It is astounding to see so many companies taking stands against racism. But mea culpas will ring hollow if they are not followed by real action. Progress to date has been slow and inconsistent. In 2002, 12 Fortune 500 company CEOs were Black. Today, that number is four, and all of them are men.
Many leaders are at a loss about what they can do personally to move the needle on such dismal numbers — not only at the top, but throughout their organizations. They’d like to be what’s sometimes called an “ally.” The problem is that a lot of supposed allyship can just be performative: It sounds nice but impedes real action on racial and gender justice. The answer comes in two parts: stepping aside and stepping in front.