Merck chairman and CEO Ken Frazier, as well as executive chairman and former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, are joining forces with other top CEOs and organizations to close the economic opportunity gap for Black Americans.
On Thursday, Frazier and Rometty appeared on CBS This Morning to talk about their new initiative called OneTen, which is a coalition of 37 CEOs from top companies who are pledging to train, hire and promote one million Black Americans over the next 10 years, with a special focus on those who do not have a four-year college degree. Right now, Deloitte, Comcast, Nike, Delta Air Lines and Target are among the top businesses participating, with the leaders of the initiative hoping that more companies will join in the future.
"Many times, companies require four-year degrees for the kinds of jobs that really do not require a four-year degree," Frazier tells CBS's Gayle King, while explaining that this criteria hurts many Americans, particularly Black Americans, who are unable to afford college. Roughly 36% of all Americans and just 26% of Black Americans had a four-year college degree in 2019, according to the Census Bureau.
"And so what we're trying to do is we're trying to urge companies to take a skills first approach rather than a credentials approach, which will eliminate some of the systemic barriers that African Americans have faced," says Frazier. He adds that when looking at the data, "you can see that there is a huge disparity between opportunities and wealth" for Black families and White families. In 2019, White families had the highest median household wealth of any racial group at $188,200; Black Americans had the lowest median household wealth at $24,100, according to the Federal Reserve.
Rometty, who serves as co-chair of OneTen with Frazier, says that all companies are in need of talent and "there's a large talent pool in America we're not tapping into" by having a four-year degree criteria for the majority of corporate roles.
"We've been at this at IBM for almost eight years and we're a great proof point of this," she says, while adding that at IBM they no longer require a four-year degree for 43% of their positions.
At Fortune's Most Powerful Women's Summit earlier this year, Rometty, who is now IBM's executive chairman, explained that it's important for employers to be transparent about the skills they need from workers so that they can guide them in the right direction to learn new skills or refine their current skills.
"The people are out there with the skills," she said. "We can teach them the hard skills, but it's the soft skills they need to come in with."
With OneTen, Rometty and Frazier are connecting participating employers "with talent partners, leading non-profits and other skill-credentialing organizations who support development of diverse talent." With these partnerships, OneTen aims to get one million Black Americans without a college degree "into family-sustaining jobs with opportunities for advancement" in the next 10 years.
"OneTen links our companies with the critical work we know we need to do to improve racial equity in America," Rometty said in a statement. "This will not only help our individual companies, but by removing structural barriers that have disproportionately hindered Black Americans from joining the middle-class, it will also help lift all Americans."
In addition to Frazier and Rometty, other founding members of OneTen include Ken Chenault, chairman and managing director of General Catalyst and former chairman and CEO of American Express; Charles Phillips, managing partner of Recognize, chairman of the Black Economic Alliance and former CEO of Infor; and Kevin Sharer, former chairman and CEO of Amgen and former faculty member at Harvard Business School. Together, these five leaders will serve on the board of OneTen with other participating CEOs.
Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC.