• Caroline Kim Palacios


The time is now to harness the disruption around us to unleash the power of diverse young talent. Beyond this disruption, LeadersUp envisions an era of evolution driven forth by a network of corporate leaders committed to making this the last generation where the potential of BIPOC talent is needlessly lost to systemic racism and build a wholly inclusive economy. We believe that the roadmap to a more prosperous and competitive economy lies in our ability to collectively make intentional and strategic investments in human capital in our ongoing effort to leverage our nation’s diversity and open doors of opportunity for at-risk populations. In fact, the successful recovery of our economy depends on this based on these three truths:


  1. The business case for diversity and inclusion is stronger than ever. There is overwhelming evidence that diversity promotes strong financial performance. According to a 2020 report by McKinsey & Company, a longitudinal study involving hundreds of leading corporations across several industries showed that representation of gender and ethnic diversity resulted in sustained greater likelihood of outperforming less diverse companies.

  2. Diversity promotes competitive agility - an essential quality for adapting to disruption and innovation. Diversity promotes creativity and creativity leads to new solutions and exciting innovation. Research has proven that the “...ability to thrive in the face of uncertainty and change—resilience and adaptability—depends to a large extent on diversity,” and thus “[d]iversity is crucial for the functioning and survival of any organism or complex adaptive system, including an organization.” (Boston Consulting Group, 2017)

  3. Strong recovery and sustained economic growth require a strong, diverse workforce fortified by young talent. It is estimated that persistent youth unemployment costs the U.S. economy $25 billion annually from lost tax revenue and government payouts. The negative impact of these losses is amplified during and after periods of economic depression. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), youth unemployment increased nearly by 8 million in the period following the 2008 economic crisis. In cautioning against the risk of repeating history, a recent article by the Atlantic Council warns that, “...further COVID19-induced spike in youth joblessness today will result in more lost earnings, greater costs, and slower economic recovery tomorrow.”



Exhibit 1. Likelihood of financial outperformance, 2014 - 2019. Adapted from Diversity wins: How inclusion matters, by S. Dixon-Fyle, 2020, McKinsey & Company.


Again, despite these facts, we know from decades of data that progress toward increasing diversity in the workforce has been mixed. While the benefits of increasing diversity have gained traction across corporate America, achieving it has been slow and inconsistent. Strategies around diversity efforts have not changed in decades. According to the Harvard Business Review, programs supporting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have largely failed to produce lasting positive change because they have remained stagnant in their approach to addressing DEI issues. DEI programs were originally intended to prevent lawsuits by employees rather than forge enduring systems change. (Harvard Business Review, 2016)


We need to evolve from the conventional, compositional measures of diversity toward recognizing the multidimensional impact that real inclusion could have not only inside our workplaces, but within our economy as a whole. What if corporate DEI programs could be evolved to become an effective tool for driving a new inclusive economy - one that raises the competitive edge of leading companies by unleashing one of our nation’s most underutilized, underestimated sources of talent?


The idea that diversity efforts have not produced robust results is not unknown. In fact, one of the most recent calls for action came from a letter issued by the IDEA Coalition, led by Dr. Johnnetta Cole, President of the National Council of Negro Women, and Melonie Parker, Chief Diversity Officer at Google, raising the alarm around the urgency to address inequity and racism inside the corporate sector.


As a starting point, DEI should not be siloed inside our human resource departments tucked away inside individual companies. There needs to be a shift in our thinking toward understanding how our shared value for diversity and equity within companies fits into a larger, systemwide strategy for building an inclusive economy.


As a talent accelerator working at the intersection of community-based impact and corporate transformation, LeadersUp is working to establish Inclusive Talent Solutions as the evolution of DEI. Rooted in antiracism and led by our belief that diverse young adults are our nation’s greatest source of untapped potential waiting to be unleashed, ITS goes beyond bias training and numerical measures of diversity. We are casting a bold vision to: 1) Evolve how we recruit BIPOC talent; and 2) Implement our corporate commitment to build an inclusive economy, which improves the lives and communities of people we train.


Answering this call to action toward lasting change demands the innovation of our corporate leaders committed to dismantling systemic racism and the passion of the social change sector to drive the process of evolving ourselves out of status quo approaches toward new and creative solutions. It is our hope that you will join us and #EvolveNow in redefining what a faster, stronger economic recovery can be today while building a stronger, more competitive economy for tomorrow through Inclusive Talent Solutions.