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BET co-founder Bob Johnson calls for diversity audit on companies supporting Black

The chairman of RLJ Companies says billions earmarked for diversity initiatives are not making their way into Black hands.

BET co-founder Bob Johnson calls for diversity audit on companies supporting Black

Robert L. Johnson, America’s first Black billionaire and co-founder of BET, believes that many companies that have pledged billions of dollars for diversity initiatives are not following through with their commitments, says a BNNBloomberg report.

So, the chairman of RLJ Companies, an asset management firm, is calling for an audit to uncover which companies remain steadfast in their commitments.

“I can tell you, the Black community, entrepreneurs I know are very disappointed with these, what I call, press release announcements with no results,” Johnson said on The David Rubenstein Show that aired Wednesday (Jan. 25). The conversation was tapped on Nov. 23, 2022, in Palm Beach, Florida.

“The sad secret of that is companies — White companies — have announced that they're gonna put millions of dollars into diversity, in terms of Black investment and business. But among the people I know... it's really not happening,” Johnson added.

He added that few Black entrepreneurs are reaping the benefits of financial commitments made on behalf of companies aiming to tackle racial equity causes. That said, it is also true that more firms have started to share data on workforce demographics, and some have even reported making progress in hiring and promoting Black employees.

Following the murder of George Floyd, several large U.S. corporations pledged funding for racial justice initiatives, including supporting Black businesses or increasing diversity and representation within their ranks.

According to a Washington Post investigation, nearly 90 per cent of the almost $50 billion in assets pledged by 44 major publicly traded U.S. companies came in the form of loans and investments from which the companies might profit. Approximately $4 billion, or eight per cent, came through direct grants, a report from BNNBloomberg reads.

The report also suggested that recent layoffs in the tech sector are having an impact on diversity and inclusion departments. Moreover, venture capital funding for startups with Black founders slowed in the second quarter of 2022 after a record-setting year in 2021.

'“It's just not easy' for Black entrepreneurs trying to start businesses today, Johnson said during his show appearance. It is correct to say people think about it more. But do they do more? That’s the problem.”