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Introducing the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility

Today our firm launches the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility, a think tank dedicated to accelerating research, convening people and organizations, and developing tools and assets that can help advance racial equity and inclusive growth to safeguard the lives of Black people around the world.

Founding the Institute is one of the 10 Actions we announced earlier this year to deliver change within our firm and do our part to advance social and racial justice and equity.

“The events of this year reflect longstanding inequities, rooted in a long history of systemic discrimination,” says Shelley Stewart, a McKinsey partner and co-leader of the Institute. “Yet, they have also presented opportunities to move the inequity conversation beyond the four walls of individual companies.”

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Some of the co-leaders of the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility, from left to right, Shelley Stewart, Avery Cambridge, Nick Noel, and JP Julien

Nick Noel, an engagement manager, says the Institute has been designed to help connect leaders who share an interest in driving racial equity, but who might not otherwise find ways to leverage one another’s strengths. “While the commitments made by so many organizations around the world to address racial inequity are incredibly encouraging, institutionalizing changes across public, private, and social sector organizations is what could help really move the needle long-term,” he says. “Our goal for the Institute is to help foster that vision and level of collaboration.”

The McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility's initial research effort, It's time for a new approach to racial equity, references that more than 46,000 Black Americans have died from COVID-19 and that “no single sector can solve this problem on its own.” In the piece, we outline five key elements for success, and in the coming months, the McKinsey team will publish new research in collaboration with the McKinsey Global Institute across topics, including an analysis of how Black Americans participate in the U.S. economy.

For associate partner JP Julien, the Institute's work is personal, too. Having been raised by a large, immigrant family from Trinidad, he recalls growing up in parts of New Jersey with high levels of poverty before later moving to a high-opportunity neighborhood, where he saw greater economic investments for residents. “This inequity is not a historical artifact,” he says. “It’s the present-day reality of living in the U.S. where the place you live and color of your skin shape people’s outcomes. If we can provide organizations and leaders with the right tools and insights to do things differently, we can help transform under-resourced communities like where I grew up—and the world at large,” JP says.”

In addition to its co-leaders and external advisory council, the Institute also has two McKinsey fellows: Avery Cambridge, a senior analyst, and Brenden McKinney, a business analyst. Avery explains how the work behind the Institute goes beyond leveraging data to underscore the root causes perpetuating systemic challenges among Black communities. “It’s also about getting people to feel accountable for their work and the direct implications it has on lives.” She talks about the unique opportunity our firm has to partner with our clients—90 percent of whom are Fortune 500 companies and major employers—to think about racial equity as more than a corporate social responsibility issue, but rather a chance to transform their businesses and serve customers differently.

As Shelley says: “Racial equity efforts need to focus on more than corporate diversity and inclusion, which raise the ceiling—they also need to do the hard work of lifting the floor.”

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