By Ryan Velez
Women’s History Month recently ended, but there is no reason to ignore the good work that women are doing in terms of not just personally helping others, but distributing wealth towards the same aim. When people think of the corporate world, it is easy to get cynical. Are these philanthropic initiatives we hear really about helping others, or a PR move? Do these do enough to counteract some of the negatives that we hear many corporations participate in? A recent Black Enterprise article covers some of the positive work that Black women in the corporate world are doing to help traditionally underserved communities.
One thing to realize is that some forward-thinking corporations actually have a position allowing them to control where corporate money is distributed to social causes. This is called a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Officer and requires not only communication skills but a deep understanding of many communities and their issues. Many Black women, whether they have this formal title or not, are using their positions to draw attention—and money, to these issues.
“For News Corp., supporting philanthropy is about producing tangibly positive outcomes for underserved communities. Our approach has been to seek out innovative philanthropic organization partners’ approaches focused on root causes. We want to be a part of the ecosystem that actually eliminates—not just mitigates—the lack of access to critical resources that impoverished communities experience,” stated Keisha Smith-Jeremie, chief human resource officer for the media company. This is extremely important, as a lack of ability to build capacity is one of the largest reasons startups struggle in these communities.
In addition, many of the initiatives in these communities can be so much more than the token efforts that many perceive them as. Stephanie Bell-Rose, senior managing director and head of TIAA Institute, says: “It’s important for financial institutions to invest in communities because their expertise is sorely needed and can make a significant difference: the Personal Financial Index, a survey conducted by TIAA Institute and George Washington University, found that one-fifth of the adults surveyed have a relatively low level of personal financial knowledge.”
This is a true symbiotic opportunity. The Institute can use its area of business focus and expertise to service an important issue in impoverished communities, that being the lack of financial literacy. While the likes of Bell-Rose and Smith-Jeremie are all too underrepresented, we can only hope that seeing what they are doing will inspire other women of color to take part in the corporate world, and the companies themselves to give them a chance.