opinion, have African-Americans achieved equality in the business world?
In the past couple of decades, blacks have made enormous
strides in the predominantly white business world. However, according to recent U.S. Census data, blacks still earn only about
78 cents for every dollar white workers earn. And, although African Americans are more than 13 percent
of the nation’s population, their total net worth is only 1.2 percent of the net worth of the nation. This
percentage has not changed since the end of the Civil War.
How about opportunities for advancement?
Great strides have been made in the
opportunities for blacks to advance in business. A recent count showed there were 16 black CEOs of major
corporations. This increase is due most to economics, as corporations have realized the size of African American
consumer markets, and the advantages derived by having a more diverse set of ideas as part of the corporate culture. However,
black men and woman continue to feel they must be more qualified and work harder than their white counterparts in order to
advance. The government has used the metrics of education, income and occupation to track the advancement
of blacks in our society. However these statistics are misleading in they do not account for differences in family economic
situation, family contacts and knowledge, the ability to exercise influence over political authorities, financial resources
other than income, and spouse and spouse's family wealth. These are areas where blacks continue to be at a disadvantage.
And these disadvantages, to a large part, are a consequence of blacks being disenfranchised twice in the history of our country
-- after the civil war, and subsequently through Jim Crow tactics. As a consequence of these actions, black wealth was
stolen, and blacks were systematically prevented from acquiring wealth. No other immigrant group has experienced this.
The U.S. unemployment rate is at an all time low. How does that affect
unemployment rate for blacks nationwide is twice that for whites. Employment rates for white youth is at 62 percent
while that for African American youth is at 42 percent. And when employed African American youth are more likely to earn lower
wages than white youth.
How do African-Americans cope with this type of business culture?
African-Americans have to work two
or three times harder than their white co-workers to prove themselves. They are not given the same benefit of the doubt.
They generally do not have mentors and are usually not included in many business networks. Too often, African Americans
between the ages of 18 and 19 become “disconnected.” ..that is, not in school and not working. This
disconnection rate is at twenty-three percent for young African Americans compared to ten percent for whites in the same age
bracket. Blacks have tried to create their own networks to help this situation, but they are still at a great disadvantage.
Finally, many blacks have internalized the fact they have to work twice as hard as whites in the same position. It is
a fact of survival. And they compartmentalize their lives in order to deal with the inequities at work.
advice would you give to a young person of color who wants to succeed?
I would advise that person to
get a good education. Work hard in school, get good grades and go to the best college you can afford. It is really unfortunate
that some of the culture rejects education as an inauthentic black experience, when our whole history and culture has been
about getting the best education possible. Along the way, you’ll meet people and make important connections that
can help you get your foot in the door. And I would also recommend that we not be dependent upon the corporate world for long
term employment. Get the education and the experience and then go out on your own. I
only wish I had done it earlier in my career.
What can corporate America do to improve diversity in the workplace?
On paper, most American
companies are committed to diversity; however, there is so much more that they can do. One option is to screen candidates
for underlying racist attitudes when hiring management, since they will be the ones hiring the next tier of workers.
They can encourage more social interaction so that people get to know each other as they really are, not as the stereotypes
portrayed in the movies and in the gangster rap culture. Finally, they can help to educate their employees about
the history of blacks and the society's disenfranchisement that has set them back economically.
book based on your own experience?
Let me emphasize the book is a work of fiction. I drew upon places
that I have traveled to and my technical background in creating my novel. However the characters are all
fictional as are most of the events. Like most blacks, I have experienced discrimination in my career.
I would urge blacks to persevere as we have done throughout our history. And I would encourage blacks to
create wealth through businesses that have broad appeal in our economy and to pass this wealth to subsequent generations.
What's the connection
During my career, I spent a great deal of time in Japan looking for technologies, and working with
technology partners. I drew upon these background experiences in the novel.
As an African American,
how were you treated in Japan?
I was always treated well in Japan. As you probably know, Japan is a pretty
closed society. A lot of business is about who you know. Fortunately, I developed close technical and business
contacts that were mutually beneficial. Like many foreigners traveling in Japan, I sometimes felt isolated, but that sense
of isolation is something that I often felt in the U.S. The irony was that I was probably more used to a feeling of
isolation than my white colleagues.
Why the technical background of computers in the book?
whole career was rooted in computers and microprocessors, and it was only natural that I incorporate that background into
the book. Along with several friends, I also was involved in opening and managing the second Computer Land franchise
in the country, located in West Los Angeles. It's interesting that many believe that Bill Gates invented the personal
computer. In reality there were several pioneering companies before IBM introduced the IBM Personal computer. Gates
and Microsoft partnered with IBM in introducing the most popular personal computer operating system. My novel fictionalizes
one of these pioneering companies and creates success lead by an African American prior to the success of Apple and IBM.
What message are you attempting to send in your novel?
I want young African Americans to pursue
the most education they can afford, then take the experience they gain in corporate America, and create their own businesses.
If they believe in what the want to create, and pursue it with hard work, long enough, they can succeed. I did that
and many are doing it today. We don't have to look at sports and entertainment as our only way to success.
In fact, young black men between 25 and 35 years of age, with some graduate school experience, start businesses more frequently
than any other group in the United States.
What projects are you currently working on?
I have no shortage of
projects. I am working on four more books: one fiction, and three non-fiction. I
am also working on a screenplay based on Inventions.