Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Kenan Institute Statement on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

We embrace a broad definition of diversity* and recognize that diverse and equitable participation at all levels of our work is core to advancing the Kenan Institute’s mission of generating solutions to vital economic issues and stimulating economic prosperity in North Carolina and beyond. We are committed to creating a culture of empathy, compassion and authenticity that enables all people to feel heard, empowered, valued and welcomed to bring their whole selves to the workplace.

* diversity

Our definition of diversity includes race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic circumstance, national origin, geographic background, immigration status, ability and disability, physical characteristics, veteran status, political ideology, religious belief and age. We further celebrate a diversity of thought: ideas, perspectives and values.

Black Lives Matter.

The Kenan Institute stands with the countless number of protestors working peacefully to eradicate systemic racism in the United States and globally. We join their calls for substantial reform in law enforcement and criminal justice—while recognizing that all sectors of our society must bear responsibility for re-examining the ways in which each has created, upheld and benefited from pervasive historical inequities.


We are committing ourselves to this effort, and are looking inward first. Fundamentally, we acknowledge that we currently lack the necessary understanding of the intricate ways in which structural racism has, and continues to, affect our employees, partners and work. We commit to educating ourselves about these effects and to using that knowledge to take necessary action. We pledge to re-examine our research agenda, committing resources to explore how we, as a society, got to where we are today—and where we might go from here. And recognizing ignorance as the root of prejudice and injustice, we commit on an individual and organizational level to daily making ourselves more aware of the causes and effects of systemic racism in business and the economy—and to proactively sharing our learnings with the public.

Specific steps we’ll be taking in the immediate term include:

  • Working to create an environment free of racial prejudice and other forms of discrimination including those based on gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity and political persuasion.
  • Supporting and promoting the work of the institute’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group to track the impact of our initiatives.
  • Requiring racial equity training for all senior-level personnel.
  • Whenever possible, partnering with those who’ve built proven track records of engagement with anti-racist work.
  • Increasing diversity on our boards and councils to reflect, at a minimum, 30 percent representation from underrepresented minorities and 40 percent representation of women-identified members.
  • Advancing a research agenda inclusive of study and reflection of the ways in which structural racism operates across the institute’s three areas of strategic focus: capital formation; technology, innovation and strategy; and shared economic prosperity.

We know that our research and that of our partners has the power to dispel myths perpetuating racist beliefs and actions, and holds the promise of providing solutions for promoting the fair and equitable treatment of all people. That’s why the Kenan Institute pledges to work with its stakeholders, from students and business executives to policymakers and community leaders, to better understand systemic racism so we can collaboratively work toward its dismantling and elimination.

This work is neither separate from, nor additional to, our mission; rather, it marks an essential and long overdue step in our efforts to leverage the private sector for the good of people and communities here in North Carolina, across the United States and around the world.

Kenan Insights

Organizational Equity: Your Missing Metric for Success

Diversity, Equity & InclusionTWEET
February 24, 2021

Most organizational leaders have come to recognize that hiring and retaining a diverse workforce is a business imperative. But many struggle to achieve their diversity goals. In this Kenan Insight, we explore how organizations can measure their “organizational equity” — that is, their internal distribution of power and resources — and build a diverse workforce that leads to greater organizational success. More

Health Disparities Were Devastating BIPOC Communities. Then Came COVID-19.

Diversity, Equity & InclusionTWEET
February 17, 2021 • Center for the Business of Health

The factors that determine our health go far beyond what happens in the doctor’s office. In this Kenan Insight, we explore how the physical well-being of many Americans has been placed in jeopardy by upstream social and economic factors such as racism, food and job insecurity, and a lack of community and social support systems. More

Challenges and Solutions to Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining a Diverse Workforce

Diversity, Equity & InclusionTWEET
December 09, 2020 • Entrepreneurship Center

Workplaces are under pressure to be more inclusive due to public demands and rapidly changing demographics in the U.S. workforce. These commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) aren't just moral, they're crucial to business prosperity. In this Kenan Insight, we explore strategies for startups to employ and explain why starting early is key to success. More

The Corporate Social Justice Imperative

Diversity, Equity & InclusionTWEET
October 14, 2020

Historically, most businesses have attempted to stay on the sidelines of controversial issues to avoid alienating customers and limit internal discord. But the COVID-19 pandemic (which has disproportionately affected people of color) and rising racial tensions have increased awareness of systemic racism in the U.S. In this Kenan Insight, we explore how business leaders are increasingly taking a stance on diversity and inclusion issues through both internally and externally focused actions and policies. More

Anti-immigrant Policies Will Hurt America’s COVID-19 Recovery

Diversity, Equity & InclusionTWEET
September 16, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has recently ramped up efforts to keep immigrants from entering the country and force out some who are already here – arguing these to be necessary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect American jobs. However, in this Kenan Insight, we summarize why these policies risk having exactly the opposite effect, harming the future health, social well-being and economic viability of our nation. More

Black Economic Futures

Diversity, Equity & InclusionTWEET
July 29, 2020

One of the long-standing damages of institutional racism in the United States has been a bleak economic outlook for African Americans. In this Kenan Insight, we ask whether today’s activism might prove to be a defining moment in turning the tide for Black economic futures, and if so, who will play the key roles in creating lasting change. More

A Strategic Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic for the African American Working Poor

Diversity, Equity & InclusionTWEET
May 06, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has been especially traumatic on our country’s African American working poor. From being disproportionately concentrated in low-wage hospitality and service sector jobs to struggling with caregiving and food insecurity issues due to shuttered daycare facilities and food banks, working-poor African Americans are facing an inequitable share of financial, social and psychological challenges. What can be done to ease the burdens of working-poor African Americans, both during the pandemic and moving forward? In this Kenan Insight, Urban Investment Strategies Center Director and William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship Jim Johnson invokes a little-known federal program, the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission (SCRC), as part of a strategic response to providing a coherent, place-based development plan. More

Is There a Small Business Funding Gap?

Diversity, Equity & InclusionTWEET
February 25, 2020

Small businesses are an undeniable engine of growth for the United States, comprising 99 percent of all U.S. firms and driving nearly half our total economic activity. Yet small business owners across the country lack sufficient capital to succeed, grow and scale. The Kenan Institute has conducted a new analysis on the role of the Small Business Administration’s SBIC program in providing capital to the often-overlooked small businesses operating outside of metropolitan centers, as well as those owned by women and underrepresented minorities. You can access an overview of our findings, as well as key takeaways for business and policy leaders, by clicking below. More


The Seven “What Matters” In a System Not Designed for Us

September 29, 2020
DEI • Urban Investment Strategies Center

In a recent episode of his award-winning show, “United Shades of America,” W. Kamau Bell interviews a Black man about systemic racism in America who said, “This country is not designed for us and, in fact, is designed against us.” As an African American, this observation triggered three critical questions.


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

We are committed to creating a culture of empathy, compassion and authenticity that enables all people to feel heard, empowered, valued and welcomed to bring their whole selves to the workplace.

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