A post-high school degree is quickly becoming a necessary requisite to gaining access to meaningful employment. Despite 17.5 million undergraduate students being enrolled in colleges nationwide, many communities of color continue to be denied equitable access to quality college-preparatory curriculum, making it much less likely of being admitted to four year institutions, or having the financial resources necessary to avoid taking on crippling student loan debt. Despite these systemic barriers, there has been a rise in students from underrepresented backgrounds earning bachelor's degrees, driven by individual efforts to overcome the systemic bias. However, the numbers continue to trend significantly lower when comparing the educational gains of black & brown families to white families. According to a recent survey report, 33.5% of whites 25 years and older hold bachelor degrees, compared to 21.6% of blacks and 16.4% of hispanics. This difference is even more pronounced at the graduate and professional degree levels.
Not surprisingly, these disparities have a profound impact on the future job prospects of these families and their ability to generate sustainable wealth. In 2019, the median white household held $188,200 in wealth -- 7.8 times that of the typical Black household at $21,100, leaving this entire population more vulnerable to any blips or sustained disruptions to the economy (eg. COViD pandemic). Significant gaps in wealth attainment between American families reveals the detrimental effects of not having equitable paths towards meaningful and upwardly mobile employment. Admittingly, addressing the long-standing inequities associated with access to quality of education is not an easy fix, nor one easily addressed by Corporate America; however there are a multitude of case studies showing the impact of organizations that institute formal programs like corporate mentorships and paid internships that emphasize candidates of color.
While black unemployment is low by historical standards, it is still at or near what would be considered recession levels for other races.
Vice President of U.S. Chamber of Commerce
By the year 2050, more than half of the United States workers and consumers will be people of color. To address the systemic and structural barriers preventing equitable gainful employment opportunities, company leaders must move with urgency and collaboration to leverage and scale our collective efforts. Despite many well intended D&I programs, a lack of diversity from entry-level management to the C-suite keeps the business objective of any healthy organization from operating where everyone has an equitable opportunity for success. Take on Race believes nothing should systematically prevent the flow of fresh disruptive ideas that can be the source of company growth. Workforce talent diversification, fueled and supported by mentorship programs, paid internships for college students, and greater accountability and transparency of hiring and recruiting practices, must be a business imperative.
There are a multitude of case studies that tout the benefits and impact of college internships and mentorship programs. Programs like INROADS, have years of quantitative data on its effectiveness on improving future employability and it's ability to amplify the career trajectory of diverse students. Students with intern experience are more attractive to employers, particularly "paid internships", as this not only pays dividends to wealth attainment, it addresses the bias that exists with "unpaid internships", which are overwhelmingly advantageous to privileged students from families whom can afford to work for free. Many companies have strong track records of supporting mentorship and paid internships with varying degrees of sustainable success. Scale and collaboration can take these efforts to the next level.
Take On Race is a collective commitment from its corporate members and business partners from different sectors to define, declare, and demonstrate through action, the role we can play in advancing racial equity regarding access to employment.
Inclusive companies with a diversified staff have proven more likely to be innovation leaders in their markets but, unfortunately, traditional unpaid internship programs “reinforce the racial wealth gap.” The ability to accept unpaid work overwhelmingly privileges students from families with significant household wealth who can afford to work for free. To dismantle the gate, intern equity holds the key. If Corporate America wants to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace we need to work collectively to provide a solution, not a Band-Aid.
We’re proud of our ongoing efforts to bring together member companies. Together, we elevate the national discourse on race equity and create scalable and sustainable solutions to remove barriers Black and Brown Americans face when competing for quality jobs, fair wages, and benefits. We focus on the solutions that help build economic empowerment and reset generations of preventable damage to families and communities.
As mentioned above, the INROADS internship program removes barriers for students of color to gain vital work experience as paid interns. To develop future industry leaders, INROADS successfully connects student interns with mentors, trainers, and coaches. By the program's end, 82% of graduating college seniors who are offered positions convert into full-time employees with their sponsor companies. College internship programs are a proven way to improve employability and launch individual careers: employers overwhelmingly prefer to hire students with intern experience, and students confirm that being an intern positively impacts their job readiness. INROADS is a member of the Take on Race Coalition of Companies that is leveraging our platform to promote its profound impact and scale within its internship equity program to bring $755 billion in black wealth closer and closer within reach.