July 27

Race in America: Diversity in Corporate America

Diversity has been on the corporate agenda for many years, but it was not until the recent Black Lives Matter protests galvanized the nation that substantial change seems possible across American industry. Fortune 500 companies are committing to new standards and hiring practices. Senior executives are reassessing pipelines to upper management and scrutinizing company culture. Ariel Investments co-CEO John W. Rogers Jr., joins The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart to discuss his career and the work he has done to ensure civil rights in corporate boardrooms, as well as the concrete steps companies can take today to diversify their ranks and create a more equitable society.
In 2018, black professionals held 3.3 percent of all executive or senior leadership roles. Ariel Investments co-CEO John W. Rogers Jr. says companies ‘lack imagination’ when it comes to ensuring diversity. ‘People are not stretching out and looking broadly for all the African-American talent out there...The talent is there. There’s not a pipeline issue.’
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Many companies have made statements supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. John W. Rogers Jr. says the public can help keep the pressure on these companies by supporting civil rights organizations and progressive political leaders that are fighting for economic and social justice.
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Ariel Investments co-CEO John W. Rogers Jr. met his co-CEO, Mellody Hobson, when she was 17 years old and he was recruiting minority students for Princeton. He says he became one of her early mentors, and now counts her among his mentors. Rogers says anyone looking for a good mentor should get involved in a non-profit organization or political campaign to ‘show that you care about people beyond yourself.’ ‘When those people see you working hard on behalf of the team then it’s easier call up those other leaders that you meet along the way and say I need some advice.’
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Ariel Investments co-CEO John W. Rogers Jr. says not only is it important to have African Americans on corporate boards, but it’s also important to have members who are willing to speak up and fight for justice once they’re in the boardroom. ‘We have a responsibility to fight for each other. And if you’re in that boardroom and you’re not pushing the social and economic justice goals really strongly, it gives that management team an out to not do the right thing.’
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John W. Rogers, Jr.
Co-CEO & Chief Investment Officer, Ariel Investments
John’s passion for investing began at age 12 when his father began buying him stocks as Christmas and birthday gifts. His interest in equities grew at Princeton University, where he majored in economics, and over the two-plus years he worked as a stockbroker for William Blair & Company, LLC. In 1983, John founded Ariel to focus on patient, value investing within small- and medium-sized companies. Following the election of President Barack Obama, John served as co-chair for the Presidential Inaugural Committee 2009, and more recently, he joined the Barack Obama Foundation’s Board of Directors. John received an AB in economics from Princeton University, where he was also captain of the varsity basketball team.
Jonathan Capehart
The Washington Post
Jonathan Capehart is a columnist for the Washington Post.
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