility officers working in underserved communities

black women
(Image: iStock.com/kali9)

I love seeing people’s reactions when I tell them that there is a real job that allows people to distribute money to help do good in the world. Their remarks range from disbelief to total astonishment. Yes, in a world filled with challenges and endemic social ills, it’s refreshing to know that there are corporations that care deeply about local communities.

These corporations hire people with skills and knowledge to lead this function. These people are typically referred to as CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) officers.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it is important to note that bringing awareness to the growing number of black women leading corporate and private foundations, is important for the third sector.

If you want to have a career in corporate social responsibility, you must possess great communications skills and knowledge on subject matter related to the company. A growing number of people employed in this role are black women. They possess the required set of skills for the position but more importantly, they bring an awareness of the issues impacting underserved communities. This will have a positive impact on the company’s reputation and brand but more importantly, it will help strengthen the connection to the local community and ultimately, improve the bottom line.

Black women have not earned much recognition for leading the charge on many major social impact issues. However, there are some who are motivating their corporations to address some pretty stubborn issues.

These stubborn issues take on many forms—ranging from what’s required to lead an effective nonprofit organization to financial literacy. There is a growing trend among corporations to identify ways to amplify the work that impact leaders are doing. This approach is known as capacity building for nonprofits. This approach answers a very important need that often goes unaddressed, particularly with organizations led by people of color.

“For News Corp., supporting philanthropy is about producing tangibly positive outcomes for underserved communities. Our approach has been to seek out innovative philanthropic organization partners’ approaches focused on root causes. We want to be a part of the ecosystem that actually eliminates—not just mitigates—the lack of access to critical resources that impoverished communities experience,” stated Keisha Smith-Jeremie, chief human resource officer for the media company.

Smith-Jeremie’s work is transformational in that most foundations lack the ability to focus on capacity-building, which is one of the greatest needs for startup organizations.

These women are tasked with more than just writing checks for galas and luncheons. Their most important task is to help bring about meaningful change. According to Stephanie Bell-Rose, senior managing director and head of TIAA Institute, “It’s important for financial institutions to invest in communities because their expertise is sorely needed and can make a significant difference: the Personal Financial Index, a survey conducted by TIAA Institute and George Washington University, found that one-fifth of the adults surveyed have a relatively low level of personal financial knowledge.”

This is an excellent example of a company utilizing their platform to impact a social issue directly connected to their business focus. The benefit of a Bell-Rose to financial literacy is that she has the ability to provide crucial data points from research done by the institute. This is critical in mapping a strategy around how to reach those most in need of the training and resources.

Smith-Jeremie and Bell-Rose are not alone but they represent a very small group. LaJune Montgomery Tabron leads the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and works with communities across the country to create conditions that will support vulnerable children. To learn more, please visit www.wkkf.org.

Tonya Allen leads Skillman Foundation based in Detroit. The foundation is focused on supporting quality education and economic opportunities for children. To learn more, please visit www.skillman.org.

Sherece West-Scantlebury is the President and CEO of Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, a private independent foundation based in Arkansas whose mission is to improve the lives of Arkansans. To learn more, please visit www.wrfoundation.org.

 

 


This article was written by Christal M. Jackson, Founder, Head and Heart Philanthropy, a social impact agency focused on solving social issues impacting communities of color and supporting investors and entrepreneurs of color.