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.

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