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Should Your CEO Meet with President Trump?

What is the responsibility of your corporate executives, what should you expect?

President Donald Trump met with CEOs at the White House in January, including Alex Gorsky of Johnson & Johnson (center), and Michael Dell of Dell Technologies. / REUTERS

It's a tricky time for corporations. President Trump won the Electoral College election by roughly 77,000 votes scattered across three states (less than 1 percent of the vote in each of those states). His core demographic is not one that most consumer product goods companies see as attractive — older, less educated, whiter and more male than average, less affluent. It is certainly not reflective of new entrants to the workforce. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3,000,000 people — and the Electoral College gap between her and the president was exceeded almost three-fold by the number of young people voting for third-party candidates.

After viciously and repetitively insulting women, Mexicans, people with disabilities, POWs and Muslims (often with fake facts), is it any wonder why he has the lowest approval rating of any incoming president ever in the history of the United States?

So, if your CEO is called to the White House or the H1B-staffed Mar-a-Lago, what should s/he do?


He is our president, and it is leadership's responsibility to provide advice when asked.

"Provide advice," however doesn't include pandering.

CEOs need to keep in mind who their stakeholders are – and stay true to the organization's morals and ethics. Every company on our Top 50 list is superior in talent management because they are unequivocal in their facilitating the success of women, Black, Latino, Asian (and other ethnic and racial minorities), the LGBT community, people with disabilities, Muslims and other religious minorities. Our Top 50 list, expressed as a stock index, outperforms the rest of the stock market.

This is a remarkable difference between the president's stated values — and his appointments to his Cabinet, which are spectacularly white and male.

Our nation's workforce situation is dire — we have gone from six workers per retiree after WW2, to two workers per retiree by 2025. We are at full employment. New entrants to the workforce are 100,000 short of job creations each month. Baby boomers are retiring in droves and are not being replaced in the same numbers by young people. Significant growth for our economy without immigrants is going to be very difficult — there aren't enough people to fill the jobs being created.

CEOs on our list need to tell the president how they have been successful — embracing people formerly not embraced into the workforce, and making sure they had the corporate knowledge to succeed.

It's been done before — two CEOs from Indiana companies on our Top 50 list went to (then) Governor Pence's office to tell him that his anti-gay bill was going to make it impossible to recruit the best people to their companies. Their influence, plus public pressure, caused Pence to back off his virulent homophobia.

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Last week we had a popular story about a stupid diversity trick done at a Hyatt* event that involved Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

A Hyatt diversity "expert" poured chocolate syrup into a glass of milk and as a demonstration that diversity is at the bottom, stirred the milk and chocolate together and said it's much more delicious mixed together. The governor "played along" by drinking the chocolate milk.  He (and Hyatt) were playing at respecting Black History Month.

It is a stupid diversity trick because the chocolate syrup is heavier than milk, which is why it's at the bottom of the glass. Black people are at the bottom of most organizations due to racism. Women are not fairly represented because of sexism. It has nothing to do with gravity. Racism and sexism are purposeful human failures.

More insulting than the childish milk demonstration, the guest of honor was inappropriate for Black History Month — Gov. Rauner has been very critical of NFL players taking a knee. He said the players are "disrespecting the foundations of our country."

He's either a racist or profoundly ignorant (or both).

The foundations of our country are white men killing soldiers for the rights of white men, including the right to enslave Black people. In 1775, in Lexington, Mass., white men picked up rifles and shot to death soldiers of their country (we were a British colony) in protest.

The soldiers were marching to seize armories that had elected rebel colonels. At the time, a "well-regulated militia" included all men under 55 — weapons of war, gunpowder and bullets were stored in local armories, not at home. The reason for the armories was attacks by Indians who wanted their land back.

The Battle of Lexington was the start of the American Revolution. It was so important at the time that the Second Amendment to our Constitution is, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." (Well-regulated, as in troubled children should not be able to buy assault rifles and nobody should have high capacity magazines.)

Black NFL players took a knee to protest injustice in law enforcement and our criminal justice system, which is (and always has been) predatory on Black Americans by any measurement.

The movement was started by Colin Kaepernick after he viewed this video of Patrick Harmon being shot three times in the back after being harassed for not having a tail light on his bicycle. Please take a moment and watch the last 31 seconds of Patrick's life. Think about the last words on Earth that he heard: "I'm going to fucking shoot you." The video inspired Kaepernick to take a knee. If you read up on him, he is a very thoughtful man; his philanthropy since the obvious collusion of NFL owners ended his career is inspiring.

So, who is more "respectful of American heritage" — the Black players risking their careers to bring awareness of the racial injustice in our legal system, or Gov. Rauner drinking a glass of stupid chocolate milk? And how frightfully ignorant and/or racist are most white Americans, including Gov. Rauner, for thinking that this nonviolent protest is somehow disrespectful?

What could possibly be more in keeping with the best ideals embodied in our Constitution than bringing attention to something so un-American, so disgraceful as our racist criminal justice system.

Having a man like Rauner at a Black History Month event is just clueless. Performing chocolate milk stunts in 2018 is foolishness. People in authority going along with stunts is insulting. I'll bet Patrick Harmon would agree.

Finally, the senior executives at Hyatt have proven that chocolate milk diversity stunts don't work; here's their executive team: 73 percent white men. No women, Blacks or Latinos in P&L positions, women segregated to the traditional roles of corporations that have failed at diversity, the lawyer, marketing  and HR positions (the one Black person out of 11 people pictured). I can imagine the CEO paternalistically saying, "Here are our gals." How 1973 of them. Have some chocolate milk little lady.

So, another Black History Month ends, and we've made insufficient progress.

*Hyatt does not participate in the DiversityInc Top 50 competition.

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