Toward the end of last month, I published a blog (link) about my representing the North Carolina Council of Churches in a meeting of 13 American “faith leaders” with the United States Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to discuss providing greater economic opportunities for all, especially those living in poverty. I promised to write a follow up blog discussing the unfortunate growing culture of poverty in the United States and what business leaders can do to address it.
I thank my long time IBM colleague internationally respected diversity and workplace engagement leader and author Sheila Forte-Trammell for much of the inspiration and content for this short blog (see byline about Sheila at the bottom on the blog.)
An unfortunate cyclical circumstance within the US is a growing distinct culture of poverty, which tends to trap multiple generations from the same families and areas. Statistics show that the number of people officially living in poverty in the US continues to grow, even as we tout ourselves as “the land of plenty.” Some statistical facts:
• The 2010 US Census declared that 15.1% (over 46 million people!) of Americans were living in poverty.
• That Blacks and Hispanics were disproportionately represented in the poverty numbers (Over 28% of Blacks and 26% of Hispanics.)
• The poverty rate for women single head of households was 5 times the poverty rate of families with two parents.
Now add to that some sociological discussion:
• The cycle of poverty continues to perpetuate itself since children raised in poverty have less access to quality education.
• That growing up in poverty often leads to low self esteem, lack of role models, culture of crime, etc.
• That poverty often nurtures the mentality of immediate / short term gratification over delayed /long term gratification and investment in the future.
What are ways corporate America can help lower the poverty rate and help build a country where all citizens have better economic opportunity?
• Specifically open plants and facilities in high poverty areas where the jobs are needed most, keeping in mind that many in poverty do not have the transportation access to locations in the suburbs.
• Contribute corporate philanthropic money to initiatives that improves educational access to those living in poverty. This also helps build a national pipeline of better trained diverse talent.
• Educate your employees about the plights of poverty and what can be done. Perhaps offer opportunities for community service and mentoring programs on company time.
It is absolutely the right thing as a nation to not ignore the poverty here in “our land of plenty,” but instead take action to raise the living standards and occupational readiness of our entire nation.
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Much of the content of this blog was provided by Sheila Forte-Trammell, Total HR Services, LLC. Sheila was recognized in 2014 with a Triangle Business Journal “Leader in Diversity – Role Model” award (link) and has co-authored two books: “Agile Career Development: Lessons and Approached from IBM,” and “Intelligent Mentoring: How IBM Creates Value through People, Knowledge and Relationships.” Link to Sheila’s LinkedIn profile.