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It was the watershed year of the 20th Century; a year fraught with protests, tragedies and advancements. More than half of Americans alive today weren't even born then, yet they live in the shadow of its legacy.


In Vietnam, the Tet Offensive signified the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement in the war; at the Summer Olympics, two black medalists raised their fists in silent protest against racial discrimination in the United States; Star Trek aired American television's first interracial kiss; Boeing introduced the first 747, and a manned spacecraft orbited the moon for the first time. It also was a year in which war protesters at the Democratic National Convention clashed with police in the streets of Chicago and Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.


But it was the devastation caused by the 1968 riots in Chicago that followed the tragic death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis that prompted top business leaders to discuss solutions to local economic instability and racial unrest in the city. Chicago United was the result.


For 50 years, Chicago United has maintained the dialogue among multiracial senior leadership driving corporate and minority-owned businesses, civic and non-profit leadership in the common goal of creating a stronger social and economic climate for all races.


Our membership ranges from emerging businesses to Fortune 500 companies and includes some of Chicago's brightest leaders who collaborate around a common goal of a creating a stronger, more inclusive, business climate for all races. The Chicago business community is taking the lead in making our socio-economic climate even stronger through racial equity.


Our membership includes many of Chicago’s brightest leaders who collaborate around a common goal of a creating a stronger, more inclusive, business climate for all races. The Chicago business community is taking the lead in making our socio-economic climate even stronger through racial equity.

Chicago United’s mission is to achieve parity in economic opportunity for people of color by advancing multiracial leadership in corporate governance, executive level management, and business diversity.

Our initiatives and research provide tangible data, tools, and insights needed to further transform Chicago into one of the most inclusive business ecosystems in the nation. 


The world has changed a lot since 1968, but in many ways the struggles are still the same. In our 50th Anniversary year, we invite the Chicago business community to come together in solidarity to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion. Two wonderful opportunities for that will be our open-to-the-public Chicago Unites concert with the Chicago Sinfonietta on Sept. 5 at Pritzker Pavilion and our 50th Anniversary Gala on Nov. 2 at the Hilton Chicago. You’ll hear more about both soon.


If your organization is not one of our member companies, find out how you can become a member


And, if you are a member company, thank you. We couldn’t have navigated the last 50 years without you.





Gloria Castillo

President and Chief Executive Officer 

Chicago United 


Learn More About Our Mission


Business Leaders of Color

Chicago United’s Business Leaders of Color; (BLC) publications, which spotlight candidates for boards of directors’ positions, have featured nearly 320 board-ready professionals since 2003. During this time, BLCs have served in more than 215 corporate directorships.



Inside Inclusion Featuring the Corporate Diversity Profile

The Inside Inclusion Featuring the Corporate Diversity Profile reports continue to reveal minimal gains in minority representation throughout executive ranks at Chicago-based companies, making it clear that intentional action is needed now, more than ever. Our research shows that if the growth rate of diverse representation in top executive and managerial positions were to remain the same, it will take 64 years for minorities to achieve parity.


Five Forward Initiative

Established in 2008, Chicago United’s Five Forward Initiative has joined Chicago corporations together with local minority business enterprises (MBEs), to strengthen the local economy and double the number of job opportunities created by Five Forward MBEs in the Chicagoland area. 



Chicago United Bridge Awards

The Bridge Awards represent the only nationally recognized awards that honor CEOs who advocate for multiracial diversity in corporate governance and executive level management.

2017 Bridge Awards Dinner Address by
Gloria Castillo, President and CEO


2018 National Thought Leader Forum:
A Conversation with Common





Fuel Job Creation through Five Forward 20/20

Chicago United introduced Five Forward 20/20, the expansion of its Five Forward Initiative™, designed to strengthen the local economy and enhance job creation by supporting a stronger Chicagoland minority business enterprise (MBE) community in September of 2015.


The Commitment

Chicago area corporations commit to doing business with five local minority firms over five years. As local MBEs grow and enhance their position to compete for corporate contracts outside of Five Forward, the corporate community benefits from a more competitive pool of diverse businesses.


Click here to download the Five Forward 20/20 Vision Brochure.

Chicago United is supported in part through funding provided by: 




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