Corporate Leaders, DEI, Future of Work Town Hall, meeting

BE’s Future of Work Town Hall Explored Impact of Technological Progress On Black Workers With Industry Leaders

Tomorrow's workplace calls for strategies for success.

During a thought-provoking session of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Future of Work Town Hall, professionals from various fields gathered to delve into the complex terrain of the upcoming changes in the workforce, with a particular emphasis on how they would affect African-American employees. Guided by moderator Ed Gordon, the session offered an opportunity for thorough conversations on the obstacles and opportunities that arise from the rapid pace of technological progress and the changing nature of employment.

Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., CEO of BE, opened the discussion by introducing the topic and emphasizing its urgency. He highlighted the rapid pace of change reshaping the employment landscape across all fields and pointed out the exceptional stakes for Black Americans. He also discussed the gig economy’s impact on productivity, efficiency, and collaboration, raising questions about whether these trends genuinely move us forward as a nation. Butch emphasized that the future of work represents our future as a nation, and BE is fully committed to maximizing opportunities for Black Americans in the evolving employment landscape. Butch also thanked Nationwide for their continued long-term partnership.

After Graves’ introduction, Vinita Clements stepped onto the stage to commence the session. Clements, EVP and Chief Human Resources Officer for Nationwide, a longstanding supporter of BE‘s programming, set the tone for the event. Clements outlined the critical topics for discussion, including the impact of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), the rise of remote and adaptable work models, the dynamics of the gig economy, and the crucial need for continuous learning and skill development in a rapidly evolving employment sphere. She also emphasized the critical role of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in crafting the future workplace. She highlighted the significance of HBCUs in equipping students for success in the professional world.

Gordon introduced the panelists, including Clements, motivational speaker Paula Fontana, and tech entrepreneur Ariel Lopez. They discussed the transformative potential of technology, particularly AI, in reshaping industries and redefining traditional job roles. The panelists stressed the importance of addressing systemic barriers to access and advancing policies promoting workplace diversity and fairness.

Fontana stressed the importance of soft skills in navigating the future of work, highlighting adaptability and resilience as essential qualities for success and to remain relevant. Lopez echoed this sentiment, underscoring the potential of AI to streamline tasks and enhance productivity, while raising concerns about biases and privacy issues inherent in AI technology. “It’s important for Gen Z or anyone actively looking for a job to understand that the difficulties in the job market should not be interpreted as a reflection of their abilities. Companies are inundated with hundreds of resumes in the current competitive job landscape, but only a few candidates are selected for further consideration. Most resumes are filtered through applicant tracking systems, underscoring the importance of standing out from the crowd,” said Lopez, founder and CEO of Knac, a hiring platform that reduces bias in the application process.

Lopez added another layer to the discussion by highlighting the transformative potential of technology, particularly AI, in reshaping industries and redefining traditional job roles. Lopez emphasized the power of AI to streamline processes, boost productivity, and drive innovation. However, she also raised valid concerns regarding biases and privacy issues inherent in AI technology, urging for greater transparency and ethical considerations in its implementation.

As the conversation concluded, panelists offered actionable advice for the audience. Fontana urged individuals to build meaningful relationships and pivot when necessary, while Lopez emphasized the importance of DEI in the workplace.

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