Equity Actions: Turning Up the Volume on Racial Equity

January 6, 2023

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, setting off a racial reckoning in the midst of a global pandemic. Over two years later, have we made progress? Or do we need to turn up the volume and continue to advance racial equity? Join guest-host James Burroughs, SVP and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer at Children’s Minnesota as he interviews Tiffani Daniels, managing director of the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity (MBCRE) On this episode, they discuss how a business coalition for racial equity can impact health care and health disparities, including the relationship between economics, social determinants of health and signals of progress for racial equity and equitable health outcomes.


Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd:  This is Talking Pediatrics, a clinical podcast by Children’s Minnesota, home to The Kid Experts, where the complex is our every day. Each week, we bring you intriguing stories and relevant pediatric health care information as we partner with you in the care of your patients. Our guests, data, ideas and practical tips will surprise, challenge and perhaps change how you care for kids.

Welcome to Talking Pediatrics. I’m your host, Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd. On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis setting off a racial reckoning in the midst of a global pandemic. Over two years later, have we made progress or do we need to turn up the volume and continue to advance racial equity? Join guest host James Burroughs SVP and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer at Children’s Minnesota as he interviews Tiffani Daniels, Managing Director of the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity, as they discuss how a business coalition for racial equity can impact health care and health disparities, including the relationship between economics, social determinants of health and signals of progress for racial equity and equitable health outcomes.

James Burroughs: Welcome to the Equity and Inclusion Suite of the Award-Winning Talking Pediatrics podcast. My name is James Burroughs and today I’m here with Tiffani Daniels, the Managing Director from Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity. Well, we’re going to hear and have a conversation and we’re going to figure out how racial equity businesses and healthcare relate and work together. Well, let’s jump right in. Let’s tell the audience about who you are, what makes you you, and then also to a little bit about the NBCRE.

Tiffani Daniels: I start most of my introductions with letting people know that I am a native Detroiter, and I say that because Detroit deposits so much in me. I was raised in a very homogenous environment that was mostly black people. And so what it gave me was really an uninhibited belief that black people could do anything. And I carried that with me while I was in public school in Detroit. And then I went to college at the University of Missouri and was thrust into my first really all white environment. And it was an opportunity for me to really start to experience what I knew to be true about the world. I had learned to be true about America, but had never really experienced for myself. And so I was on my initial journey of understanding who I was as a black woman needing to navigate a very white world.

And the first time that I was doing that was in college. I then moved to Minneapolis where I started my career in advertising, went back to Michigan to get my MBA, and then came back to Minnesota to start a career as a business leader at General Mills. I was working in General Mills for a number of years, leading brands, running businesses, really building a skillset as a general manager, but all the while really involved in our diversity, equity, and inclusion work. It’s always been something that I was really engaged in and it just came naturally to me. And I think I credit a lot of my experience in Detroit as to why I was always so concerned with how black people were doing in the corporate environment, how I could help recruit and retain more of them. It was just always something that was really important to me.

Being involved in all of the activities around DEI at my company, I started to notice that it was really a passion of mine and it was something that was almost taking as much time as my day job was taking. And then like a lot of people in this community and around the world, on the day that George Floyd was murdered, I think something just happened. I also happened to find out that I was pregnant on the same day.

James Burroughs: Wow.

Tiffani Daniels: And so I carried an immense sense of both grief and joy throughout my pregnancy, but really wrestled with what was I going to do as a result. I was carrying a black son and so I knew that I wanted to be a part of creating a different world for him to experience. And I discovered the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity. I was working at General Mills, which was a founding corporate member of NBCRE, as we call it, and had the opportunity to interview for the role of managing director and decided to take the role, I won’t say at the last minute, but I was struck with the idea to ask General Mills if they would sponsor me to lead the coalition for a period of time and really accelerate my growth as a leader, but also give me an opportunity to really explore a passion of mine, which was really around equity and specifically advancing black people.

And that takes me to the work of the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity. It is a business coalition that is focused on building a more just and prosperous state with and for black Minnesotans. It’s a coming together of a number of corporations that are either headquartered here in the state of Minnesota or have large operations here, and we work together to drive positive economic outcomes for black Minnesotans. And it’s been an amazingly rewarding journey, I’ll say, but also really challenging to keep the volume turned up on racial equity now that as we approach 2023, we’re almost three years post George Floyd, the priorities and organizations have shifted. We don’t all feel that same fierce urgency of now that we felt in May and June of 2020. The macroeconomic environment has taken top billing with a lot of business leaders, and I look at one of the primary roles of NBCRE is to keep the volume turned up here in the state on racial equity in the business community.

James Burroughs: So let’s talk about turning that volume up. It’s been three years since the murder of George Floyd. You were nice about it. Other business priorities or whatever, that fancy language you said. Some people have said, “That’s enough. We’re tired of doing all this stuff we said we were going to do in statements.” My CEO, Dr. Mark Gorelik, made a statement himself, and I need to be held accountable as Chief Inclusion officer to make sure we’re doing that. But I think some companies have said, “Well, we did it for a little while. Isn’t that enough?” So Tiffani, isn’t that enough? Why do they have to do more?

Tiffani Daniels: Absolutely not. It’s not enough. One of the things that I have tried to do is managing director is shift the conversation around racial equity from it being a moral imperative to a business imperative. A lot of times in this country we talk about addressing racism or dismantling racism as the right thing to do. We don’t talk about it as an economic imperative, that our businesses need diverse talent to thrive. Higher levels of representation, specifically racial and ethnic representation drives higher levels of innovation and stronger financial performance. Here in the state of Minnesota, the opportunity cost of racism is estimated to be about $287 billion dollars.

James Burroughs: Wow.

Tiffani Daniels: So these are the losses that we experience. When people aren’t paying taxes or when you’re not really participating in an economy, there is money that’s left on the table and that’s what we’re experiencing. And so if we want to continue to be competitive as a regional economy, we have to address some of the disparities. At a national level, the economy would be $8 trillion dollars richer by 2050 if we were to really seriously address our racial disparities in this country. So there is money being left on the table, and we have to think about it as that, and not just about a matter of right and wrong.

James Burroughs: But lot of these companies are national companies. So that $8 trillion you mentioned is just as important. So that’s the reason behind it.

Tiffani Daniels: For sure.

James Burroughs: Obviously Children’s Minnesota is a health care institution. We take care of the kids and we’re the Kid Experts in taking care of kiddos. So why is it important for health care to care about this? Because a lot of times health care said, “We take care of kids, we take care of the medical portion of it.” We do talk a little bit about social determinants of health. I don’t think we give that enough attention, but how could this NBCRE and Children’s or other health care institutions partner to make it better for black Minnesotans?

Tiffani Daniels: I think the thing that you mentioned, the social determinants of health, it’s all the things, right? It is the acknowledgement that an individual or a person is experiencing various disparities in society or various factors, and it can weigh on their physical health, and when we see that, especially in communities of color. And so that acknowledgement then I think takes us to a place where if we’re serious about the health of people, then how are we going to go about addressing all of the things that people are experiencing in their communities? And Children’s Minnesota is a member of NBCRE, a very active member. Thank you.

James Burroughs: A founding member.

Tiffani Daniels: Yes, a founding member, a very active member of the coalition. And I think one of the great things about having healthcare companies and institutions at the table is it’s an opportunity for them to collaborate with one another on local issues, right? There aren’t necessarily local coalitions really like NBCRE, that allow businesses and companies to come together to say, “How might we join forces to attack a very targeted set of problems or issues for the sake of black Minnesotans?”

James Burroughs: That makes a lot of sense. So one of the things I want to talk to you a little bit about those other disparities. So that would be housing unemployment rate, which is high for people of color, black people in particular, health disparities and all the other things. All the things as you mentioned. How do you measure success? So what metrics should we look at that after three years of existence, or maybe next year, four years that we’re saying NBCRE did a good job with these 60 plus companies in doing the things that it said it would do for black Minnesotans?

Tiffani Daniels: Yeah, a lot of people ask about metrics, and I’ve started calling them signals of progress, especially because we’re talking about issues that are so deep-seated and I don’t want us to relegate it to a dashboard or thinking about it the same way that we would business metrics. And I say that as a business leader, and there are though, signals of progress that we can look towards that might suggest that we’re moving the needle. You mentioned unemployment, the state measures unemployment regularly. And in October we saw some progress as it relates to the black unemployment rate going down, but it is still more than double the unemployment rate of white Minnesotans. And so that’s one signal that we can look towards. The black homeownership rates, here in the state of Minnesota we have, I believe, the worst disparity as it looks at the difference between our black homeowners and our white homeowners.

And so there are entities that measure our home ownership rate. And so there are other things that we can look at that suggest like, “Hey, are we actually moving the dial?” And I think leveraging data in sources that exist in the world that are already kind of keeping track of those signals or those metrics help take some of the pressure off of individual companies or individual corporations and saying, “I need to figure out how to measure the progress of all of the black people in Minnesota,” when we could do a much better job of leveraging the data that we already have at our fingertips.

James Burroughs: I love the way you call it signals because sometimes we look at metrics in data, which is important in healthcare, but we look at it as a end as opposed to what are the things happening to make us get there a little faster? And also too, some of those things I’m assuming are qualitative. I was just able to attend your all hands meeting for NBCRE, the first one in person.

Tiffani Daniels: Yes.

James Burroughs: Which was amazing. And the feel of the people in the room, the things that were going on in the room and the energy that I felt with people wanted to, say, leave there and go do even more for NBCRE and black Minnesotans. Those things sometimes aren’t measurable by a metric, but it is a signal that we are headed in the right direction. So I love your language there as well.

Tiffani Daniels: That qualitative piece is so important and it’s one that reminds us a lot of times that there is more work to do. I live and spend time around black people in community. I’m going to church. I’m shopping around black people, I’m doing all of this, all these extracurricular things. It is a reminder that there is still so much work to do because if we all stay in our bubbles and we continue to hang out with the same people that we hang out with that are likely not people of difference, we lose sight of what we’re actually working against, or we start to think that we have made more progress than we actually had.

And it’s important that we keep a pulse on the people, keep a pulse on community. If you are a leader in an organization, spend time in community. One of the things that I love about your CEO, Dr. Marc Gorelick, is he is often in places and spaces where he is the person of difference. He is spending time with people that look like the patients that this institution serves. And that’s really important. And that is a wonderful compliment to the signals and the metrics that leaders oftentimes want to rely on.

James Burroughs: That is important. And although I give Dr. Gorelick a hard time most of the time, just keep pushing him, I will attest that he will show up in a place and space with his wife Lynn, that a lot of times CEOs who are white don’t show up at. He was at the Monitors event Christmas party were out of the 290 folks there, I think there were four or five white people in the room. But he wasn’t sitting at a table, he was right around meeting people, talking to people and engaging. Because like you said, in order for us to say qualitatively what’s going on, you have to put yourself in those situations. And I’m hoping a lot of other CEOs take that lead as well. Let’s talk a little bit about your year end review or the time you’ve been there. What are you most proud of leading NBCRE?

Tiffani Daniels: I’ve been leading NBCRE for a little over a year, and there’ve been high highs and definitely some low lows. One of the things that I am most proud of is a conversation that we designed to acknowledge the healing that was required after the killing of Amir Locke. We were, as a community, still very raw following the murder of George Floyd. And here we were a number of months later experiencing a very similar tragedy. And within the coalition, there was a certain level of fatigue in talking about what we were going to do. Do you issue a statement? If you do, how do you identify the right wording and how do you talk about it? And I think collectively, we were just like, “What are we going to do though?” There are no more words. And within a matter of days, we pulled together what we called a healing and action session that was specifically designed to center and elevate the voices of the black employees in our member organizations.

And I was blown away by the reception and the response to the event. We had over 700 people that logged onto this virtual event. And in that event, in that conversation, we held space only for black people, allies and white people were welcome and could participate, but we said, “We’re going to open a set of breakout rooms that are only for black people to be in space and in community with people that look like them, and to mourn and find glimmers of joy and hope together.” And that is so needed and it’s so necessary, especially for folks that work in environments where they may be one of a few or the only. There is no safe place to feel, and it was important for us to design that conversation and to see the speed in which we were able to pull it off, it was really a picture to me of the potential of a coalition like NBCRE and what we could do moving forward.

James Burroughs: I love that because it became real to the people it’s supposed to be supporting, black Minnesotans who are in corporate America. They got a chance to be in a process of healing, just being who they are with others who look like them as well. I love that. So let’s talk about 2023. We are coming up on the end of the year. I know you have some great things planned for 2023. Let the audience know about maybe what some of those things are.

Tiffani Daniels: We have a busy year ahead, and I am so excited about what’s to come for the coalition. One of the things that all of our members have common is a challenge with their black representation inside their organizations, whether it is a really large company that has a very developed DEI journey or a newer organization that is just starting to figure out like, “Hey, we don’t have any black people that work here.” So every member is really trying to unlock how do we hire, retain and advance specifically black people in a real differential way?

And one of the things that we’re launching this year in collaboration with an organization called The Partnership that’s based in Boston, is a fellows program that is a cohort of high potential, high performing mid-level black talent that will allow them to, of course, accelerate their career by experiencing some differential programming and being assigned an executive coach, but will also give them an opportunity to build community and deepen their relationships with other professionals around the region. Because we don’t have a mechanism to do that today.

If you’re recruited to Minnesota to work at company A, a lot of times your network really rests inside company A and you may tap into other people’s socially, but as it relates to connecting with them professionally and thinking about if we are going to be the next generation of corporate leaders or CEOs here, we should all be in relationship, there isn’t today a mechanism to do that. And so I’m really excited about launching this fellow’s program as a very simple way to think about retention and investing in black talent differently.

James Burroughs: I love that because it allows for professional development, it sounds like as well for those individuals that are part of the program.

Tiffani Daniels: Absolutely. The other things that we’re working on are partnership with First Independence Bank, and this one is really near and dear to my heart as a Detroiter. First Independence is a black-owned bank that is headquartered in Detroit and has been in Detroit since the early 1950s, and its first branch outside of Detroit, opened in the Twin Cities in early 2022, and we are coming up on a year anniversary of First Independence being here in Minnesota. They’ve opened the second branch, and we are going to leverage the power of our members to drive a significant amount of deposits for First Independent starting in February. Financial institutions play such a big role as we think about driving wealth, maintaining and sustaining wealth in the community. And First Independence has a lot of programs around home ownership and entrepreneurship that we want and need to help fuel, and so I’m excited about that partnership as well.

James Burroughs: Great. Now, is there a targeted amount that you want your members to, I guess, make deposits for or invest in?

Tiffani Daniels: Yeah. The total amount that we’re working towards is one million dollars starting in the month of February, and that’s not a lot of money when we think about the power and scale of our companies. My personal goal is that we’ll greatly exceed that. But if we break that down into how do we make that real, it’s really looking at how can I get 1000 people to put a thousand dollars into first independence and let it sit there? Don’t just go put it in and then take it out. It has to sit there so that the bank can do bank things with your money.

James Burroughs: Okay. That makes sense. I always like to either mess up or enhance people’s ideas.

Tiffani Daniels: Okay.

James Burroughs: So let’s say you also had a hundred companies, if my math is right, put in a million dollars to get to a hundred million dollars, so you got individuals putting in their money. But once again, when George Floyd was murdered, we made a lot of statements, we said a lot of proclamations. We said what we’re going to do for the community, since this is the only black-owned bank in this city, one that was the only branch outside of Detroit they have is here, and they came here because of George Floyd and the murder of George Floyd. It’d be amazing if those companies could do that as well. So I’d say Dr. Gorelick should get a letter or email from you to maybe ask like, “Hey, where are we doing our banking?”

Tiffani Daniels: All right. He’s going to get a letter and email from me.

James Burroughs: All right. Don’t tell them I sent you, though.

Tiffani Daniels: Okay. I won’t.

James Burroughs: Don’t tell him I sent you.

Tiffani Daniels: I won’t.

James Burroughs: Well, the last thing. If you could have one wish to change the scope of racial equity, systemic racism, bias, prejudice against all those who are marginalized, including our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, those with disabilities and a lot of other folks as well, you got one wish to change the world as it is today, what would that wish be?

Tiffani Daniels: Oh my gosh. Just one? My one wish would be for the power holding institutions across the nation to reflect what our nation looks like today. And I wish that because the tension that I feel a lot of times is advocating for and nicely requesting power from people that have traditionally held and hoarded power in our country. And I find myself often trying to make and build a case to convince them to share just a corner, just a little slice. My mom will say, just a little corner, just a swig, just a little bit of that power. And I think we’re at a place where we are all starting to feel and see that we are led in almost every way in society and governed by norms and laws and a set of widely accepted behaviors that just don’t reflect where we are today as a country, right?

It does not welcome women’s voices. It does not welcome people of color. It does not acknowledge the effects of the transatlantic slave trade and what slavery did to generations to come that we’re still acknowledging and haven’t even really begun to rectify. There’s just so much work that needs to be done. But in order to do that work, we need different voices at the table. And for all the old white guys that hold a seat, my wish would be that at least half of them got up and gave that seat to someone else, to a member of the LGBTQIA plus community or a black person, a woman, someone else, just so that we could start to make decisions for our society in a way that would actually move us forward.

James Burroughs: That’s a very powerful wish, Tiffani, and one that I think a lot of us are moving towards and want to move towards, because if you want to represent or serve people who are from different backgrounds, races, ethnicities, you have to have a table of power as you talk about the set for many people and not just one race of people, one gender of people to make informed decisions about inclusion. So that’s a very powerful wish, and the work you’re doing at NBCRE is going to get us there. So Tiffani Daniels, managing director of NBCRE. Thank you for coming to the Equity Inclusion Suite of Talking Pediatrics. Very proud to have you here. And as a fellow Detroiter, I’m even more proud to have you here and know that you will continue to do great things in this city.

Tiffani Daniels: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

James Burroughs: Thank you.

Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd: Thank you for joining us for Talking Pediatrics. Come back each week for a new episode with our caregivers and experts in pediatric health. Our executive producer and showrunner is Ilze Vogel. Episodes are engineered, produced, and edited by Jake Beaver. Amy Juba is our marketing representative. For more information and additional episodes, visit us at childrensmn.org/talkingpediatrics, and to rate and review our show, please go to childrensmn.org/survey.