The racial wealth gap for Black Americans remains significant, directly impacting social and economic growth. For some, this wealth gap is one of the biggest hindrances to upward mobility and a key producer of financial anxiety. 

Organizations are working to reduce the racial wealth gap and provide a space for everyone to reach their financial goals. Northwestern Mutual, a leading financial services firm, is one of the companies committed to equity-focused work by supporting the growth and diversity of businesses, as it delivers a multiplier effect on job creation and community vitality.

On October 26, Northwestern Mutual hosted Gather Against the Gap in partnership with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and brought together hundreds of leaders, academics and experts in the field to have a conversation on how to best standup initiatives and funding to reduce the racial wealth gap and sustain action for racial equity. The event was supported by the Boston Consulting Group, including BCG Managing Director and Senior Partner, Dwight Hutchins, setting the stage with a research-based presentation on the challenge, the importance and the opportunity in front of us. The day consisted of a series of panels from industry experts on supplier diversity and economic empowerment and roundtable discussions where attendees dove deep into ways their respective organizations could commit to investing in a more diverse future and workforce.   

“Gather Against the Gap enabled dialogue between business leaders, academics, and experts all driving towards one shared goal of addressing the wealth gap,” said Abim Kolawole, chief audit executive at Northwestern Mutual and executive sponsor of the company’s Sustained Action for Racial Equity (SARE) initiative. “We are energized by both the conversation as well as the potential to influence others looking to support the larger mission.”

Northwestern Mutual credits its partnership with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management for making the event possible. The school is well-known for its research and work within the social impact space and continues to help shape the future of business through its graduates and experts. By tapping Kellogg’s faculty and research, Northwestern Mutual is able to enhance the work they’re doing in the space and better assist other businesses through the data, analytics and partners that amplify and improve the steps to reduce the racial wealth gap. 

“At Kellogg, we are shaping leaders who will lead courageously, setting priorities at their organizations that can help advance a more equitable society,” said Kellogg Dean Francesca Cornelli. “Addressing the racial wealth gap is of the utmost importance, and we were grateful to partner with Northwestern Mutual to bring together the best academic and business minds for meaningful conversation on how to advance that goal.”

While the event is over, the conversation and work continue as companies like Northwestern Mutual work toward reducing the racial wealth gap. Below are some of the key themes and takeaways from the event that will help inspire actionable plans towards financial inclusion. 

  • Treat this as a business imperative and gains will be two-fold.

Ask questions, show vulnerability and carry through that commitment in a strategic and actionable business plan. Supporting change can enhance community vitality, while also having significant return for your business. 

  • Sustained action requires sustained leadership.

When leaders show up consistently for their impact initiatives, they create a multiplier effect within their organization. 

  • Challenge your thinking on the partners you align with. 

Remove any guardrails that may have unconsciously been placed on the types of organizations you think of when hearing “supplier diversity.” Broaden that definition to “business diversity” which includes technology, professional services and other fast-growing industries that can add value to your corporation. 

  • Have transparency and intentionality around tangible outcomes.

When a consumer can understand how the dollars being invested are directly having an effect on their community or issues they align with, it leads to trust, understanding and a greater connection.   

Gather Against the Gap is just one way that Northwestern Mutual’s Sustain Action for Racial Equity initiative is working to narrow the racial wealth gap. The company just announced that it’s adding $75 million to its existing Impact Investing Fund – bringing the total to $175M. The fund, which was established in 2021, places investments nationally and in Milwaukee with a focus on business growth and physical and social infrastructure. Northwestern Mutual also recently inducted a new cohort of tech startups to its Black Founder Accelerator program, which works to combat the substantial funding disparity for Black entrepreneurs by providing each startup company with a $100,000 investment and inclusion in a 12-week intensive training and mentorship program. 

Click here to learn more about Northwestern Mutual’s commitment to advancing equity and inclusion.