A local serial entrepreneur and former C-suite executive partnered to create a month-long initiative to accelerate the advancement of Black people in the workforce.
Black Professionals Month is set to take place for the first time in October with 31 days of virtual programming and events designed to foster collaborations and create career opportunities for Black professionals.
“The month is all about bringing Black professionals together to be recognized for the work we do and what we contribute and to be able to grow our roles of leadership and increase wealth,” said BPM co-founder Jerome Hutchinson, Jr. and CEO of Plantation-based ICABA World Network.
The series begins Oct. 1 with an in-person and live-streamed keynote address in Miami. Subsequent programming will be virtual.
Denise Kaigler, BPM co-founder and founder of Boston-based MDK Brand Management, said the initiative will feature 21 distinct industries, including law, technology and health care. Participants can network with company leaders during BPM Industry Spotlights sessions to explore career opportunities within the various industries.
Businesses will have the opportunity to host breakout sessions throughout the month to interact directly with participants.
“This is an opportunity for a sponsor to get their brand out and have more visibility and awareness among a coveted group of Black professionals,” Kaigler said.
But, these sessions will also allow businesses to interact with potential hires. Kaigler said doing so will help organizations create a pipeline of potential talent.
The effort aims to remedy a persistent problem for many companies: a lack of diversity, especially in leadership roles.
Only 3.2% of all executive or senior leadership roles are held by Black professionals. The data is more striking for those who hold Fortune 500 CEO positions, which is at less than 1% for Black people, according to a study conducted by New York nonprofit Coqual.
“The statistics are troubling,” Kaigler said. “This is why we feel this is the right time to do this type of program.”
Other aspects of the month include the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conference and Awards, in which participants will seek to tackle issues affecting Black professionals. Workshops will also be held on personal branding, financial management and career planning.
“We have to use our collective talents and experience to help each other grow,” Hutchinson said.
But the initiative strives to do more than support Black members of the workforce. It also sets out to celebrate the successes of those already in kev roles.
Nominated professionals will be recognized for their accomplishments within their respective industries during the BPM Global 100 Leading Black Professionals celebration. Individuals selected will also have the opportunity to join a 12 month BPM Leadership and Coaching Program.
Hutchinson said imparting this sort of recognition is important to signal the impact these individuals are making within their roles and capacities. This, he said, is needed to combat an issue of perception regarding Black professionals that perpetuates society, especially when it comes to negative stereotypes.
“A lot of times it comes down to how people perceive you,” Hutchinson said. “That could have something to do with the opportunity that person has moving forward.”
Combatting this perception requires the cooperation of private businesses and organizations beyond the month-long programming, Kaigler said.
“We want white executives and companies to join our movement and come together with Black professionals to understand what some of the challenges we face are,” Kaigler said.
For Hutchinson, though, BPM is more than just a month-long effort.
“It’s a movement,” he said. “We’re saying, ‘Let’s come together and recognize the strength we have, so that we can build community and grow.?”