CEOs from 24 major companies like Pfizer, CarMax, HP, Prudential Financial, and more reveal action plans for racial equality

CEOs from 24 major companies like Pfizer, CarMax, HP, Prudential Financial, and more reveal action plans for racial equality

From left, Jide Zeitlin (Tapestry CEO), Enrique Lores (HP CEO), Mary Dillon (Ulta Beauty CEO), and Ali Ghodsi (Databricks CEO).

Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Tapestry; HP; Ulta Beauty; Databricks; Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

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Diversity, equity, equality, inclusion: American business has many names for working toward racial justice.

To get a sense of how executives are positioning these efforts, we sent over 200 of them this prompt:

What commitments are you making to diversity, inclusion, and equity as an organization and in your role as a CEO? Have any changed in light of recent events? What initiatives are you pushing? And how specifically are you tracking progress towards your goals?

Below are the exclusive responses from the leaders of HP, TikTok, Tapestry, Prudential Financial, Ulta Beauty, Pfizer, and more. Their submissions have been edited for clarity and length.

Enrique Lores is the president and CEO of HP, one of the largest computer and electronics companies. He said while the company has made important progress in certain areas of diversity, such as gender, he’s not satisfied with its African American hiring numbers.

Enrique Lores

“On June 5, thousands of employees from across HP joined our first in a series of racial equality town halls. It was an opportunity for us all to learn more about the personal experiences of our Black colleagues and to begin conceiving of ways we can confront and combat the stain of racism on our society — not only in the U.S., but globally. 

“We are attacking the problem in two ways. Internally, it starts with getting our own house in order. Externally, we are using our influence with our partners and suppliers to encourage progress across the broader HP ecosystem.

“As an HP leadership team, we’re talking daily about ways to accelerate diversity at all levels of the company, from our internship programs to the C-suite. Because even though HP has the most diverse Board of Directors in the U.S. technology industry and about 40% of our U.S. hires last year came from minority groups, we still have a long way to go. 

“Since taking over as CEO late last year, I’ve been analyzing our data and asking tough questions. While we’ve made important progress in certain areas of diversity such as gender, we haven’t made nearly enough in others. I’m not satisfied with our African American hiring numbers, for example, and this is not a time for excuses. This is a time to shine a spotlight on the problem, fix what’s not working, and redouble of our efforts. My leadership team and I will drive this, and we’re creating a task force to identify the biggest opportunities we have as a company to improve.

“The HP Foundation recently pledged $500,000 to social justice organizations, and we are double-matching employee contributions. But no company should pretend this is a problem that can be fixed simply by opening our wallets.

“We continue to invest in our longtime partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to engage, mentor, and recruit students, and we are serving as advisors to the Business Dean’s through the HBCU Business Dean’s Roundtable. 

“In the wake of COVID-19, which has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, we have also been supporting the HBCUvc’s Student Relief Fund while connecting students to HP employees and resources that provide skills training and promote social entrepreneurship. We have also been collaborating with the Oakland Unified School District to provide equipment, supplies, and printed content to support remote teaching and learning.

“These and the other actions we’ll be taking across HP only matter if we hold ourselves accountable. That’s why we publicly report our progress each year — and I’ve asked our teams to take a fresh look at this body of work to make we’re setting our targets high enough and taking strong actions when the data shows clear opportunities for improvement.”

Linda Findley Kozlowski is the CEO of Blue Apron, a pioneer meal-kit-delivery service. She said it would be closing all facilities on Election Day and offering employees paid time off.

Linda Findley Kozlowski.

Linda Findley Kozlowski

“Blue Apron recognizes and rejects the systemic and institutional racism that continues to cause pervasive and senseless injustice towards the Black community. We know that change starts from within and for us, that starts with our employees.

“In light of recent events, Blue Apron has committed to building out diversity and inclusion programming for our employees specifically designed to address unconscious bias, promote anti-racism and advance equity.

“We are, additionally, closing all facilities on Election Day, with pay, and supporting our employees who want to vote by assisting with voter registration, early voting services, absentee ballots, and transportation to the polls.

“And in the wake of the most recent events, we are donating $50,000 to organizations chosen by our employees. We are proud of the work that we are doing to come together during this trying time. Our employees are our voice and representative of the values we wish to uphold, so we want to ensure our work environment is a reflection of the world we want to see.”

Jide Zeitlin is the CEO of Tapestry, the luxury retail company that owns Coach, Kate Spade New York, and Stuart Weitzman. His team sets concrete goals and follows metrics to attain them.


“Diversity is a concrete goal internally — it involves implementing rigorous metrics, knowing what success looks like, and holding ourselves accountable. We measure it on a quarterly basis during our talent reviews and it’s also measured as part of our organizational reviews.

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made and the goals we’ve put in place, but there is much yet to do, especially in the area of racial diversity at more senior levels of our organization.

“As of 2019, our corporate population was 44% ethnically diverse, and our leadership team (VP+) was 21% ethnically diverse. We set an internal goal to increase diversity within our VP+ leadership population to at least 44%, to align with our overall corporate population. We are also focused on our culture and making sure it is as inclusive as we are diverse.

“We’ve taken important steps but realize there is far more to do. In 2019:

  • We set 2025 corporate responsibility goals to build diversity in our North American brand leadership teams by increasing the number of ethnic minority leaders. Our leadership needs to better reflect our general corporate population and we want to reduce differences in our Employee Inclusion Index scores based on gender and ethnicity.
  • Tapestry brought the fashion industry together by hosting a collective signing of the ‘Open to All’ inclusivity pledge at our Hudson Yards headquarters to kick off NYFW. 50 fashion houses, the CFDA and the CEO Action made a collective commitment that when they open the doors of their stores and corporate offices, they open them to everyone.
  • I signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge to reaffirm our commitment towards advancing inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

“Over the past two weeks, leaders across our organization have come together to think through how we can contribute to change. Our team wants to collaborate with social justice, legal, and corporate entities to develop and support longer-term plans for addressing systemic inequality. Inequality in health, economic opportunity, public safety, and other sectors, and we’re taking the first steps along these lines. We hope to join with government, but events of this past week make it clear that we cannot wait.  

“This has also been an opportunity for us to be vulnerable, to connect with our employees, through open and honest conversations where everyone has the opportunity to ask questions of our senior leaders and to share their thoughts.  

“Initiatives we’re pushing:

  • The importance of inclusion should be infused into all aspects of our business — from orientation to leadership development and throughout our learning curriculum. 
  • Last year, we established an Inclusion Council to enhance our systemic focus on ensuring that people with diverse perspectives and backgrounds are included in business decisions.
  • In 2019, we rolled out Inclusion training to our employees globally to foster a welcoming and open workplace, where we fully embrace diverse perspectives to drive innovation and business results. 
  • This year, we are hosting a virtual summer internship program where 54% of participants come from diverse backgrounds. 
  • Tapestry is a member of the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, the largest business coalition committed to advancing Diversity and Inclusion. The Company participated in the ‘Beyond the Bottom Line’ series in 2019, where CEOs have an open dialogue with employees about the challenges of the modern workplace, and ways to overcome them.”

Kelly Grier is the chair and managing partner of EY US, one of the most recognized accounting and professional-services groups. She said the company was contributing a total of $4 million to historically Black colleges and universities to increase the number of Black Americans in their profession.

Kelly Grier.

Kelly Grier

“We have focused our strategic efforts on the recruitment, engagement and advancement of underrepresented minorities, and have redoubled our commitment to investing in their professional careers by providing equal access to opportunities and experiences that will advance their career trajectories.

“We’ve created an Anti-Racism task force, spearheaded by our Talent Diversity & Inclusiveness Leader, that has developed a three-pronged approach to drive strategic change in our firm, in the communities where we work, and in local, state, and federal governments.  

“Internally, we’re challenging our talent and business processes to identify unintended biases that impair equity across race. We’re supporting our people who so desperately want to help, to lend support as allies by being vocally and visibly anti-racist and have provided them with resources and tips to facilitate these courageous conversations.

“We have declared August 28th, 2020 a day of service for our people to participate in the march in DC commemorating the 57th anniversary of the original Martin Luther King Jr. march on Washington. Additionally, we are focused on creating awareness and educating the majority — to avoid putting an undue burden on people from underrepresented groups. EY’s leaders throughout the US have been hosting ‘dialogue sessions’ where all EY people have a chance to listen, learn, and partake in two-way dialogue. We are also implementing mandatory anti-bias training and taking a hard look at our vendors and procurement process to ensure that we are only doing business with people who adhere to a common set of values. Simply said: they must be anti-racist. 

“For our communities, we’re enhancing our long-standing commitment to supporting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, contributing a total of $4 million collectively to increase the number of Black Americans in our profession. We’re also fully funding a Digital Divide initiative to bridge the distance learning gap for underserved students. And we are taking steps to ensure that we are not just giving financial resources, but time, expertise, and access to key networks. Understanding that lack of access to funds and connections hinders many Black and Latinx businesses from achieving full potential, EY is expanding the launch of a new program focused on Black and Latinx entrepreneurs, called EY Access. The program leverages our significant Entrepreneur of the Year platform to help connect these entrepreneurs to peers, sponsors, capital and customers. 

“Furthermore, EY will use its powerful and influential platform to drive positive change within local, state and federal governments. We’re currently exploring our contributions and investments, and using our resources, relationships and influence on policy matters to affect change. At the same time, we have declared January 18, 2021 a Day of Service, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., where we encourage our US employees to give back to their communities, wherever they are.

“Lastly, what’s woefully absent right now from many organizations’ plans is a system for being held accountable by a broad set of stakeholders that have a responsibility to deliver more. As we move forward with changes inside and outside EY, it’s critical that we evaluate our progress to ensure that the changes we implement are both sustainable and actionable.”

Stephen Klasko is the CEO of Jefferson Health, a nonprofit health system in and around Philadelphia. He said the company was committed to hiring more women and people of color in their executive leadership.

Stephen Klasko.

Jefferson Health

“Many people have drawn a parallel between the COVID-19 pandemic and the racism pandemic. One is a few months old; one is centuries old. Both injure us all, but they strike Black lives hardest. Science will eventually solve this coronavirus, and prepare us better for the next one. Solving the pandemic of racism, however, will take action — not gestures — by every one of us for years to come.

“Sadly, healthcare remains a key example of what is called systemic racism. We know that your zip code determines longevity more than genetic code. The century of redlining means people of color end up on the wrong end of the ‘social determinants of health.’ Specifically, your health has more to do with food, education, housing and jobs than anything else. We must admit that we have a broken system that is confusing, not integrated, not equitable, and often built to exclude African Americans.

“This means it is a time for actions, not gestures. Last year, the Jefferson trustees assigned 20% of my personal incentive to reducing health disparities among zip codes in Philadelphia. Further, Jefferson launched the Philadelphia Collaborative for Health Equity, reaching across the city to help with food, healthcare, and education. This month we built a community database for 200 of our employees to participate and contribute.

“To attack systemic racism, Jefferson, as Philadelphia’s largest hospital system, is tackling those social determinants of health.

  • Food: Jefferson physicians won a five-year NIH grant to conduct medical nutrition education through telehealth, and if needed, deliver medically appropriate meals for those with poorly controlled diabetes. The ultimate goal of this work is to integrate these services in insurance plans. 
  • Housing: One of the major social determinants of health. In Philadelphia, we’ve partnered with Habitat for Humanity’s ‘Capable’ program, using our occupational therapists to ensure that people who gain houses through Habitat also gain job skills and a pipeline into the workforce.
  • Jobs: As a major employer, Jefferson commits to hiring more women and people of color in executive leadership. We have made significant progress over the past three years, but we know we have further to go. Our university student body is 15% African American — higher than most in Philadelphia, but not what we aspire to.”

Shazi Visram is CEO of Healthynest, a parenting platform that provides resources to families. She said the company worked with a B Corp every year to audit its actions as a business and find new ways to be better.

Shazi Visram.

Shazi Visram

“Healthynest’s office is headquartered in NYC on the street where violence and looting have cleaned out stores. This social upheaval so close to home has really shaken us, woken us to the complexity of the challenges, but our team has also been buoyed by our mission to support our children’s developmental well-being.

“As CEO it is up to me to lead, set the ground rules, get buy-in from stakeholders, and make and uphold change today that we know is necessary for tomorrow. While we are seeing a lack of consistency from governmental leadership, we can and must control and shape our work environments. Here are a few of the pillars that I lead with:

  • Accountability: Back in 2010, I joined the B Corp Community and committed Happy Family to become a certified B Corp. B Corporations are certified as businesses that balance purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. The B Corp audit occurs annually to assess your business and provide feedback and an improvement plan to implement positive changes according to industry best practices. For those of you looking for a roadmap and best practices, BLab is the place to start.
  • Codify and Iterate: Then in 2016, when divisiveness wracked our country with anti-immigration sentiment, I authored a company-wide ‘happy manifesto‘ to find a way to focus our team on our purpose and common ground while addressing the challenges of our times, to make a stand for what we believed in. I got input and buy-in from my management team. We met together as a company and each and every employee signed it, pledging commitment to our longstanding mission into a way to behave to make it possible. 
  • Renewal: At healthynest, we similarly created a ‘healthy way to be‘ and we have also recently become B Corp certified. Every year we work with the good people at B Corp to audit our actions as a business and to find new ways to be better. B Corp’s leadership and expertise can help companies — from startups to more established conglomerates — improve their social and environmental integrity which requires a constant examination of our times and the issues that matter most to address.

“By defining what progress requires in a corporate organization, we hold each other accountable and we make positive change. It becomes systemic. Just like that.”

Vanessa Pappas is the general manager of TikTok US, the short-form-video app. She said the company was investing in its technology and moderation strategies to uphold community guidelines, which strictly ban racism and hate speech.

Jerod Harris/Getty Images

“In light of the recent events across the country, we have been reflecting on how we can do better. We acknowledge that we must do more than simply talk about the importance of diversity on our platform, but take active steps to protect and promote it.

“On the platform level, we are investing in our technology and moderation strategies to uphold our Community Guidelines, which strictly ban racism and hate speech on our platform.

“It is equally important for us to listen to our creator community and in service of this, we are establishing a creator diversity council to uplift the voices driving culture and important conversations on the platform and have developed a creator portal to further expand communication channels with our broader creator community.

“As a company, we are continuing to further the efforts of our internal diversity task force and engaging organizations and experts to analyze how our products and policies can better serve people of all backgrounds. From a content perspective, we’re offering special programming throughout Black Music Month to celebrate and highlight Black artists’ contributions to music on our platform.

“These steps are in addition to donations we have made to our community, including $3 million from our Community Relief Fund to non-profits that help the Black community, which has been disproportionately affected by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, $1 million toward fighting the racial injustice and inequality that we are witnessing in this country, and a 2:1 company donation match on every dollar contributed by our employees to non-profit organizations at the center of this issue.

“I’ve been deeply moved by the expressions of grief and resolve from TikTok employees and inspired by our TikTok community’s courage and strength to stand up for these important issues. We as a company share the pain that our country is in. We are listening to our community and are dedicated to doing our part as we continue to foster a space where everyone is seen and heard.”

Charles Lowrey is the CEO of Prudential Financial, a Fortune 500 company that provides insurance, investment management, and financial services. He said it would ask other companies it does business with to stand as vocal allies going forward.

Prudential CEO Charles Lowrey.


“In March 2019, within months of becoming Prudential’s CEO, I announced four major initiatives to set our company’s focus. Becoming a fully inclusive company was on that short list.

“Despite our substantive and long-standing equity commitments and programs, I wanted to drive results further and faster because it is a moral imperative, and it makes us a better employer, community partner, and company. We are adapting and accelerating this work to respond to the profoundly disturbing nature of recent events.

“While we are all feeling a lot of emotions right now, our Black colleagues understandably are finding it difficult to show up as if nothing is happening. Prudential, among the oldest and largest companies in the U.S., is stepping forward as an ally by amplifying and continuing to speak out against racism and for equity. Our public statement of anti-racist values last Monday was reinforced in broadcast and social media by our leaders. Going forward, we will ask the other companies we transact business with to stand as vocal allies alongside us.

“Prudential’s Black Leadership Forum, formed in 2002, brought together nearly 5,000 employees last Thursday to share expert perspectives, personal stories of everyday racism, and specific actions we need to take as a company. We are hosting smaller sessions across the enterprise to enable employees to engage and reflect, and to help us understand the further actions we can take to make a measurable difference.

“We are proud that Prudential already has a diverse board, but we have more to do. To drive greater accountability, we tied senior executive long-term compensation to diverse representation goals in 2018, with financial consequences if we don’t make progress. An in-house team of experts in inclusion, philanthropy, and socially-responsible investing has led Prudential’s partnerships to build a diverse talent pipeline and fund social justice organizations for more than 40 years. This group is now partnering with our U.S. businesses to drive an inclusive recovery from the pandemic centered on racial equity.

“Our public voice on this topic is not new. Just last year Prudential funded a documentary, ‘Legacy Lives On,’ on historic social and economic injustices that have influenced today’s financial realities for the Black community. Earlier this year, I joined New Jersey Governor Murphy’s Restart and Recovery Commission with a special focus on building an equitable recovery in light of the disproportionately negative health and economic effects of this pandemic on our state’s working class, our Black, Hispanic and immigrant residents, and those struggling against poverty.”

Albert Bourla is the chairman and CEO of Pfizer, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies. He said to ensure accountability, the company updated its governance structure so that a subset of the its executive leadership team has direct responsibility for diversity and inclusion commitments.

Albert Bourla.

Albert Bourla

“Last year, we identified equity as one of Pfizer’s four core values because we knew that to achieve our purpose — breakthroughs that change patients’ lives — we must foster an inclusive environment. Central to that ambition, we also committed to achieve 25% minority representation in the U.S. at the VP and above level by 2025, up from 19% currently. Among our global workforce we committed to 47% of women at the VP and above level by 2025, up from 33% today. 

“Pfizer also hosted the first-ever global broadcast of its annual D&I Summit, linking the company’s Diversity & Inclusion strategy to our values (courage, excellence, equity and joy), with a focus on equity.

“It was a moving experience and I was proud to present at the summit, where we shared the results of Pfizer’s first global pay equity study, and introduced the members of Pfizer’s Diversity & Inclusion Governance Council. To ensure accountability, we updated our D&I governance structure so that a subset of the company’s Executive Leadership Team has direct responsibility for key commitments. 

“Still, we know there is much more work to do. 

“In recent days, Pfizer colleagues have displayed the courage and excellence we so cherish by speaking up directly to management to encourage even deeper dialogue and more meaningful action. We are grateful for their ideas and input on how to move forward and learn from the sad events of recent days.”

Shama Amalean is the chief product officer and interim CEO of Thinx, the feminine-hygiene and underwear startup. She said the company would institute blind résumés to minimize unconscious bias and increase diversity in its talent pool.

Shama Amalean.

Shama Amalean

“Thinx, Inc. has been committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity since the onset of the company; but last year, as part of a company-wide effort to learn and build a robust DEI strategy, we initiated DEI training for the company conducted by a reputed external trainer.

“This led to the creation of people of color and white caucuses that allow us to discuss, change, and grow together. In light of recent events, we have amped up this discussion, collecting thoughts and suggestions from our team and brainstorming efforts to enhance our DEI initiatives to drive long-term, sustained change.

“Over the coming weeks, we are committed to:

  • Reinstating a DEI committee dedicated to building the systems and tools to drive long-term change at Thinx.
  • Starting a leadership team DEI caucus, where discussions around how to push our DEI strategy forward are discussed on a monthly basis. The caucuses will also serve as a space for leadership to learn. 
  • Adding Black-owned agencies and partners to the list of vendors we work with.
  • Not putting the responsibility on the BIPOC people at our company to lead these efforts for us, or educate us on how to do so.
  • Obtaining EEO-1 data from our employees to have a baseline off of which to hold ourselves accountable.

“In longer term plans, we remain committed to:

  • Continuing the anti-oppression training we began last year.
  • Encouraging employees to use their Give Time Off, which is three days employees receive annually dedicated to volunteering, to support Black Lives Matter
  • Commitment to diversity in our marketing and casting
  • Increase diversity in our talent pool. To do so, we’ll implement the following:
    • Updating our job briefs: converting all job descriptions to gender-neutral language
    • Instituting blind resumes to minimize unconscious bias.”

Henry Fernandez is the CEO of MSCI, an American finance company that publishes indexes. He said the company would continue to regularly review and manage compensation levels for gender-pay disparity to ensure any elements of bias are eliminated.

Henry Fernandez.

Henry Fernandez

“We are keenly focused on having a strong corporate responsibility framework in place and our efforts in diversity and inclusion are a big part of this.

“First, we are committed to driving education and awareness throughout the firm and increasing employee engagement and action. Leading this initiative is MSCI’s Executive Diversity Council (EDC), which is composed of 29 employees representing 19 offices across 13 countries. The EDC’s mission is to champion a diverse and an inclusive culture by providing ongoing counsel on corporate initiatives and facilitating collaboration across the company. EDC members are responsible for partnering with our existing employees resource groups to raise awareness, conduct events around the globe, and serve as sponsors in their respective locations.

“We also host an annual three-day Diversity and Inclusion Summit for MSCI employees to create a forum for discussion and engagement around related key issues and drive creative ideas that can enhance our global efforts.

“Second, we are committed to developing an employee workforce that reflects the diverse communities in which we operate by diversifying our talent pool and improving the talent acquisition process from pipeline to onboarding and integration. This includes hiring and promoting qualified candidates historically underrepresented in the financial services industry, including racial and ethnic minorities, women, and the LGBTQ community. As part of this, we offer mentorship programs to assist with professional development and have significant diverse representation in our premier leadership development programs. 

“In addition, we are firmly devoted to equal pay. We have made considerable progress in closing the gap between the average pay for men and women in the same role and location across the company. We continue to regularly review and manage compensation levels for gender pay disparity to ensure that if any elements of bias are identified, they are eliminated.

“Finally, we are focused on driving societal impact through ongoing community outreach and collaboration. Over the last few years, we have sponsored multiple outstanding organizations dedicated to supporting underserved and underrepresented communities, including Out Leadership, Pencils of Promise, and Latinos in Finance.”

Penny Pennington is the managing partner of Edward Jones, a Fortune 500 financial-services firm headquartered in Missouri. She said the company was committed to ensuring that people of color and women have opportunities to establish themselves within the firm.

Courtesy of Edward Jones

“I, for one, want there to be no question about whether our firm is doing enough to positively impact the opportunities for people of color. We are a firm built on personal relationships — with our clients, with one another, and with fellow community builders in all the communities where we serve. Our most effective tool right now is honest discussion.

“We have committed to engage in Courageous Conversations, giving associates an opportunity to share their lived experience and to listen. More than 1,000 associates attended conversations last week, with another 2,000 registered this week, and dozens of sessions scheduled over the weeks ahead. Given current conditions, all are hosted on Zoom, enabling us to be really close to one another as we share. It’s not uncommon to have many more individuals show up than registered, simply because we want and need an outlet to listen, to understand, or to be heard. One associate said to me, ‘Penny, there is today too high a bar for ugly racism. The most harmful racism of all is what lies beneath the surface.’

“These conversations were borne from our signing in 2017 of the ‘CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion’ pledge, a nationwide initiative to advance inclusion and diversity in our workplace. In addition to the Courageous Conversations, through this pledge we committed to expand our unconscious bias training and share best practices with the more than 900 other companies that have signed the pledge.

“We are also committed to ensuring that people of color and women have opportunities to establish themselves as successful financial advisors with our firm. Through tailored programs, mentorship and support, we are helping minority financial advisors by giving them a strong starting point they can build upon. We continue to make those programs a priority and expand them.

“As one of the first firms in the financial services industry to offer paid parental leave to all associates, we helped to address an issue that disproportionately impacts parents of color, who typically have less access to paid parental leave and cannot afford to take unpaid days off. We made this decision because we understand how critical childcare is to all working parents and necessary for strong families and communities.

“COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on the Black community. According to the Federal Reserve, nearly 40% of Americans, disproportionately people of color, lack basic emergency savings. Helping to build greater financial resilience among our clients, investors, young people and our associates is something we are passionate about. We’ve provided a number of resources, including Financial Fitness tools, extra days of paid time off and activated our Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to associates who are experiencing unexpected hardship as a result of the pandemic.

“Of course, these programs build on the inclusion and diversity initiatives we’ve been doing for quite some time. We began having conversations around micro-inequities 11 years ago, started unconscious bias training four years ago, and for the past 10 years have convened an Inclusion and Diversity Week featuring speakers and special activities at our home office locations — for our own associates as well as fellow community builders.

“In addition to these programs, we have 17 Business Resource Groups in the U.S. and Canada to promote cultural awareness, foster a sense of belonging for all and provide opportunities for professional development and networking. These include Black/African American, Asian American, Hispanic and LGBT+ and Allies groups, among others. We have also committed to diverse slates in our hiring approach since 2017; and our branch teams have leadership roles committed to inclusion and diversity. Our leadership development programs provide rich experiences for new and emerging leaders.”

Arthur Sadoun is the chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, a global marketing, communication, and digital-transformation firm. He said on June 17, the company’s US employees would dedicate the day to discussing reform-oriented projects.

Publicis Groupe

“Recognizing we have to be better as an industry and as a company, we need to imagine, design, and execute new ways to fight racism and provide more opportunities for the Black community inside our company. With this, as a company we have committed to collectively answer four fundamental questions:

  1. How do we provide more opportunities for Black people in our agencies and brands?
  2. How do we foster a culture of growth & progress to create more Black leaders in the top levels of our company? 
  3. How do we ensure our white colleagues become active partners and strong contributors to the success of our Black colleagues?
  4. As we all know, racism is not restricted to the US or the Black community, so how can we help support all minorities around the world?

“To answer these questions, we put in place clear actions. On June 17, we will host a day — in which all U.S. employees will participate — dedicated to the reforms we need to put in place and set foundation for our future actions. It will be a day to listen, debate, and ideate new ways to tackle these four fundamental questions. The best ideas, solutions, and actions from this day will be refined, implemented and measured.

“Importantly, we are also making sure our entire employee community comes to that day prepared. To do so, we are giving all U.S. employees a day of pause to reflect, reset, and heal, prior to our coming together as a company to discuss ideas and actions. We are also asking all employees to educate themselves with the necessary knowledge foundation to help understand the Black experience in America, providing a suggested list of resources, and for those that aren’t free, reimbursing their purchase. Further, we are making sure all our leaders are listening and supporting concerns. One of the many ways we’re doing this is with a Q&A session, hosted by me, with 3,000 leaders in advance of the company-wide session, dedicated to preparing for that day.”

Donna Imperato is the global CEO of Burson Cohn & Wolfe, one of the largest public-relations firms. She said progress on diversity, inclusion, and equity was now a weighted component of the company’s leadership incentive programs.

Courtesy of BCW Global

“Inclusion and diversity have been critical priorities for me and for BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe), well before the appalling killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many other Black people that have gripped our nation and the world. While we had an award-winning program in place, we knew we needed to do much, much more. So, in January 2020 we hired Carol Watson, Executive Vice President/Managing Director, to lead inclusion and diversity for BCW.

“In Carol’s short time here, we have already stood up a comprehensive program called IDEA, for inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility. Under the IDEA umbrella we have created: 

  • HR task forces that are redesigning the policies and processes of our business — from recruitment and hiring to development and promotion — to mitigate bias and ensure equity for all;
  • Revamped auditing processes, through which we are benchmarking our progress through our partnership with Inclusive 100 (using the DBP Inclusion Index tool, which tracks improvement in key drivers of inclusion and diversity across industries), developing progress and metrics reporting and ensuring regular communications about our progress;
  • Three new Employee Resource Groups (bringing our total to seven), including Parenting/Caregiving, Asian and Capable (people with disabilities), which were leveraged to support employees during COVID-19. We also recently completed a virtual session with resources and support on mental health; and,
  • Improved accountability. IDEA requires quarterly reporting to our leadership on leading and lagging indicators and progress highlights, and bi-annual strategy meetings within our markets and practice areas. Critically, progress on diversity, inclusion and equity is now a weighted component of our leadership incentive programs. 

“In addition, we recently created a relational inclusion task force, part of our Global Growth Culture Council and made up of colleagues from across our five global regions, to drive inclusion across cultures. We are also rethinking our people leadership development program plans to include leadership and bias management content. 

“Despite what we had already put in place, since George Floyd’s death I have set out to better understand the underlying issues of racial injustice in the workplace and our workforce that are not readily apparent. During this past week, we: 

  • Held listening events with our global staff and conducted safe space dialogues with our Black employee resource groups and with our senior-most Black leaders;
  • Developed a resource guide called What Can I Do? which provides information for office discussions and local market outreach on anti-racism;
  • Posted resources on our intranet for employees to become more educated on the issues surrounding racism, as well as lists of organizations actively working against racism and those which need more support;
  • Developed a webinar for Juneteenth called ‘The Legacy of Emancipation: Past, Present and Future’; and,
  • Started taking a serious look at how anti-racism can and should be threaded through our Growth and Inclusion Network Think Tanks, which focus on Client Solutions, Professional Development, Cultural Insights, Community/Purpose and Recruiting. 

“Ensuring real and sustainable change within our own organization is our most critical focus, but it is not our only focus. As a global communications firm with clients up and down the Fortune 500, we have an extraordinary opportunity — truly, a responsibility — to help facilitate change in corporate America and beyond by helping our clients build meaningful, sustainable diversity programs in their own organizations and make meaningful connections with diverse audiences.

“Our newly created Inclusive Recovery offering helps businesses and organizations become more inclusive and engaged for the diversity within their communities, customer bases and other audiences who may have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. We are also creating a framework that follows up on Inclusive Recovery that guides clients on anti-racism to help them assess, acknowledge, act, adapt and account for anti-racism within their organizations and the community at large.”

Punit Seth is the CEO of Toast, an upscale cannabis startup. He said his staff would set up a leadership program for paid interns who are people of color and have directly been affected by the war on drugs.

Punit Seth.

Punit Seth

“Diversity and inclusion has been integral to our DNA since we founded the company in 2017. This is because systemic racism is unfortunately ingrained in our troubled past as an industry. Cannabis prohibition indoctrinated systemic racism worldwide and is still visible today in our criminal justice system where people of color are incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis-related crimes at a much higher rate than their white peers. This punishment is then compounded because most statewide cannabis systems prevent convicted felons from participating in the legal cannabis system, further perpetuating systemic racism.

“For us, it’s personal.

“We implemented a policy when we founded the company that cannabis convictions would not be held against any existing employee or candidate during the recruiting process. The horrible killing of George Floyd followed by the outcry of support for change in our country has made us mourn as a team and also reflect deeply and evaluate our mission and policies as an organization.  

“That’s why I’ve outlined an action plan starting with a 60-day review with the Board of Directors to evaluate diversity and inclusion in our organization across four key areas: 

  1. We are requiring diversity goals at all levels of the organization including talent recruitment and retention strategy of people of color, gender, and sexual orientation. We will tie leadership compensation and incentives to achieving these targets.
  2. We are formalizing existing company policies including equal work/equal pay and not looking at prior cannabis convictions in our hiring process.  We will also review best practices and policies from other companies that we should implement so hold ourselves accountable.
  3. We are looking outside our company and actively seeking out ways to bring change. This includes holding our vendors and partners accountable to the same standards.

    Chris Burggraeve, our co-founder, executive chairman, and faculty at NYU Stern, helped create an experiential learning course on the cannabis industry and partnered with Toast and students to develop an active student organization. During the first year students uncovered the deeply rooted issues in our industry including those concerning social justice. This provides another small but deliberate step to open the eyes of new MBA generations on how this industry can change lives for underrepresented communities. 

  1. Set up a paid internship leadership program for BIPOC candidates who have directly been impacted by the drug war. Interns will receive mentorship and career guidance from myself as CEO as well as our COO and Executive Chairman. Candidates will also be introduced to other leaders in the industry to further grow their network and assist in placing them either at Toast or another company in a leadership role.

“We’ll continue the fight for social justice, equality every day ensuring that our actions always support our intention.”

Lynn Good is the president and CEO of Duke Energy, a Fortune 150 energy holdings company headquartered in North Carolina. She said the company was pledging $1 million to nonprofit organizations committed to social justice and racial equity.

Lynn Good.

Courtesy of Lynn Good

“Duke Energy, through its foundation, is pledging $1 million to nonprofit organizations committed to social justice and racial equity. Grants will be distributed across seven states where we have electric and gas customers — North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

“In a first for the company, we’re drawing on our greatest resource — our employees — to help identify organizations that are working to address social and racial justice issues at the grassroots level and direct grants to their local communities. We expect to begin awarding grants this summer.

“We’re also continuing to build on our past efforts to support and encourage diversity, inclusion and equity, and provide grants to support affordable housing, workforce development and early childhood education.

“We’re making our diversity and inclusion programs even more of a priority by launching a conversation series to provide employees an opportunity to talk openly and candidly about how recent and historical events have impacted them. These sessions are also an opportunity for employees to register additional thoughts on how we can make our workplace more inclusive.

“We’re holding ourselves accountable to be part of the positive change for the communities we serve. We’re taking specific, measurable actions such as improving our diverse talent pipeline to increase the percentage of underrepresented employee groups, specifically females and minorities. In fact, the company has an aspirational goal to increase the percentage of females and minorities in its workforce to 25 percent and 20 percent, respectively, by the end of this year. Achieving these goals will require a balanced commitment to hiring external talent and continuing to develop and promote from within.”

David Henshall is the president and CEO of Citrix, a cloud-software maker. He said the company would expand its scholarship program for underrepresented minority students studying for degrees in technology.

Citrix CEO David Henshall.


“Our diversity and inclusion strategy is built on three pillars: fostering diversity, mitigating unconscious bias, and creating inclusive leaders and teams. To drive this strategy and ensure we progress in each of these areas, we’ve developed tools, including unconscious bias tests and self-reflection guides; modified processes to incorporate bias mitigation techniques into our hiring practices and perform pay equity studies; and launched learning programs such as Cultivating a Culture of Belonging to develop inclusive leaders and teams. 

“We are using the recent events to spur these conversations. For instance, we are working with our Black Professionals Network to organize a companywide discussion on racial equality.

“To support our communities and organizations that address systemic racism, we are also making a corporate donation to a national cause fighting racial injustice and have put in place a 2:1 donation match for all employees for donations related to causes supporting racial equality. Additionally, we will be expanding our scholarship program for underrepresented minority students pursing degrees in technology. We currently support scholarships for students at historically Black colleges and universities in Raleigh, NC, where we have an engineering hub and are exploring plans to extend this initiative to other major sites within the U.S.

“It is also essential that we amp up our efforts to fuel diversity across our global Citrix teams. We partner with a number of organizations to recruit underrepresented groups that can bring different perspectives to the table that enhance our vision and advance our mission. And we will be expanding these alliances to accelerate our progress.

“We will also bolster our programs designed to drive diversity, inclusion and belonging and provide an expanded set of resources that allow our employees to engage in meaningful discussions on the topics with executive leadership, their peers and outside experts to drive internal change. We will continue to measure progress by increasing both internal and external transparency of demographic data and benchmarks such as with the goal of driving year-over-year improvement.”

Mary Dillon is the CEO of Ulta Beauty, a makeup retailer. She said her team was working to grow its offering of Black-owned brands.

Mary Dillon.

Mary Dillon

“Support and advocacy for and with Black communities and associates, as well as Black-owned businesses and brand partners, are essential to our everyday at Ulta Beauty. With a steadfast commitment to starting new conversations, listening intently and doing what’s right, we look forward to continued growth and in solidarity with the Black community, we are:

  • Examining and working to grow our roster of Black-owned brands
  • Leveraging our social channels to amplify Black voices, Black brands and Black beauty
  • Creating safe spaces for open dialogue amongst associates with our Diversity & Inclusion Champions Network to foster an environment of open, honest engagement to see the beautiful possibilities in all
  • Leveraging the same safe spaces to listen to our associates’ individual experiences, which in turn help to further shape our culture
  • Employing the continued counsel of our diverse board of directors
  • Continuing to facilitate and reinforce unconscious bias trainings, and further our curriculum to focus on privilege, systemic racism, police brutality, and allyship 
  • Reviewing our hiring and retention efforts to understand areas of improvement
  • Donating to our existing partner, the Equal Justice Initiative, to support their commitment to ending inequality and changing the narrative about race in America. We will continue to partner and learn from EJI, as well as other important organizations like the Chicago Area Urban League and Diversity Best Practices, and are speaking to additional organizations where we can further support Black lives and voices. 

“My executive team and I will continue pursuing this effort with more passion than ever before. We hold ourselves accountable to openly connecting with our guests, associates and the communities we serve. Listening, engaging and pushing forward on this path is the how we will grow as individuals and as a company.”

Jim Chirico is the president and CEO of Avaya, a business-communications tech company headquartered in Silicon Valley. He said Avaya was establishing an employee-led diversity and inclusion council to help celebrate individuality.

Jim Chirico.

Jim Chirico

“Avaya has 8,000 global employees, so diversity, inclusion and equity have been fundamental to Avaya’s core values. I am a member of the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion program where we work toward a more inclusive and progressive workplace that values differences and evolves understanding.

“I have made a commitment to a newly established Avaya Diversity & Inclusion council. This council, created by our employees, aims to build a workplace where individuality is celebrated and harnessed, creating a culture of engagement, innovation and inclusivity.  

“We are also creating new employee resource groups — including the [email protected] (Women Inspired Network @ Avaya) group formed by our employees with a focus on women. New groups for Veterans, LGBTQ employees, African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and other employee-defined priority groups are also being put together. 

“These company-sponsored groups provide our global team with an opportunity to share open dialogue around issues, promote a culture of diversity and inclusion, and provide new business and audience insights into our diverse customer base.

“In the month of June, we have unconscious bias training for all Avaya employees. This is not a new program, but we have accelerated our schedule this month to allow for more timely discussions and a greater sense of urgency.  

“Additionally, within our existing programs, we know we have more work to do. Our Talent Acquisition program has led to steady year-over-year increases in female and minority representation in leadership positions across Avaya, and the team is currently implementing a series of new tools and practices to further increase diversity in our candidate pools for hiring and advancement. 

“Also, new as of June 3, I am a signatory to the statement from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group standing up for racial justice and equality.  

“We have taken an employee-first view of diversity and inclusion, and I have encouraged our employees to support each other and our communities in light of recent events. 

“We are closely tracking progress on these key items, while we explore other initiatives, from corporate social responsibility, to investments in non-profit organizations, to supporting employee efforts and supporting our communities.”

Margaret Keane is the president and CEO of Synchrony, a company that offers consumer financial services. She said it was providing multimillion-dollar emergency grants to nonprofit organizations to aid minority-owned small businesses and disadvantaged communities.

Synchrony Financial CEO Margaret Keane.

Synchrony Financial

“The Synchrony team is committed to being part of the solution. There are a few areas we continue to address and build upon: 

“Diversity and Inclusion Starts at the Top: In today’s complex times, diversity of thought is not a nice-to-have. It’s critical to drive culture and a better return on investment. Diversity and inclusion, which are foundational to unleashing bold innovation, is infused throughout Synchrony at every level — from the boardroom to the call center. Our Board and Executive Leadership Team set the example for the rest of the company. We have the most diverse board among Fortune 200 financial services companies. To become truly inclusive and equitable, it is imperative that companies hire diverse, inclusive leaders in positions of authority. 

“Advancing Diverse Talent: We have prioritized developing our diverse talent through a focused, data-driven approach. It is just a start for us to have built an organization that is 45% ethnically diverse and consists of 63% females. But in 2019 we more closely analyzed our data and determined we need to do more. In February of 2020 we announced an internal effort called Advancing Diverse Talent to put more focus on three strategic areas of hiring, developing and progressing diverse talent — these efforts continue today.  

“Supporting the Most Vulnerable Groups: Investments in minority owned businesses are critical. We are providing multi-million dollar emergency grants to non-profit organizations to help minority-owned small businesses and disadvantaged communities. We continue to look at ways we can further support for the Black community.”

Martin Sorrell is the founder and executive chairman of S4 Capital, a digital-advertising and marketing-services company. He said everyone in the organization would consider themselves a chief diversity officer and chief talent officer.

Martin Sorrell.

Martin Sorrell

“We’ve taken a strong point of view internally (internal communications) and publicly (Evening Standard and Campaign Connect) on the brutal, racist killing of George Floyd.

“We’ve given our people in the US a day to reflect on recent events and regroup.

“We believe everyone in the organization should effectively be a Chief Diversity Officer and Chief Talent Officer.

“We’ve also launched a fundraising campaign amongst our US people, with matching donations from S4. Donations will be made to five organizations dedicated to eliminating racism and encouraging diversity and inclusion.

“Working groups across S4 are developing training programmes and specific targets to increase diversity and inclusion as rapidly as possible.

“I’m also looking at S4 creating a Fellowship scheme in the US to offer graduates and non-graduates from minority groups the opportunity to train across the Company.”


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