Our team of Advisory Board members continues to grow, and this past month we were thrilled to welcome Maurice (Moe) Wilkerson to our team. We had the opportunity to sit down with Maurice this past week to ask him a few questions about his background and what inspired him to join our Advisory Board at Black Progress Matters.
“Among all US-based companies with 100 or more employees, Black people hold just 3% of executive or senior-level roles. Today, only 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are Black.” – Deloitte
We often point to this statistic; in your experience, what do you see as the greatest challenges for Black executives?
Sponsorship is a challenge. Leaders who have progressed in organizations typically have a mentor or someone who has or continues to sponsor them along the way. However, the sponsor group tends to be less diverse, and therefore the network of people they support may often be less diverse. Another challenge is that organizations/leaders are not always open to transferable skills. People tend to lock in on past success profiles without looking at a broader set of transferable skills that would open up the aperture to consider broader and more diverse backgrounds.
What were the critical points to success that led you to become an executive with a Fortune 500 Company?
I was very fortunate to come from a family that emphasized education and sports at a very early age. In sports, I learned to appreciate teammates from very different backgrounds and before I could play sports, I had to maintain my studies first. Those experiences helped me to prioritize education and allowed me to interact with others at an early age. When I started my professional experience, I had an African American sponsor who took a chance on hiring me as an intern, which opened a door for me. From there, I had another fantastic leader who pushed me out of my comfort zone and continued to challenge me to do more. Programs within the INROADS organization also played a critical role in my early development.
From those early experiences, I got comfortable being the only one in the room that looked like me and gained the confidence to take on new assignments and some risk in my career. I was willing to raise my hand more often. Once I started to lead teams, I was able to apply many of the behaviors I’d learned from those early mentors to help shape my leadership style. In summary, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by positive role models, friends and mentors along the way.
Our BPM ecosystem is constantly evolving; what are you most excited about happening at BPM?
I am really excited about the organization having a meaningful impact. BPM will create broader access to opportunities, provide education, and change the face of executive leadership over time. Member companies will also benefit by accessing the talent, tools, and experiences BPM brings to market. I tend to gravitate towards things in their infancy stage to be a part of the build phase, which is exciting! Being a part of BPM early on allows me to provide my input and feedback to help shape the organization’s future and have a tangible impact. The opportunity to learn from others in the BPM community is also something that will keep me engaged. There are some super smart people involved with this organization!
What’s one piece of advice for aspiring Black executives in the professional world?
I’d advise earlier career talent to take risks and try new things. I wish I’d tried more things earlier in my career. At the leadership level, you need to have a broad sense of markets, business, and functions. The more you can learn by rotating through different operations, processes, and roles, the more comprehensive your perspective becomes. Having this background and understanding will help increase your value and marketability.
I would also advise that executives in leadership positions remember to treat people with respect, have some humility, and don’t be a jerk. Empathy, communication skills, analytics, and solution orientation are key competencies that will serve you well.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
In order to truly change the color of the executive suite in organizations worldwide, we rely on everyone to further their involvement in all that we do. We encourage you to participate in any or all of our activities. Get started by registering on BlackProgressMatters.org.