Pete Stavros on giving employees more ownership in a company and improving diversity

Innovators share ideas with WorkingNation Overheard at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2021

“We all know what needs to happen, which is to diversify the workforce up and down the chain across all functions,” says Pete Stavros, who is co-head of Americas Private Equity at KKR and is also co-chair of the firm’s Global Inclusion and Diversity Council. He says the Council is working internally, as well as with the firm’s portfolio companies, “to create a sense of belonging for all employees, independent of race, sexual orientation, or gender.”

WorkingNation sat down with Stavros at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2021 in Beverly Hills as part of our #WorkingNationOverheard interview series. With Charting a New Course as the guiding theme, thought leaders and innovators shared ideas about the changing economy, worker development, education, tech, philanthropy, and more.

Stavros says diversity is the portfolio companies is important. “We feel like we can influence that. It’s kind of like when you invest in a business and maybe their operations aren’t perfect. We look at it and we say, ‘Hey, that’s an opportunity.’ Doesn’t need to be perfect Day One but there’s so much research. It’s common sense that diverse teams make better decisions.”

Additionally, Stavros is co-founder of Ownership Works, a nonprofit on a mission to “transform how ownership is distributed within corporations. We partner with private and public companies to implement innovative shared ownership programs that make every employee an owner and honor the collective effort behind a company’s success.”

Stavros says making all employees owners helps create financial equality. “The concentrated nature of equity ownership is underpinning a lot of problems in society. If you look at the Federal Reserve data on household wealth, by a mile, the biggest driver of wealth inequality is the ownership of corporate equities.”

“If you look inside of a company – whether it’s public, private-equity owned, family-owned – all the ownership and all the wealth creation potential is up in those top couple of layers of a company. It’s the C-suite and their direct reports. And as hard as we are all trying to diversify all of our companies as fast as we can across the country, it’s going to take time. And right now, all the wealth creation is hung up in those layers that are not diverse.”

Stavros says, “If you look across all of those issues – wealth inequality, racial wealth gap, racial inequity, the lack of financial literacy among American adults, and the lack of employee engagement—all of those can be impacted by ownership.”

“We’re trying to start a movement to prove workers are better off with this model. Not just they generate some more wealth, but they’re more engaged on the job. They’re happier.”

Click here to learn more about KKR.
Click here to learn more about Ownership Works.

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