Last summer, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the corporate world saw a flood of brand messages in support of the Black community, with many companies also making commitments to invest in more hiring, development, and overall support of Black employees. Almost a year later, many are asking the question “What are the results?”
Now, a new organization has launched to not only hold corporations and companies accountable to their diversity commitments, but just as important, to act as a support and development pipeline for the next generation of marketing executives. The Black Executive CMO Alliance (BECA) aims to provide a vibrant forum for collaboration and networking, while also creating opportunity, access, and change through mentorship.
Created by long-time marketing exec and corporate board member Jerri DeVard, the new organization includes Black executives from 26 major companies, including Amazon, Netflix, Adidas, ViacomCBS, BET Networks, 3M, UPS, and Unilever. DeVard, and many of the founding members, after working hard to achieve positions of leadership, have experienced the discontent of being the “lonely only” at the top.
“The more I talked to people the more I realized that everyone was doing this journey on their own,” says DeVard. “And I thought about the power of uniting all of these powerful individuals—with a common goal of not only sharing our experiences and learning from each other but also paying it forward to make it easier for others.”
DeVard says that when she began searching for an organization that she could share this perspective with, she couldn’t find one. “So I ended up creating the thing that was so desperately needed—a place where Black marketing executives could really come together and support each other, lift each other, elevate the marketing profession, and more importantly, make it better for those that will follow,” she says.
According to Coqual’s 2018 “Being Black in Corporate America” report, Black employees account for only 3.2% of senior leadership roles at large corporations, a statistic also consistent with the 2020 diversity report from the Association of National Advertisers. This despite an intense focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion within many organizations.
Kim Paige, chief marketing officer of BET Networks, is one of BECA’s founding members. “We’ve all been in the room where oftentimes we’re alone, and really trying to create that path, so the notion of giving back and helping to create a pipeline has always been a part of my career,” says Paige, also a veteran of Coca-Cola, P&G, and Coty. “But to now do it through this alliance really does bring a degree of scale and allows us to do things in a more amplified and effective way.”
The alliance will establish mentorship programs, first-hand executive exposure, and coaching. It will also help identify career paths and skill opportunities to grow the Black marketing leadership talent pool.
“We want to impact those Black midlevel managers who feel the sense of isolation and cultural disconnect, a lack of authentic professional relationships, and limited to no access to Black executives,” says DeVard. “You need to see it to know it’s possible.”