The massive growth in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts across corporate America has been an incredible thing to see over the last decade. As the economy starts to flirt with recession, however, it’s easy to imagine it as another boom-time buzzword, a trend that caught on as top companies fought for the best talent. But nothing could be further from the truth—it’s here to stay, especially for the companies smart enough to build it into their strategic plans so they can benefit from diverse talent for years to come.
But I didn’t learn this lesson for the first time in 2022. In fact, my entire career path can be traced back to the importance of dedicated pipelines for diverse talent, and it started with my high school baseball team. I was a talented player, and thanks to my parents, I had the opportunity to attend private school here in Brooklyn, New York. Unfortunately, my college guidance counselor only knew what “Division 1” meant in theory, and athletic scholarships weren’t necessarily top-of-mind for his other advisees.
Luckily, I had access to another pipeline. During the summer, I played for an organization in Brooklyn geared towards young people who were serious about aiming to play in the big leagues, figuratively and literally. The difference between the dugout of my private school team and the summer ball league was obvious to look at; my teammates came from all five boroughs and every walk of life, but we were all united in our ambitions and goals. More importantly, we were guided by incredible mentors who understood how to develop our talents and guide us toward our dreams. I was able to play the game I love at the collegiate level, and it’s what led me to the wonderful career I enjoy today.
In many ways, this was all thanks to the power of targeted talent pipelines that have DEI built in from the beginning. The summer athletics program simply invested in the infrastructure that was required to help young men of color representing all of New York’s incredible diversity earn scholarships and launch careers. They had a strategy put in place to develop my skills and prepare me for college ball, and with my own hard work, it paid off.
My guidance counselor had no idea what to do with a young, talented Black athlete—and many executives today still don’t understand how to develop and nurture diverse pools of talent. It’s not complicated, though, especially when many companies have already invested so much in creating DEI initiatives that lay the foundation for these kinds of dedicated pipelines.
From tech incubators that give young people of color the chance to develop new products to supplier diversity programs that leverage corporate networks to connect diverse-owned businesses with opportunities, DEI can play a massive role in creating a more diverse and equitable marketplace. And with greater inclusivity—with more attention to building the pipelines that can connect diverse talent with real opportunity that grows business and creates jobs—we can all prosper.