At BE Summit, Chief Diversity Officers To Discuss How George Floyd Tragedy Reignited Corporate DEI

The events of 2020 – in particularly the murder of George Floyd – prompted an essential refocusing and expansion of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies, according to the top-tier corporate diversity professionals featured in BLACK ENTERPRISE’s DEI Virtual Summit on June 23.

The Summit’s Chief Diversity Officers Roundtable – entitled “Developing High-Impact DEI Agendas” – features leading CDOs speaking candidly and in detail about the impact of 2020 on their respective companies and how new awareness is driving change.

“[George Floyd] mobilized the hearts and minds of employees of all backgrounds,” says Wells Fargo Executive Vice President Jimmie Walton Paschall, who leads Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Diverse Segments at the company. “The power of this issue and the opportunities for us was that African American leaders across the company were willing to tell our own story. Eyes were opened in ways they had not been before. People realized they need to get more proximate to different.”

BLACK ENTERPRISE Senior Vice President and Editor-At-Large Alfred E. Edmond, Jr. moderates the roundtable, which delves into the changing expectations and increased influence of the chief diversity officer role in the wake of external events. While the events of 2020 have been instrumental in reigniting companywide DEI agendas, CDOs have been laying the groundwork for change for decades.

Sonia Cargan, Senior Vice President and Chief Colleague Inclusion & Diversity Officer at American Express, shares the company’s diversity success using quantitative data, including its 60% board diversity and 48% workforce diversity within the US. Such performance, she says, has been driven by Amex’s corporate culture. “You can have as much diversity as you want in your organization but if you don’t have an inclusive culture, where people know they belong and can be their very best selves, then you’re not optimizing the innovation and creative we know diversity brings to our businesses.”

Celeste Warren, Vice President, Global Diversity and Inclusion Center of Excellence at Merck, connects internal culture to the importance of a larger social agenda. “It’s not enough that we’re doing things inside our four walls, we have a responsibility to look outside to the community,” she says, citing the company’s work on health inequity and workforce development, starting with young people. “[We need to help] high school, middle school and college students understand STEM-related fields, especially Black and Brown students who may not see that opportunity. We need a pipeline to the future, and that has to be comprised of a diverse workforce.”

The BE DEI Summit goes live Wednesday, June 23, 2021. Join the Chief Diversity Officer Roundtable from 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.