Young People of Color Are the Future of America's Workforce

The U.S. racial leadership gap is widening right in front of our faces, and the key to expediting change starts with enabling our young people of color.

by Yulkendy Valdez and Josuel Plasencia
Nov 15 2017, 8:00pm

Today, the United States is 30 percent black and Latinx. By 2019, a majority of young people under 18 will be of color. By 2030, we will have a workforce where young workers of color will be the majority. This is all leading to 2044, where people of color will make up the majority of this country’s population.

We are at a point of inflection where we will either thrive or miss the biggest business opportunity of the century. Data in the National Equity Atlas show that our national GDP could be 14 percent, or $2 trillion higher, if the wage disparity between white employees and employees of color was eliminated. At a micro-level, we also know that companies who leverage the racial and ethnic diversity of our country are 35 percent more likely to outperform their respective national industry medians.

Yet, as of today, it seems we are missing the window of opportunity as we stand paralyzed uncertain of the future ahead. In a world where we should already have thousands of black and latino workers in the pipeline to become future senior executives, board members, and CEOs, we instead encounter a widening U.S. racial leadership gap that taunts us like a nightmare in the back of our heads. The reality today is that despite the fact that the country is becoming a majority people of color nation, only 3 percent of U.S. senior leadership across the private and public sector come from these backgrounds.

In February 2018, Kenneth I. Chenault announced his retirement from American Express after serving as the company’s chief executive officer for the past 16 years. Chenault was one of the five black CEOS leading a Fortune 500 company. Now, there will be only four. This was significant as it comes a year later after Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox, stepped down from her role. Burns was the only black woman CEO to have ever gotten the opportunity to lead a Fortune 500 company. The U.S. racial leadership gap is widening right in front of our faces.

If we want to catch our window of the opportunity, we must bring more urgency to this gap similarly, to how we have done with the gender gap. 2030 is only 13 years away, and in 27 years, we will hit 2044. There is not a lot of time left.

The key to expediting change starts with enabling our young people of color, our millennial talent.

83 percent of millennials are more actively engaged when they believe their company fosters an inclusive culture – and in 10 years, millennials will comprise nearly 75 percent of the workforce. We need to start developing and enabling millennial professionals to lead culture change at our companies, and in the process have the tough conversations around race in the workplace needed for us to be ready for the incumbent future ahead.

working class
People of color
social entrepeneurs
American Workforce