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Civil Rights Icon Offers CEOs Advice to Uplift Communities

MBA’s annual convention and expo included a general session on Monday, Oct. 19 about “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” which featured prominent guest speakers.

Ambassador Andrew J. Young discussed topics such as his background as a Civil Rights activist in the 1960s and the impact of race relations on the economy. Young is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a former mayor of Atlanta, chairman of the Andrew J. Young Foundation and is an icon of the Civil Rights Movement who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. 

Susan Stewart, the 2021 chairman of the MBA and CEO of SWBC Mortgage, asked Young about his background as an activist and what advice he has for CEOs “to affect positive changes” in companies and communities “when there's so much racial division and suffering.”

“Let's not focus on the racial division and suffering,” Young said. “Let's focus on our jobs.”

Young called on executives to do their jobs to “house the homeless” and “facilitate access to creative mortgage properties.”

Young also stated that he sees “a lot of parallels” between the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the modern-day Black Lives Matter movement. He said that discrimination in the U.S. has not only taken a toll on American society, but also on the economy. 

“From 2000 to 2020 discrimination has cost the economy, a $16 trillion debt,” Young said. 

The biggest weakness among businesses, according to Young, is a lack of planning further into the future when thinking about how to make an impact on companies and communities.

“We've tended to run businesses on a quarterly plan,” Young said. “I think we've got to think in terms of the longer distance thinking. We've got to have a three-year plan and a five-year plan or a 10-year plan. We've got to see where our companies are going. We're going to see how we're going to be living five years from now, and we need to develop our businesses to accommodate our needs.”

Young also discussed how he witnessed Atlanta’s population and economy grow. He said that “everything boomed” when minority-run businesses had the opportunity to grow, particularly during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. 

“We brought the Olympics here, and minority businesses got 41% of the business,” Young said. 

Kristy Fercho, the 2021 MBA chairman-elect and executive vice president and head of Home Lending at Wells Fargo, closed out the “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” session. She presented the recipients of this year’s MBA Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Awards.

“These awards promote four key things,” Fercho said. “First, recognize development of innovative ways to foster diversity and inclusion within the industry, inspire business strategies that reach out to diverse populations, share industry best practice and successes to inspire new strategies, and finally, to raise industry awareness of the importance of being a diverse and inclusive industry.”

Among this year’s Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Award recipients are Mr. Cooper, United Nations Federal Credit Union and Radian for Organizational Diversity and Inclusion. Bank of America won the Large Lender Market Outreach Strategies Award and the First Bank of Tennessee won the Small Lender Market Outreach Strategies Award. Lastly, Finicity was announced as the recipient of the Non-lender Market Outreach Strategies Award.

About Author: Cristin Espinosa

Cristin Espinosa is a reporter for DS News and MReport. She graduated from Southern Methodist University where she worked as an editor and later as a digital media producer for The Daily Campus. She has a broadcast background as well, serving as a producer for SMU-TV. She wrote for the food section during her fellowship at The Dallas Morning News and has also contributed to Advocate Magazine and The Dallas Observer.
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