luke visconti, diversityinc, women of color and their allies, allyship
DiversityInc Founder and Chairman Luke Visconti speaks during his "Being a White Male Ally" session at the 2019 Women of Color and Their Allies event on Oct. 2 in Atlanta.

Why Your CEO Should be an Antiracist

DiversityInc Founder and Chairman Luke Visconti embodies what it means to be an ally, and CEO Carolynn Johnson said it best in welcoming him to the stage for his session at the 2019 Women of Color and Their Allies event on Oct. 2 in Atlanta.

“There’s no better person to borrow from on this topic other than Luke Visconti,” Johnson said before Visconti’s “Being a White Male Ally” session.

Visconti joked about sleeping better and regaining his energy since turning over the role of CEO to Johnson in May before launching into his brief address.

“My business, from the very start in 1997, was born on the shoulders of Black women who supported me without hesitation,” he said.

Visconti credited his friend Tony Cato, a Black man who he served with in the Navy, for pointing out the injustices that he wasn’t seeing.

“When it finally sunk in and I realized that I was looking at a tiny fraction of what was there, I became an ally,” Visconti said.

He referenced a Washington Post article from Sept. 9 that highlighted how the surge of women of color, particularly Hispanic and African American women, entering the workforce has “helped push the U.S. workforce across a historic threshold.” Most new hires from ages 25 to 54 are people of color for the first time ever, according to the newspaper’s assessment of the Labor Department’s data dating back to 1970.

While people of color are making strides in the workplace, Visconti pointed out that the board of directors for major corporations still are about 80% men.

“How many times could you bring up beer in a job interview and get the job?” he asked.

“We are very, very good at nurturing white men,” Visconti said. But, he said, the onus is on white men to learn how to take care and be allies to people who are not white men.

Visconti referenced Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to Be an Antiracist, which examines how people can take an active role in building an antiracist society — one that is truly just and equitable.

“Your CEO should be antiracist,” he said. “Most of them aren’t.”

Visconti pointed to Pat Esser, the president of Cox Communications (No. 11 on The DiversityInc Top 50 list), as a leader who’s antiracist.

Visconti spoke about the stroke he had nearly five and a half years ago that he said “crippled me for life” because of “incompetent” care to remind the audience that life is short.

“You deserve better than most of you are getting right now,” he said. “There’s no reason for you in this environment, in this day and age, to be in a place that doesn’t appreciate your efforts.

While he was in the hospital, Visconti said he received a call from Reverend Jesse Jackson, expressing his concern.

“Don’t worry about me,” Visconti said he told Jackson. “I’ve got more Black women praying for me than any white man since Lyndon Johnson.”

Carolynn Johnson, who discussed how important it is for leaders to share their stories throughout the event, rejoined Visconti onstage after he finished his remarks and gave an emotional reflection.

“A lot of people don’t know Luke walked me down the aisle when I got married, when I got my MBA he actually handed me my degree,” Johnson said, holding back tears. “And my dad is in my life, and I love my dad, but you’re my dude, forever, always.”

Connect with Luke Visconti here.

Related Article: Luke Visconti, Panelists Share Best Practices at Congressional Hearing on Diversity in the Boardroom

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