Reflecting on ESG progress in 2021: lack of diversification of leadership

In reviewing and reflecting on 2021, I see little progress in South Jersey on diversification of power. The bulk of our institutions are still controlled by old white men. My own efforts to support diversity of leadership in government, nonprofit and business sectors has been frustrating; riddled with Dunning Kruger effect. Would-be leaders don’t know what they don’t know and therefore overestimate their own capabilities.

This year I supported a number of unsuccessful non-traditional younger and minority candidates for elected office, served several young minority business owners who ultimately closed their operations, and advised a number of volunteer-based nonprofit organizations that went from large expectations to gasping for life.

Our region failed to re-elect our region’s most powerful and well-connected state Senator (in center of photo of old white men below). He had some reputation of sharing our goals and, at least, had an open mind to diversification of leadership. Instead, we elected an inexperienced and loudly bigoted truck driver in his place. My white male neighbors celebrated their success in electing someone “just like me”. It was a discouraging tough year.

Meanwhile, my traditional clients had a banner year. Most added millions to their net worth. Some launched new businesses into areas of promising technology. I had a strong financial performance year myself, even in less glamorous ESG-focused business segments of aquaculture, environmental education and food distribution. Clearly this year was another perfect example of “the rich got richer”.

I really don’t have any great success stories to share this year. As we end 2021, I see that our community power base and financial control remains mostly unchanged. Perhaps the only progress I can see is that our small city of Millville will have its first female mayor next month.

We have much work ahead.

A tougher 2022 ahead?

I just listened to Preet Bharara’s short weekly podcast comment on Cafe Insider. He forecasts a much tougher year ahead for national governance than we had for 2021. He uses the term “fight” to refer to our required action. My own action is specifically focused on rebuilding community by focusing on what we have in common (investing, love of fishing and the outdoors, for example) but I can imagine how a heightened environment of hostility could spoil those plans.

Excerpt from Bharara yesterday:
“I am not going to make any blithe predictions about next year, save one. I don’t know for a fact what will happen with Roe v. Wade, but I’m worried. I don’t know for a fact what will happen in the midterms, but I’m worried. I don’t know for a fact that the pandemic will persist, but I’m worried. I could go on and on.

What I do know for a fact is that for everyone who cares about the future of the country and who values democracy, the vacation is over. Whatever respite people took in 2021, whatever turning away from the news, whatever comfort in Biden’s stewardship, whatever head-in-the-sand posture about fair elections or Trumpism or the Supreme Court or increasing minority rule, the fact is that in 2022 the fight will be on.

So drink your eggnog. Tear open your presents. Kiss under the mistletoe. Hug your families. Enjoy some time off. But come back in 2022 ready to fight.”