This new membership program is focused on developing Black executive talent

Valence, the platform which connects Black professionals to a community of 16,000 members, is launching a new executive development program called BONDS. Similar to the Young President's Organization, which focuses on companies most senior executives, or Chief, which is designed for women, BONDS is focused on developing Black executive talent.

The program is addressing a gaping disparity: according to a McKinsey & Company report, while the U.S. population is 13.4% Black, 12% of entry-level corporate professionals are Black, and that number falls to 7% of management roles.

Valence's BONDS will start with a cohort of over 250, which is already at 90% capacity, and it's planning another cohort of the same size for the fall. The program is launching with a number of partners, including funds such as Upfront Ventures, GGV Capital and Norwest Venture Partners — they will engage the program to foster talent at their portfolio companies — as well as at companies including Roblox, Silicon Valley Bank and Electrolux.

"We recognize that a lot of companies right now are interested in hiring, attracting Black talent and there's been a lot of attention paid to that in the recent years. What has been paid less attention to is what happens when those individuals get into the companies," says Valence CEO Guy Primus.

"I can speak from personal experience; when you're at a company of 50,000 people, but you go for weeks without seeing another Black face, we want to make sure that our members can understand how to navigate that, how to actually use it to their benefit and really reflect the true merit meritocratic society within corporations, and really, honestly help define what merit is in those companies. Our corporate partners who we're collaborating with are making sure that they understand how to optimize their workforce, how to get the most out of this this asset that is Black professionals."

The program targets executives at large companies with eight or more years of experience and senior managers at startups; it will create groups for executives to learn from each other. Primus says these curated cohorts are designed so, "marketing people can share ideas with product people, and IP attorneys, so everyone … can get together to help identify some opportunities that we have and some of the challenges and how to overcome them."

While corporations will sponsor many of the participants, individuals can also join the program without corporate affiliation. The program's cost of $6,500 a year is roughly in line with that of Chief. In addition to the cohorts, there are a range of educational programs, including a six month on-demand curriculum, talent assessments and roundtable workshops to address workplace challenges, as well as inspirational speakers.

The goal of the program is not only to empower Black professionals, but also to help companies make the most of their employee base. "The black community is not a monolith, and everyone has a different experience base, everyone comes from a different place, and everyone has a different skill set," Primus says.

"What we want to do for companies is identify their top talent, the people that they really believe in, and they think that can be future leaders of their company, and we actually help navigate within their company, not only us through the programs, but also through the community. So when those individuals get back into their workplace, they're much more successful they're able to navigate the opportunities."

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