By MARSHAWN WOLLEY
A February 2021 Mckinsey report found some disturbing news concerning Black employees in the U.S. labor market, but the Edge Mentoring Annual Conference occurring this week in Indianapolis may have the key to reversing some negative trends for Black workers.
While recognition of very real disparities and in the labor force can’t be dismissed, mentoring and support from corporate leaders may be a necessary intervention to a bleak economic position for Black workers.
Mckinsey found that 43% of Black workers make less than $30,000 compared to only 29% of the rest of work force. The study found that one-third of Black workers face the risk of automation eliminating their job.
Locally, Black Indianapolis experienced double digit and even depression level unemployment for an entire decade between 2010 and 2019, with unemployment reaching as high as 19.8%.
Real barriers exist for Black workers, especially in corporate American and Tom Linebarger, Executive Chairman of Cummins, affirmed as much in an interview with the Indianapolis Recorder. “There are real challenges that Black and other underrepresented workers face that I don’t as a white male.”
Linebarger also noted that his father was a painter and his mother worked in health care, but mentors were key in his professional and eventually personal development.
Linebarger shared his views on the role mentoring has played in his career and why it matters. “Having mentors has been critical to my own personal development as a professional,” he went on to say, “I wouldn’t be the leader I am today had it not been for my mentors.”
But for Cummins, mentorship it isn’t just about the job.
Mentoring relationships should involve developing the whole person, a key philosophy for Edge Mentoring—how one shows up as a parent and friend, as well as professional colleague is part of being a good leader.
Since 2005, Linebarger has ensured that Cummins invested in leadership development with some 400-500 Cummins employees participating in an internal leadership development program ran by organization managers.
As part of the program, Cummins leaders spend about 40 days working with employees throughout the organization to invest in their leadership.
He also believes that investing in yourself is key for forward progress in life, “If its education, or an executive coaching, or even fitness trainer you have to be continuously reinventing yourself.”
Linebarger also noted a shift in mindset can help people “be a leader of the assets in a business if that is your desire.”
More recently, there has been a surge in interest in entrepreneurship. This is important given that Indianapolis ranks 55 out of 85 metros in Black business formation.
Linebarger will be participating in Edge Mentoring’s Annual Conference this week with other community and corporate leaders. The local organization partners emerging leaders with mentors who work on whole person leadership development.
In our community, mentoring is the social capital that many of us may not have on the job. We also need sponsors — or people who say your name when there are opportunities when you are not in the room.
Edge Mentoring is a resource our community should consider engaging to find those whole person mentors while we cultivate sponsors on the job.
Marshawn Wolley is CEO of Black Onyx Management, Inc.