Coqual CEO Lanaya Irvin Aims To Effectuate Positive Change In The Workplace With The Black Equity Index

Racial Equity in the workplace is more than just a “buzzword” for Coqual and their new initiative, the Black Equity Index (BEI). It’s a legitimate metric that Coqual — who commissioned the Index — hopes will spark what they’re calling “systemic, sustainable change” in corporate America.

Black men and women in corporate America are well aware of racial disparities in the workplace — and unfortunately, they aren’t strangers to being the “lonely only” in the boardroom. What the Black Equity Index — an independent and credible benchmark — hopes to do is “provide greater accountability for companies and their leadership teams,” with the proviso that they have tangible benchmarks to improve their equity efforts year over year.

Coqual CEO Lanaya Irvin says that launching the Black Equity Index was essential for employers to identify their “blind spots” when it came to providing fair and equitable treatment — and opportunity — for non-white employees.

But how can companies be more accountable for their equality — and equity? How can they be authentic with their inclusivity efforts?

This independent and credible benchmark allows organizations to track progress on Black equity in the workplace and improve their practices across shared principles year after year.

Tina Knowles-Lawson (yes, Beyoncé’s mother) said that these findings were essential for young Black professionals — and she also had some advice for Black men and women looking to navigate the often-treacherous corporate world.

“I have a lot of mentees, a lot of young women and men who I mentor,” Knowles-Lawson said, exclusively. “One of the main things I say to them all the time is that it’s important in a marketplace or the profession that you’re in to find a mentor. Someone who can help you navigate through all the obstacles that come up and that’s had that experience. They can share those experiences with you. So, don’t be shy about asking someone in that field to mentor you.”

She continued: “I think we as Black people sometimes don’t take advantage of that as much as our White counterparts. I didn’t grow up knowing all these people in corporate America that were super successful. My parents couldn’t get on the phone and say, ‘Hey! Can you give my kid an internship?’ If we don’t have those opportunities, we have to make them for ourselves. Try to find someone that is at a corporation and who has been successful and just simply ask them to mentor you. I think it’s super effective.”

AfroTech also had an opportunity to chat with Irvin, who shared some of the most remarkable findings from the Black Equity Index — and she had some invaluable advice for young Black professionals, too.

Editorial Note: Portions of this interview have been edited for clarity and length.

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