Corporate Mandate for Change: A Bloomberg Equality Briefing
June 17, 2021
By Bloomberg Live
The reckoning on race in America continues to reverberate throughout all facets of society. But a spotlight is on the business community due to its influence and reach. Corporations are being pressured to better reflect the communities they serve. The events of the past year have emboldened investors and employees alike to voice their concerns about greater diversity in the workplace and representation in the senior ranks. A deluge of corporate pledges, commitments and initiatives were launched following the killing of George Floyd. Chief diversity, equity and inclusion officers have been thrust into the spotlight like never before and tasked with achieving objectives – both internal and external – set forth by CEOs and boards of directors.
Are diversity, equity and inclusion leaders being empowered to drive the change needed to boost representation within their organizations? Are they receiving the infrastructure and support to accelerate change demanded by stakeholders? How are these leaders balancing priorities from employees, investors, customers and other stakeholders? What are the immediate steps every organization should take to exhibit their commitment to creating a representative workforce? How should organizations strategize to meet the evolving composition of the workforce? As anti-Asian violence increases in the U.S. and abroad, what can DE&I leaders do to support their colleagues and the communities in which they serve? We’ll convene leaders across business, finance and technology to discuss their blueprint for creating a more equitable workforce.
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- Chip Bergh, President & Chief Executive Officer, Levi Strauss & Co.
- Dalana Brand, Vice President, People Experience and Head of Inclusion and Diversity, Twitter
- James Momon, Senior Vice President, Chief Equity Officer, 3M
- Elizabeth A. Morrison, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, Levi Strauss & Co.
- Shari Slate, Chief Inclusion and Collaboration Officer; Vice President, Inclusive Future and Strategy, Cisco
- Lorie Valle-Yañez, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, MassMutual
- Shartia Brantley, Deputy New York Bureau Chief and Senior Editor, Bloomberg Live
- Pamela Hutchinson, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Bloomberg LP
- Karen Toulon, Equality Chief Correspondent; Host, Black in Focus, Bloomberg
To kick off the event, James Momon, Senior Vice President, Chief Equity Officer, 3M discussed how the company solicited employees’ opinions on how to invest a $50 million social justice fund. “Their assessments were really critical to some of the choices we made on a million dollars worth of that $50 million investment,” he said. He added that 3M, which is based in St. Paul, Minn., had a particular responsibility to respond to George Floyd’s killing as a local story. Momon said the company wanted to give employees “outlets to be part of solutions versus trying to almost languishing in the trauma and the tragedy of the last year – we really wanted to have positive outlets.”
As corporations ramp up discussions of race and identity in the workplace, Dalana Brand, Vice President, People Experience and Head of Inclusion and Diversity, Twitter said she believes employees who organize those conversations should be recognized and compensated. “No more side hustles,” Brand said. “The bottom line really is, if you say the work is valued, then you really need to treat it as such.” Brand also addressed the need for corporations to tackle diversity, equity and inclusion in tandem. “This is something that we have to recognize, that no one company can sort of solve diversity, equity, inclusion by itself. We need the entire ecosystem of corporate America,” she said.
Lorie Valle-Yañez, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, MassMutual told Karen Toulon, Equality Chief Correspondent; Host, Black in Focus, Bloomberg that MassMutual has committed to training all managers in cultural competency by 2022. Seven hundred middle managers have already done so, and Valle-Yañez said her team “told them that we don’t care where you land as long as you commit to getting better over time.” Asked about DE&I’s place within a company, Valle-Yañez said “It’s less about where you’re sitting, and I think it’s more about the access that you have to the decision-makers in the organization and how much influence you can have with them wherever you’re sitting.”
In a later session, Shari Slate, Chief Inclusion and Collaboration Officer; Vice President, Inclusive Future and Strategy, Cisco spoke to Pamela Hutchinson, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Bloomberg LP about a $150 million investment Cisco has given to historically Black colleges and universities. Slate said Cisco made the gifts with an eye toward promoting diversity in future generations. “These partnerships, they’re vital. They are vital to our ability to scale, our ability to drive sustainable change. But most importantly, they’re an accelerant,” she said. “They’re an accelerant in our ability to actually drive recurring impact for generations.” She added that the investment marked only a first step, saying that “the reality of driving generational change doesn’t sit with that initial seed investment. It actually sits with others coming to the table.”
During the event’s final segment, Shartia Brantley, Deputy New York Bureau Chief and Senior Editor, Bloomberg Live spoke to Chip Bergh, President & Chief Executive Officer, Levi Strauss & Co. and Elizabeth A. Morrison, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, Levi Strauss & Co. about their efforts to create an equitable workplace.
Bergh recalled conversations last summer with Black employees. “Just hearing from them what they live day-to-day both on the outside, living and working in the Bay Area, but also on the inside, hearing about the microaggressions that happen inside the company and the challenges that they have, hearing how difficult it is to look up the hierarchy and not see somebody like you in a position of higher authority and power,” he said. He called the sessions “gut-wrenching” but said they led him to better understand the scope of the issues those employees faced.
Bergh also said DE&I initiatives should affect how companies operate more broadly. “This is about company culture, but it’s also about business performance. And we’re just not living up to the full potential of the company when we’ve got that kind of a culture inside and when we’re not as diverse and representative of the consumers that we’re serving in this country and around the world,” he said.
No matter how robust their DE&I strategy, companies still have to sell it to employees, Morrison said. “So bringing the energy, bringing the commitment, bringing the real passion to life, I think in a way that excites our employees and allows and supports our leaders to lean in from ally to activist,” she said.
Morrison capped off the event by saying that even companies that struggle with diversity should view DE&I work as an opportunity. “I think every leader needs to take a real hard look in the mirror, take a look at the numbers for their company or their organization. And if you want to make a change, the best place to start is to declare where you are and then go from there,” she said.
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