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Biden-Harris Administration unveils plan to build black wealth and narrow racial divide 

Earlier this month, on the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, the Biden-Harris Administration unveiled their plan to build black wealth and narrow the racial wealth gap in the United States. 

A history of systemic racism in the United States has contributed to the large wealth gap that people of color currently face. Systemic racism, also referred to as structural or institutional racism, is defined as “a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity,” according to the Aspen Institute. Systemic racism is not something “a few people or institutions choose to practice.” It is ingrained in our social, economic, and political systems and has adapted over time. It identifies the parts of our history and culture that have historically privileged “whiteness” while subjecting people of color to unjust disadvantages. 

Historically, systemic racism has impacted the ability of Black Americans to secure afforable housing, education, health care, and employment due to unjust biases and discrimination. A study by Citigroup found that in the past 20 years alone systemic racism has cost the U.S. a whopping $16 trillion

The Biden-Harris Administration’s new plan will take measures to address the key issues impacting Black wealth in efforts to close the racial wealth gap and build back Black wealth. 

Adam Schultz, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Biden-Harris Administration to build back black wealth 

In a detailed press release, the Biden-Harris Administration outlined key areas their plan will tackle. The plan will: 

  • Take action to address racial discrimination in the housing market, including by launching a first-of-its-kind interagency effort to address inequity in home appraisals, and conducting rulemaking to aggressively combat housing discrimination.
  • Use the federal government’s purchasing power to grow federal contracting with small disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent, translating to an additional $100 billion over five years, and helping more Americans realize their entrepreneurial dreams.

Attitudes and policies that undermine equal access are the root of the racial gaps plaguing U.S. society (Source: Citi Research).

Additionally, the Administration plans to create jobs and build wealth in communities of color through various initiatives that will help support small minority owned businesses including: 

  • A new $10 billion Community Revitalization Fund to support community-led civic infrastructure projects that create innovative shared amenities, spark new local economic activity, provide services, build community wealth, and strengthen social cohesion.
  • $31 billion in small business programs that will increase access to capital for small businesses and provide mentoring, networking, and other forms of technical assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged businesses seeking to access federal contracts and participate in federal research and development investments.
  • $15 billion for new grants and technical assistance to support the planning, removal, or retrofitting of existing transportation infrastructure that creates a barrier to community connectivity, including barriers to mobility, access, or economic development.
  • A new Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit to attract private investment in the development and rehabilitation of affordable homes for low- and moderate-income homebuyers and homeowners. 
  • $5 billion for the Unlocking Possibilities Program, an innovative new grant program that awards flexible and attractive funding to jurisdictions that take steps to reduce needless barriers to producing affordable housing and expand housing choices for people with low or moderate incomes.

You might be interested: Black History Month: Steps toward dismantling systemic racism in the U.S. 

Investing in Black-Owned Small Businesses 

Access to capital and resources are common struggles many small business owners face, but the struggle is greater for Black small business owners who must go through the extra hurdles set in place by discriminatory racial biases. 

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Through two key measures the Biden-Harris Administration will work to address these disadvantages. 

Using the Government’s purchasing power to drive an additional $100 billion to Small Disadvantaged Business Owners: The federal government is the largest consumer of goods in the world, buying everything from software to elevator services to financial and asset management, Federal procurement is one of our most powerful tools to advance equity and build wealth in underserved communities. And yet, just roughly 10 percent of federal agencies’ total eligible contracting dollars typically go to small disadvantaged businesses (SDB), a category under federal law for which Black-owned, Latino-owned, and other minority-owned businesses are presumed to qualify. Increasing federal spending with these businesses will help more Americans realize their entrepreneurial dreams and help narrow racial wealth gaps. 

At its center is a new goal: increasing the share of contracts going to small disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent by 2026—translating to an additional $100 billion to SDBs over the 5-year period. To achieve this goal, agencies will assess every available tool to lower barriers to entry and increase opportunities for small businesses and traditionally-underserved entrepreneurs to compete for federal contracts. The impact could be historic: all told, attainment of the new goal will represent the biggest increase in SDB contracting since data was first collected more than 30 years ago.

Invest $31 Billion to Scale Up Efforts to Support Minority-Owned Small Businesses: Too many small businesses owned by people of color struggle to access loans and federal programs that can help them grow and succeed.  President Biden has proposed a historic effort to tackle these persistent challenges and empower small business creation and expansion in communities of color. Specifically, the President’s American Jobs Plan will invest $30 billion in new Small Business Administration (SBA) initiatives that will reduce barriers to small business ownership and success.  These initiatives will increase access to capital by establishing a new direct loan program for the smallest businesses, developing new loan products to support small manufacturers and businesses that invest in clean energy, and launching a new Small Business Investment Corporation that will make early stage equity investments in small businesses with priority for those owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. The American Jobs Plan will also invest billions of dollars in SBA technical assistance programs that incubate and offer mentoring and technical assistance to 8(a) firms, reinforce the American subcontracting network to create pathways to prime contracting, encourage Fortune 500 firms to diversify their procurements, and bring more socially and economically disadvantaged businesses into federal research and development programs.  These investments will also include an innovative new $1 billion grant program through the Minority Business Development Agency that will help minority-owned manufacturers access private capital.

Through these efforts, Black-owned small businesses will have greater opportunities to realize their dream and goals. There is still much work to do before the longstanding effects of systemic racism are fully eradicated, but the plan unveiled by the Biden-Harris Administration is a first step in the right direction toward building back black wealth and narrowing the racial wealth gap and achieving equality in the United States. 

women in charge

Women in Charge: An ongoing human quest for equity

Pilar Avila and Ashley Hayes of Renovad discuss the role of women in leadership throughout history and today in the ongoing human quest for equity. 

As we organize our upcoming Renovad retreat in Blue Osa Yoga Retreat & Spa in Costa Rica, co-hosted by Latinas in Business, we cannot help but notice the variety of leadership roles held by our group of women travelers from the U.S., and the wide representation of industries and sectors. Their roles range from chief executive officer to president, founder, doctor and director; they are entrepreneurs, corporate, and foundation executives – they are leading and effecting change in the world. 

Ocean Tree at parque Nacional Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica. (Photo by Luiz Cent on Unsplash)

Coincidentally, when researching about matriarchal societies, at the top of the list is a small indigenous society called the Bribrí, in Costa Rica. The Bribrí culture is matrilineal, meaning that women inherit the family property, generating great respect for those women in charge. It feels that we are literally heading in the right direction. 

Looking back at world history, we are normally directed towards learning about the great patriarchal societies of the Byzantine and Roman empires. During ancient times in most of Greece, women were separated from men and were not permitted to participate in government or appear in public. The gender separation was so stringent, that men even played female roles on stage. 

By contrast, in Sparta, women were seen as equal to men. Spartans believed strong intelligent women would bear strong intelligent children, therefore, women were educated and trained to fight. 

Spartan running girl. (Caeciliusinhorto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

An extraordinary example of matriarchal societies in Mesoamerica, Mayan women were highly regarded for their ability to bear children. They were also as equally active as men in farming and leaders in political and economic discussions. 

Women in charge

As we consider the role of women in charge around the world today, there are some who continue to ponder why nations led by women have been most effective in reducing the coronavirus spread and protecting lives during the ongoing global pandemic. 

Women in charge, women in leadership

New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern (Ministry of Justice of New Zealand, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been successful at eradicating the virus through stringent life-saving lockdown measures. President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen has led one of the most successful efforts in the globe to contain the virus through testing, tracing and isolation measures.

Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland, leads the country with a coalition of four female-led parties and the nation is coping far better than its neighboring Nordic countries. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has not only been successful at navigating the epidemic and faring much better than most European and world nations, but she has dominated the political scene in Germany for the last 16 years.

There may be some answers in the findings of a study conducted by researchers at Lehigh University, Maastricht University in the Netherlands and University of Antwerp in Belgium. It found that institutions seek more change and less risk when women are in top management teams. 

Women in charge of making company decisions are more likely to look beyond the decision and also take into consideration the effect on company performance. Having women in top management positions is the best way to not only diversify perspectives but also to diversify outcomes.

Women leading the country

The U.S. political stage looked like never before during the recent and first address to the nation by President Joe Biden since his election last November. Two women were behind the Presidential podium, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, serving in this role since 2019, and previously 2007-2011, while serving as representative since 1987. 

women in charge

VP Harris joins the 2021 JSOC with Speaker Pelosi and President Biden. (Office of Vice President of the United States, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

It is indisputable that in the nation that denied women the right to vote until the 19th Amendment of the Constitution in 1920, women today are rising to leadership across every sector, industry, and geography in the land. 

Although we believe we are heading in the right direction, we do not intend to suggest that the right direction is a world dominated by women in charge, but a world where all humans, regardless of gender, can learn, grow, lead, thrive, and live free. And as such, we continue to take steps towards equity for all. 

About the authors:

Pilar Avila is founder of interductus | Renovad, a change management firm providing business advisory to institutions, and professional development and wellness to global leaders. Over the last three decades, Pilar has provided leadership at institutions across the private equity, hospitality, and nonprofit sectors, earning a strong reputation as a business and civic change leader. She is regarded as a strategic, innovative, multidisciplinary, results-oriented change agent passionate about the rise of diverse leadership, promoting equal access to economic opportunity and investing in education. 

Ashley Hayes is the director of global operations and programs at interductus | Renovad. As such, Ashley’s goal is to promote diversity and equality while also helping to embolden and elevate global leaders to success – whether it be in wellness, intellectually, professionally, or in their philanthropic endeavors. She is committed to magnifying the capacity and impact of current and emerging generations of leaders around the globe.

SCOTUS Sonia Sotomayor to swear in Kamala Harris in historic first for women of color

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in tomorrow by Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a historic first for women of color. The news that Sotomayor would have a role in Wednesday’s inaugural ceremony came at the end of last week.  

A historical moment for women of color

The ceremony will make history as Harris becomes the first woman of color to become vice president and will take her oath from the first woman of color to sit on the Supreme Court.

Ms. Harris chose Justice Sotomayor for the task, calling the justice a figure of national inspiration.

“Judge Sonia Sotomayor has fought for the voices of the people ever since her first case voting against corporations in Citizens United,” Harris wrote on Twitter in 2019. “As a critical voice on the bench, she’s showing all our children what’s possible.”

Justice Sotomayor, who was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 2009, also swore in Joseph R. Biden Jr. for his second term as vice president in January 2013.

You might be interested: SCOTUS Justice Sotomayor Leadership Award from Hispanic Heritage Foundation

Harris reflected on the moment that she’ll take the oath of office as vice president in a recent interview with NPR saying, “I will be thinking about my mother, who’s looking down from heaven. I will be thinking of all the people who are counting on us to lead.”

Additionally, Harris has chosen to be sworn in using two bibles. One previously belonged to Mrs. Regina Shelton, who was like a second mother to Harris while the other belonged to the late civil rights leader and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who has been an inspiration to Harris throughout her career. 

Kamala says goodbye to California

first woman of color

United States Senate, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As Harris prepares to take office as vice president, she says goodbye to her seat as California Senator. Harris, who was also the first Black woman to serve as a senator for the Golden State, won her seat in November 2016 and was sworn in January 2017. At the time, Harris was California’s attorney general. 

Harris formally resigned as California Senator yesterday, but she assures Americans that her work is not done since she will preside over the chamber once she is sworn as the first female, first Black, and first South Asian woman vice president of the United States.

“And this is not goodbye. As I resign from the Senate, I am preparing to take an oath that would have me preside over it,” Harris wrote in an op-ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle. “As senator-turned-Vice-President Walter Mondale once pointed out, the vice presidency is the only office in our government that ‘belongs to both the executive branch and the legislative branch.’ A responsibility made greater with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.”

However, Harris hopes she will not have to use her power as a tie breaker too often. 

“Since our nation’s founding, only 268 tie-breaking votes have been cast by a Vice President. I intend to work tirelessly as your Vice President, including, if necessary, fulfilling this Constitutional duty,” she wrote.

“At the same time, it is my hope that rather than come to the point of a tie, the Senate will instead find common ground and do the work of the American people.”

Kamala Harris will be sworn in at tomorrow’s inauguration ceremony in Washington D.C. It will be a historic first for women of color but Harris promises that, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.”