The Opportunity Index: A Solution-Based Framework to Dismantle the Racial Wealth Gap - Business Leader News

The Opportunity Index: A Solution-Based Framework to Dismantle the Racial Wealth Gap

“This book doesn’t lift the lid on what causes racial discrimination (many have focused on that for years) but instead focuses on the hope left in Pandora’s box with an optimism for how we move forward in tackling inequality, institutional cultural bias, and planning for a world where there is a higher standard than simply the absence of discrimination being celebrated.” – Tim Campbell MBE, BBC’s The Apprentice, and Business Executive 

Managing Director at BlackRock and Co-Founder of the #TalkAboutBlack movement, Gavin Lewis highlights the challenges Black people face in the finance industry and in society at large in this everyday life.

This book dismantles complex racial issues, explaining the racial wealth gap and its contemporary impact on Black communities, narratively providing succinct prose on equity and access in the context of international finance.

With a self-proclaimed 44 years experiencing and 22 years of learning, Gavin Lewis uses his experience and learned perspective on racial inequality, acknowledging the symptoms of inequality, but focusing on the root economic cause in an excellent attempt at social change from the ground up.

Here is an extract from The Opportunity Index: A Solution-Based Framework to Dismantle the Racial Wealth Gap by Gavin Lewis.

It’s tempting to assume change must come from institutions, but we all have a role to play. There are a host of Black professionals, business groups, activists, and community groups who have been trying to increase opportunities and representation, often quietly and without fanfare. They are also assisted by groups of allies. These are the unsung heroes who sacrifice daily. But they are part of the 10 to 15% who are the advocates; we need to increase these numbers. Here the role of the individual becomes pivotal.

Stephanie and Bastian are close family friends who have two daughters the same age as ours. We both made the decision to send our children to a fee-paying school, but for differing reasons. I was (and, to be honest, still am) in conflict about this. I always felt that two-tier education exacerbates existing inequalities. But my children are female and mixed race. Given how hard it was for me to break through, I felt I needed to give them every chance. When I explained this to Stephanie she was taken aback. “Really? You still think race is an issue?” I didn’t bother trying to explain.

Fast-forward to the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, and Stephanie and I had a very different conversation. She now understood that the problem still exists and like many asked what she could do. I pushed back, because I was exhausted from answering the same question, but also because I don’t have all the answers. I told Stephanie that she needs to own the solution as much as I do. A few months later we discussed the subject again.

Stephanie is a very talented interior designer and has an amazing network of suppliers and contractors she uses to complete her projects.
This time the conversation was different; Stephanie had found some Black-owned suppliers and contractors. Most importantly, this added significant value to Stephanie’s business by diversifying her suppliers, but it also enabled her to use her platform to make a difference.

Similarly, Carolyn is a colleague with whom I used to work when I first entered the industry. Twenty years ago, discussions about race and gender were taboo, even though we were both minorities of similar age. We had more in common that we realized; we both grew up in single-parent households and didn’t really have an obvious route into the industry. But discussing these things was simply not done. After I left the firm, we remained in contact.

Carolyn was always supportive of my efforts to increase diversity in the industry, but like many didn’t realize that she also had the ability to make a difference. After the events of May 2020 she met a young Black man called Antonay for a coffee; he was in search of some guidance. On the surface they came from very different backgrounds, but Carolyn felt she could at least relate to his experience of gaining access to the industry without any sponsorship or connections. Antonay also had the benefit of being mentored by other individuals and was also selected to participate in a group for high-potential Black students established by Baroness Valerie Amos, a politician and diplomat.

The few senior Black professionals in the finance industry are often inundated with requests to meet and mentor, but given the of number Black leaders relative to our White peers, it’s unlikely these young Black entrants will be reporting to a Black person. I’ve always felt real change will come when White leaders interact with Black talent formally, but crucially informally.

Reflecting on her interactions with Antonay, Carolyn felt she learned as much as he did and that although understanding his cultural perspective was difficult, it was OK to discuss Antonay’s experience as a young Black male. Antonay won a scholarship to attend university. With his ability and the support from the Black community, he is bound for success. But diversity of input can add to one’s chances. Carolyn assisted in his application and marked this as one of the highlights of her career.

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