Entrepreneur and BET co-found Sheila Johnson recently spoke with Roland Martin about jobs, the state of the economy, the need for workforce diversity, forcing corporate America to diversify and adopt practices that promote inclusion on all levels of business.
Johnson explained during her sit down with Martin our “economy is very fragile right now.” As a result of the volatility of the stock market Johnson said, “we’re holding our breath. I’m personally holding my breath. I can see my stocks being affected.”
“It’s affecting our 401k’s, small businesses are starting to look twice at their bottom line, at how many employees they can keep or how many they can hire and you know we’re probably the most vulnerable or all,” said Johnson.
According to Johnson, the impact of the shaky economy has not reached the hotel business as of yet, but in terms of the African American community, the effect of today’s economic environment is “hurting us more” and it makes her nervous.
Johnson has approximately 1,500 employees, conducts a weekly assessment of her business to determine what her company’s bottom line looks like to determine if they need to reduce staff, hire or expand.
“The only thing you can do is hope and pray and hope that things will start to turnaround,” Johnson said.
In reviewing the past eight years, Johnson believes today’s economy is “much better” than it was during President Barack Obama’s first four years in office.
Johnson who considers The Great Recession a “big wakeup call, especially for African Americans” was forced Johnson to shut down construction on a half finished hotel project.
The economic downturn also presented the opportunity to purchase a 900-acre property with four golf courses that was two weeks away from going into bankruptcy. With the cash she had on-hand, the property was renovated and is now considered a preferred four diamond property.
Executives from NBC asked why she was renovating the property during the recession, Johnson said, “I want to make sure that I come out on the up-side of this recession” and “be at the starting gate when everyone is still trying to recoup.”
When the conversation shifted to work force diversity Johnson said, “In my own business I really push diversity and as an African American woman I have one of the most diverse staffs.”
“The more diversity you have, the better your company is going to run,” said Johnson. “It is important that people like me, Rev. Jackson, other leadership — people in leadership have got to keep forcing the hand to remind people that diversity is so important in growing companies.”
She later added, “I’m trying to make inroads in the golf industry as an executive of the United States Golf Association, I am really pushing them to try to diversify their staff, trying to get more people — especially people of color as anchors [and] moderators on Fox.”
Johnson said the fight to diversify the workplace is an “ongoing battle, where people don’t want to deal with it because they feel uncomfortable.”
As a result of minorities being blocked from rising above a certain earning level in many instances, wealth building becomes difficult because as Martin said, “we’re not benefitting from the six-figure, seven-figure opportunities.”
Ms. Johnson responded to Martins assertion saying individuals in corporate America, “don’t care.”
She expounded on her point saying, “White folks out there they do not care, and that’s why Black leadership has to go in there, and we do it with style because what we’re doing is we’re pulling them out of their comfort zone. They have got to start understanding the importance of helping others and being a diversified company.”
“We’ve got to hold them accountable for it.”
Watch Roland Martin and Shelia Johnson discuss the state of the economy and the fight to diversify the American workforce at all levels in the video clip above.
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