(Bloomberg) -- Porter Braswell has spent the last decade helping corporate America recruit and hire diverse talent. Now, he’s hoping to work with those firms to retain it.
The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. alumnus is launching 2045, a membership network aimed at accelerating the careers of workers of color. The organization is akin to Chief, the private club for female executives, and YPO, a leadership community of top executives, Braswell said. Though employee resource groups and industry collectives certainly exist, buzzy groups that focus on networking, co-working and career development specifically for workers of color are few and far between.
“We want to fill that void in the market; to be the home for my community,” said Braswell, who is Black.
The new venture, named for the year people of color are projected to outnumber White people in the US, is also an attempt to address corporate firms’ struggles to retain diverse talent. Black workers face higher levels of workplace attrition at every rung on the corporate ladder, according to research from McKinsey & Co. And the Society for Human Resource Management estimated that turnover due to unfair treatment based on race or ethnicity cost US businesses $171.9 billion in the five years leading up to 2021.
Individuals can either sign up themselves — though there’s currently a waitlist, Braswell said — or have their employers sponsor them. Pricing will range from $2,500 to $10,000 annually, depending on whether it is an individual or corporate membership or how many individuals a firm is sponsoring. New York-area members will have access to a 10,000 square-foot space in the Flatiron district for meetings, networking and events. Starting this month, members will join in-person or virtual group sessions where career coaches will help the cohorts work through career challenges. Those groups will meet 10 times per year. The organization will also regularly host virtual and in-person programming including wellness events and discussions led by executives, entrepreneurs and politicians.
So far, companies including communications firm Edelman, Ford Motor Co., advertising agency McCann, investment firm MSD Capital, Pfizer Inc. and asset manager Sagard are among those that have agreed to fund memberships for their employees. 2045 has over 200 members as of this month, Braswell said.
2045 recently raised $4.2 million in pre-seed funding led by Benchstrength, backed by Ken Chenault Jr. and John Monagle. Other investors include AAF Management, a venture capital firm focused on technology companies and Connecticut Innovations, the state’s venture capital arm. CJ McCollum, a player on the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, is an angel investor.
Chenault said in an email that 2045’s vision closely aligns with Benchstrength’s “focus on and passion for workplace diversity, retention, and growth” and will “provide the necessary tools and space that is currently lacking for professionals of color.”
The bet for companies, Braswell says, is that by backing the membership for rising stars around the vice president or director level, those individuals can grow in their own career while feeling valued enough to stay at their firms.
“They will go back to the workplace feeling more engaged and supported and, ultimately, we think that will lead to higher retention and promotion rates,” he said.
Braswell has some experience in this space. After meeting Ryan Williams at Goldman, the two founded Jopwell, an HR platform that helps companies recruit and hire professionals of color, in 2015. Braswell started his career on Goldman’s foreign exchange desk before leaving in 2014. Talent management platform True acquired Jopwell earlier this year.
It’s not the easiest time to be in the corporate equity business. Layoffs are gutting DEI departments and cuts threaten representation gains for women and people of color in industries like tech. And some initiatives created after 2020 aimed at diversifying the business landscape, like those supporting minority suppliers, for example, haven’t born out.
“The biggest challenge is, to some degree, changing hearts and minds of corporations,” Braswell said, so they “recognize and realize that they need outside support.”
--With assistance from Max Abelson.
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