Blog Post

2021 Above and Beyond Awards

September 24, 2021

For the past six years, Seramount has recognized the important efforts of employee resource groups (ERGs) in driving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and in their communities through our Above and Beyond awards. 

In 2021, we received 185 submissions across six categories. We also had two special awards. All submissions were reviewed by judges who are diversity, equity and inclusion practitioners, subject-matter experts and/or members of the Seramount team.

We are featuring highlights from this year’s Above and Beyond honorees in the following categories: business impact, community impact, workplace culture impact, workforce impact, individual leadership, and valued ally. Additionally, we’ve included information on the special awards for social justice and ERG collaboration.

We hope that you will use what you learn from this year’s awardees to move the needle forward in your organizations. Congratulations to all the ERGs that submitted nominations and to the winners of 2021!

 If you have any questions or would like to submit for 2022, please contact your relationship manager. 


Winner: Black Employees Achieving Together (BEAT), Under Armour

Under Armour’s BEAT (Black Employees Achieving Together) ERG partnered with Devin Allen, Baltimore Artist, Community Leader, UA Photographer and BEAT member to deliver a teammate-led, purpose-driven Black History Month collection to celebrate the resilience of Black culture through sports in UA’s hometown of Baltimore. This collection highlights the brand’s commitment to accelerating diversity, amplifying BIPOC voices and supporting Baltimore youth.  

BEAT teammates drove the creation of the UNDRARMR x DVNLLN collection. They were involved in all business processes including concept, design, product management, merchandising, creative, communications, and DEI. Over the course of two years, BEAT leaders met with Under Armour executives, including the CEO and Chief Product Officer, to align the strategy and intent. 

The result was a fully integrated purpose-led moment for Under Armour powered by BEAT that “became a love letter from Baltimore for Baltimore.” The team shared the voices of  

community, athletes, and teammates behind the collection in a microsite. The from media, consumers, athletes, and teammates was overwhelmingly positive. Lastly, Under Armour was able to contribute directly to the Baltimore community we were celebrating through two partnerships – Wide Angle Youth Media and Noisy Tenants.  

Winner: Black Resource & Inclusion Group of High-Caliber Talent (B.R.I.G.H.T.), Belk

B.R.I.G.H.T. (Black Resource & Inclusion Group of High-caliber Talent) is Belk’s second-most established ERG. Over the years, the team has strived to make Belk an inclusive organization through the enrichment of the Black employee experience. Each year during Black History Month, the group hosts signature events such as their Vendor Fair, where they introduce local Black-owned businesses to corporate associates.

In 2021, BRIGHT prioritized alignment with the company’s strategy of attracting new customers. The group felt that Belk’s more than 130-year business had the opportunity to better reflect the customers and communities they serve. To accomplish this, BRIGHT advocated for year-round authentic representation and celebration of their customers and communities. 

The co-leads of BRIGHT collaborated with DEI leadership, Merchants, Marketing, and Ecommerce teams to launch The Culture Shop via The goal of the Culture Shop is to continue diversifying Belk’s vendor and product categories by celebrating underrepresented communities, such as Asian, Hispanic, LGBTQ+ and more, year-round.  In only six weeks, the team led the initiative to introduce minority-owned vendors and new product categories, resulting in sales of +$100,000. 

The group plans to continue evolving representation of minority-owned vendors, and products that celebrate and meet the needs of diverse community groups year-round.  To date, they’ve launched minority owned brands like Rucker Roots, Eugenia Shea, and Freres Branchiaux with plans to introduce several others throughout the fall season. They have developed a working process and approval through the balance of 2021.


Winner: Black Employees Supporting Talent (BEST), Asurion

Asurion’s Black Employees Supporting Talent (BEST) employee resource group empowers employees to drive positive business outcomes. 

In 2020, BEST achieved this goal by:

  • Supporting recruitment programs and apprenticeships that develop frontline team members’ skills to help them advance their careers
  • Organizing high-touch opportunities with current and future BEST leaders to support retention and engagement

BEST’s commitment to Asurion’s talent strategy improved the company’s recruitment and retention efforts of diverse talent. This was accomplished by providing recruiting, interviewing, facilitation, mentoring, and networking support.

The group’s efforts paid off.

  • 100% of Black interns’ offers were accepted up 35% from last year.
  • 80% of recruited participants for Asurion’s inaugural Software Engineer Apprenticeship program are underrepresented minorities.
  • 40 Black leaders were identified as high potential ready for development opportunities.

After George Floyd’s murder, BEST spearheaded the launch of Asurion’s Call to Action for Racial Equity initiative. The ERG engaged over 50 leaders from across functions, ethnic backgrounds, and levels (from coordinators to the CEO), external D&I experts, speakers and mental health professionals significantly involved in the planning and organization. Together, this group launched the initiative to advance racial inclusion at Asurion. They secured a commitment to making a $1 million financial investment in Black communities over the next five years, formalized increasing diverse recruiting slates and panel requirements, and established an ongoing emphasis on racial equity while providing team members self-guided and formal opportunities to learn, engage and act as a part of their personal journey to antiracism monthly.

To build on the progress they made in 2020, BEST plans to empower its employees and cultivate community by ensuring the 40+ identified leaders secure development or sponsorship opportunities and building relationships with business and community organizations that would allow volunteer and engagement opportunities.

Winner: Black Originators, Leaders and Doers (BOLD), Verizon

In 2020, Verizon’s BOLD recognized that news of increased racism, violence, fear, and inequality, all during the COVID-19 pandemic, was taking a toll on employees. In response, BOLD launched a series of initiatives to support VTeamers (Verizon employees) and assist those trying to figure out how to start important conversations around these issues.

BOLD facilitated Courageous Conversations and provided an opportunity for all V-Teamers to join in and observe these authentic, educational, and transparent discussions. Additionally, through programs such as BOLD Thinking and the BOLD Learning path, employees have access to extensive career development tools which have led to career advancement preparation. BOLD Thinking is a program developed by the BOLD ERG to educate its members on educational and developmental opportunities within the business and to share resources. The BOLD Learning Pathway is an informal guide with resources for BOLD members and other Verizon employees to utilize custom content that helps propel employees’ skill sets and expose them to new ways of learning. In 2020 alone, the BOLD Learning path registrations increased by 1,800+ employees and over 400 new Verizon employees began following the BOLD the Learning Portal pathway.

Furthermore, BOLD sought out to increase diversity recruitment and spread the awareness of HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) and talent opportunities at these universities. Through BOLD’s inaugural virtual homecoming event, BOLD raised awareness about the contributions of HBCUs and the importance of recruiting talent from these institutions. As a result of their efforts, BOLD Homecoming 2020 resulted in nearly 11,000 engagements via virtual events, recruitment, and social interactions.

BOLD hopes to continue to elevate and empower their membership to keep pushing for equality, speak up for racial justice, and never stop pushing forward regarding career progression and education.

Honorable Mention: Black Professional Network (BPN), AON

Aon’s BPN (Black Professional Network) was created to serve as a Business Resource Group (BRG) to help address the interests of all colleagues throughout the firm, while raising awareness of the culture and heritage of Black colleagues. Faced with a global health pandemic and various incidents of racial injustice, 2020 pushed BPN leaders into action.

The BPN Sponsorship program, which partners high potential diverse colleagues with Aon senior leaders, experienced immense success in 2020. The primary objective of sponsorship is to create stretch opportunities or project exposure for the sponsoree, to advocate and help build network connections to enable colleagues to develop and grow at Aon. The program sponsored 20 colleagues in 2020.  Eighty-five percent of the sponsorees in our 2020 program would recommend others to participate in the program and all reported expanded networks, gaining valuable skills and development in a notable way as a result of the program.  Given our success of the sponsorship program over the last two years, we have over doubled the number of colleagues being sponsored for our 2021 program to 47.

In addition to the sponsorship program, Aon’s first Diverse Talent Attraction Strategy was created and led by several BPN members from their 13 local chapters. Aon strategically identified 6 universities that had high diverse student populations to create a long-term relationship and partnership.  This includes scholarship and curriculum development at these universities. The strategy gained the support of the organization’s Global Inclusive Leadership Council as well as the Executive Leadership Team.  To launch the strategy, Aon hosted 25 students from their partner schools for a two-day, virtual externship event during the 2020 winter break. In the first 8 months of the program, through these new partnerships we have hired 14 colleagues (in our internship and early career program), engaged with over 250 students, and hosted over 20 events with these schools.    


Winner: BCW Pride, BCW Global

In 2020, BCW Pride recognized that their agency could better demonstrate its commitment to sexual orientation and gender identity diversity. An internal survey and resource audit revealed the need for more education and materials on gender inclusivity at BCW. So, the ERG created a long-term, comprehensive campaign to move the needle on gender inclusivity among internal and external stakeholders. 

The #MyPronounsAre campaign kicked off in Pride Month 2020 and ran through International Pronouns Day on Oct. 15 with two key objectives:

  1. Deepen employee understanding of the key issues and considerations for action around gender inclusivity, and
  2. Showcase BCW’s commitment to gender inclusivity through robust thought leadership and social media activations.

The campaign had both internal and external elements. Within BCW, the ERG hosted an educational webinar exploring the many dimensions of gender; the history and explanation of pronouns today; and considerations for using pronouns in the workplace. BCW Pride also produced a how-to guide for adding pronouns to professional platforms, and a manager’s guide on how to have honest conversations around gender identity. Externally, the group posted thought leadership on LinkedIn outlining BCW’s position on the importance of gender inclusivity; an Instagram story series featuring clips of employees sharing experiences of pronoun confusion; and posts from several senior BCW executives explaining why pronouns are important at the company.

Everything came together through the strong support and valuable guidance of allies and BCW’s I&D, people, operations and marketing communications teams, as well as C-suite leadership across the agency. The collaboration resulted in #MyPronounsAre being a resounding success. According to those who responded to a recent North America employee engagement survey, 94 percent of survey respondents engaged with the campaign, 79 percent added pronouns to a professional platform, and 62 percent attended an educational webinar on pronouns.  

Winner: Cross Religion and Faith ERG Leadership Alliance, Intel

Intel’s Cross-Faith and Beliefs ERG Leaders Alliance of seven belief-based ERGs (Atheist/Agnostic, Baha’i, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh) started late 2019 just prior to the occurrence of challenging divisive forces that broke out globally such as isolation and loss during COVID, escalated racial violence, and extreme nationalism that hindered cooperation needed to prevent common challenges.

The alliance’s inception was fortuitous because its cultural goal has been to unite while celebrating diversity. Rather than making strongly held beliefs a point of contention, the alliance holds up differences as a means to understand and support one another and work together in a manner that showcases each member’s talents and interests. During COVID, the group had several virtual events such as participating in the virtual remembrance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (the entire speech was spoken by various members from various groups), group virtual prayers, and virtual social gatherings.

The alliance’s initiatives have not gone unnoticed.  Recently, an international organization, the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, recognized Intel as being number one among the Fortune 100 for “Religious Equity Diversity and Inclusion.” Also at the kick-off the Paralympic games in Tokyo, Intel was awarded the 2021 “Global Business and Interfaith Peace Gold Medal for Core Business Award” from the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, a US-based nonprofit, in cooperation with the United Nations Global Compact’s Business for Peace initiative.  Consequently, the alliance not only enables Intel employees to bring their full selves to work, inspiring high performing teams, but the Alliance is influencing the world.

The group plans to do a “world tour” within Intel, visiting all their 30+ sites globally, through virtual call-in meetings. They will have a panel of leaders from the different faith ERGs talk about a given topical area. Leaders of the alliance hope the tour will help employees to realize these faith-based and other ERGs exist and grow the number of employees that are engaged in each of the faith-based ERGs, and all other ERGs.

Honorable Mention: ADAPT, Prudential 

Prudential’s ADAPT Business Resource Group began a collaboration with the Scranton School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, which included free hearing screenings in the school’s Hearing Mobile and hosting the students for a demonstration of the many accommodations available to our employees.

 For employees who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, Prudential takes advantage of several assistive technologies. These include Purple Services that allows someone to have a virtual ASL interpreter join meetings on-demand via tablet. Job candidates who need accommodations are also given the tools they need for interviews, including an in-person interpreter. Often what is provided is not required. However, the company wants employees to be engaged, and to be known as an inclusive employer that values each individual’s unique talents. This inclusivity extends to customers, too. For instance, if a Financial Professional is meeting with a client who is deaf or hard of hearing, Prudential will provide a captioning service or an interpreter, even hiring the client’s own interpreter.

 The partnership with the Scranton School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children helped the students understand that a career in financial services could be a viable path for them. The kids left feeling a sense of excitement knowing that many companies, including Prudential, actively recruit diverse talent and put a high value on diversity and inclusion.

 The employees who participated expressed a desire to learn American Sign Language (ASL) to better communicate with colleagues who are deaf, as well as individuals in the deaf community. What followed was a collaborative partnership to provide six-week modules of ASL courses for employees taught by a teacher from the Scranton School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She teaches these classes free of charge as a community outreach initiative for the school. Participants have the opportunity to explore specific topics such as communication options and technology utilized to facilitate communication by the Deaf community. Employees gain a better understanding of Deaf culture and develop skills to effectively interact with all colleagues within the organization.  Classes are co-taught by a Deaf/hearing teaching team encouraging participants to utilize their language skills and receive immediate feedback to maximize learning.

 The classes have expanded to be virtual eight-week sessions and available for employees across the country. This effort to demonstrate equitable opportunities for employees who are deaf and hard of hearing was overwhelmingly received with enormous interest, which speaks to the inclusive culture being fostered throughout the firm. As well there has been increased recruiting, hiring and employment of interns and employees who are deaf and/or have other diverse abilities.

 Over 150 employees have taken ASL 1, with many employees actively participating on a regular basis in ASL 1, ASL 2 and Advanced ASL sessions. The advanced classes and practice sessions include instruction with an employee and member of ADAPT who is deaf. Registration for the classes has recently been transitioned to the company learning portal and the time employees spend learning ASL is counted as learning credits toward talent empower hours. This not only continues to foster a culture of inclusion, but also supports the firm’s emphasis on continuous learning for career advancement. As well, the continued interaction with the Scranton School also sends a powerful message to the students who are so excited to see hearing employees from Prudential communicating in their language and the possibility of employment opportunities in the future! 

Honorable Mention: Alleanza, Barilla

The mission of Alleanza, which means “Alliance” in Italian, is to increase the representation of Black and Latines employees at Barilla through recruitment and retention initiatives and promote an inclusive culture where all employees can bring their full identities to work. After the events following the murder of George Floyd, it was critical for employees to see Barilla taking action – and feel involved in the process. Alleanza took the lead in establishing a racial justice charter that includes key strategies, tactics, and metrics around access and exposure to leadership, employee development, recruiting and employer branding, communications, community outreach, and supplier diversity.

The program is designed to push the entire organization to grow and do more to promote diversity and inclusion. Alleanza works with human resources to expand recruitment efforts for the potential candidate pool, including targeted recruiting services. Alleanza members regularly attend Barilla recruitment events to ensure Black and Latines representation. In 2020, 65 percent of new hires identified as people of color, a 67 percent increase from 2019.

The group is also actively involved in the learning and education of their fellow employees. Alleanza provides opportunities for all employees to engage in deep conversations about how Black and Latines employees experience “otherness” in ways that may not be obvious to everyone. Alleanza plans educational and cultural activities for both Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month, with an average of 70 percent or more employees at Barilla U.S.’s corporate headquarters attending. Furthermore, Alleanza works with Barilla’s supplier diversity and procurement teams to look for new partnerships that help to further the company’s dedication to minority-owned businesses.

At Barilla, 60 percent of salaried employees are actively involved in an ERG. Alleanza hopes that the group can set an example for other corporations to follow, ultimately creating a more inclusive world.


Winner: Native Americans in Progress, Health Care Service Corporation

The Native Americans in Progress (NAIP) BRG at HCSC collaborates with leadership, departments, and other BRGs to give HCSC insight into the health and social challenges of Native Americans. This guidance provided by NAIP helps the organization meet the needs of the Indigenous population and use their influence to help providers overcome systemic issues that result in lower health-care outcomes. 

HCSC has three active NAIP chapters with over 200 members in Montana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. The chapters work together to align events and programming to strategically support HCSC’s tribal strategy. The three chapters jointly contribute to NAIP’s annual planning and budgeting and work closely with numerous HCSC departments, NAIP executive sponsors and The Center for Diversity & Inclusion to accomplish their goals and objectives. 

NAIP members represent various tribes and work closely within HSCS, engage in business activities, and serve as brand ambassadors to promote health insurance coverage and education. As a result, HCSC has seen an uptick in Native American health insurance enrollment in past years; in 2020, the Oklahoma Plan had a 98.5 percent tribal group retention rate and gained 4,566 new members. The tribal market segment for Oklahoma was one of the few segments that did not see a major decrease due to the economic impact of the pandemic. In 2020, the Oklahoma plan rolled out a new network for Native American government groups and NAIP members participated in workgroups to provide input in the development of the network.

In 2020, NAIP members hosted a comprehensive training, “Understanding Native American Markets and What They Mean to HCSC,” to their nearly 24,000 employees. The training gave a better understanding of tribal history and the relationship between the federal government and tribal nations. It also provided a venue for Native employees to share best practices and shed light on current challenges that impact Indigenous communities. 

Also, NAIP provided a critical resource to HCSC’s efforts to support members and communities devastated by COVID-19. In New Mexico, the Navajo Nation was the hardest hit of the Indigenous communities. NAIP members hosted donation drives that collected over 30,000 food and hygiene items, while HCSC provided $60,000 to support relief efforts. In other states, NAIP members worked with HCSC to provide over 9,000 face masks and volunteered to mobilize vans supporting external partners’ efforts for COVID-19 vaccinations and testing. 

The success of NAIP’s community impact is made possible due to strong support from sponsors, board members, committee chairs and chapter members. NAIP’s impact within the

communities HCSC serves is advanced through the collective and unique talents of many. These efforts are contributing to positive health and wellness outcomes, business success, brand recognition, customer loyalty and volunteer support for many HCSC community partners.

Winner: South Asian in Leadership (SAIL), Boston Scientific

At Boston Scientific, SAIL has been responsible for leading the efforts of the health-care camp in India Gurgaon. Health, environment, and education were the focus areas that align with the BSC business and its core values. In 2020, the team allocated CSR resources toward helping underserved communities where there was a critical need.

New Delhi is the capital city of India where the Boston Scientific Gurgaon office is closely located. Nearly 24 percent of the population is below the poverty line. SAIL recognized there were plenty of opportunities to engage in community service, which resulted in a global initiative with Boston Scientific employee’s collaboration from the USA and the India team.

SAIL is full of enthusiastic volunteers who serve the needy in the community. Their passion to serve the community is integrated into their personal lives. During a health-care camp in 2018, the team catered to the needs and touched around 180 underserved students.

Because of the success in 2018, SAIL grew the camp, impacting more than 800 students in 2019. The children were screened for eye and dental issues at the camp. In addition to the check up, they were provided with glasses and an opportunity to be treated free of cost. More than 100 students received eyeglasses and over 120 students had a follow up appointment with the dentist. More than 1,000 health care kits were distributed to the students along with the training on the usage of these kits. The kits included first aid, primary hygiene, stationary, health drinks, and cookies for the students. 

With the whole world shaken up by Covid-19, SAIL worked on PAN BSC India level where members of this group identified and volunteered for community activities. The recently formed committee in BSC India for carrying out or steering the CSR initiatives is marked by SAIL’s presence as well.

Honorable Mention: The Partnership of Women in the Workplace (POWW), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Members of the Partnership of Women in the Workplace (POWW) taught financial literacy using the FDIC’s Money Smart program to formerly incarcerated women at Friends of the Guest House in Alexandria, Virginia, a residential program that helps women re-enter society after serving prison sentences. 

The POWW team learned how to train the women and spent weeks working with a residential cohort at the facility teaching them basic financial terms, an introduction to banking, budgeting, debt management, and other useful financial life skills.  After the pandemic began, the team successfully transitioned from teaching in person to teaching remotely.

Their work has inspired other women at POWW who are now working with women’s shelters and other organizations across the country to teach Money Smart. The program has expanded to the Atlanta, San Francisco, Dallas, New York, and Boston areas. The project is in different stages of completion depending on the area and organization, but the original POWW team continues to provide guidance and support. POWW members believe this project to provide financial literacy instruction will broaden their reach in local communities and provide critical life skills to those women most in need.


Winner: Cameron McLean, Asia Pacific Executive Sponsor for the Pride Network, Paypal

Cameron McLean is a passionate champion of the ERGs driving inclusion and diversity and serves as PayPal’s Asia Pacific Executive Sponsor for the Pride network. With over 20 years’ experience as a senior executive at leading technology and financial services organizations, Cameron has been a strong evangelist for building a workforce reflecting the company’s customers and communities it serves.   

Under his leadership, PayPal’s Pride ERGs grew by over 150 percent and are today present in Singapore, China, Philippines, Australia, Hong Kong, and India. He has played an integral part in creating a shift in mindset towards the LQBTQ+ community and creating a safe work environment in which everyone can bring their true selves to work. Cameron spearheads initiatives to promote better understanding of the challenges that the community faces and drive more acceptance.

Cameron has also been a strong supporter of PayPal’s Unity ERG, which focuses on empowering and developing women leaders. He has hosted a number of diversity panel discussions with global and local senior leaders and exemplified leadership behaviors to support women during the pandemic.

Cameron has been instrumental in creating equal opportunity at PayPal by ensuring ERGs such as Unity and Pride are empowered and supported to drive measurable outcomes and make a real difference.

Winner: Ian Norman, Member of several ERGs, Astellas Pharma

Ian Norman is a senior sales director with Astellas Pharma US. He spent 11 years growing up in the African countries of Nigeria and Botswana. This foundation was key in developing Ian’s perspective of the world, for the need for equality and inclusion.

While identifying as a White male, he has both connected with and been an effective ally for African Americans, Abilities, Hispanics, Women, LGBTQ+, Military and Asian colleagues. With the African American EIG, he was involved in the ‘We Are One: Building Solidarity with Black Employees and Beyond’ Forum, where he openly discussed personal experiences of being a White ally to Black employees. After this, he co-created and co-facilitates a monthly discussion group of diverse employees who want to learn more about being an effective ally to Black employees. 

With the Abilities EIG, he is an active ally in supporting those living with physical or mental disabilities. Currently, he is representing Astellas as a mentor with Disability:In NextGen Leaders initiative for a second year. He has openly shared family experiences leading loved ones through mental crises, and he is always willing to lend his ears or his heart to support others. 

After participating in the ‘Gender Partnerships Everywhere’ learning series, Ian took time to reflect on his leadership bias and tendencies. One of the major take-aways from this session was how and why men and women differ in their pursuits of advancement. With a subsequent leadership vacancy on his team, Ian slowed down the recruitment efforts, working to ensure he had a diverse slate of candidates from which to select. The result was he identified a candidate and expressed his belief in her potential. She is excelling and Ian approached her about a leadership role prior to her making this interest known.

Ian is also an involved member of the Hispanic EIG. Ian’s wife is from El Salvador and his children were raised in a bilingual home. With the LQBTQ+ EIG, Ian has been a strong and visible ally for years. He proudly expresses his allyship on social media and serves as a model in his community. Ian is also an active member of the Asian EIG. He is comfortable initiating sensitive discussions to express his support for this community. For example, he participated in discussions on the recent violence against Asian Americans. 

In summary, Ian regularly serves as a role model of inclusive leadership and actively champions and advocates for various marginalized groups.  He expresses the value of EIG membership to learn about the experiences of others, to build relationships, and to promote an inclusive work environment.

Honorable Mention: Jacques Mignault, President and CEO, McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Ltd.

Jacques Mignault, President and Chief Executive Officer, McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada, is responsible for the business operations in more than 1,400 McDonald’s restaurants across Canada. As a leader, Jacques is focused on driving significant business results through a culture of collaboration and passion for people. As a proud advocate of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, Jacques is a strong ally and member of McDonald’s Business Networks:  Pride Network, BIPOC Network, Women in Technology and Women’s Leadership Network.

His advocacy and actions demonstrate a real and tangible commitment to progress. Jacques is a member of the Global DEI Council and Executive Sponsor of the Market Diversity Council in Canada – championing education for the leadership team and setting clear, firm expectations and accountabilities for the company’s leadership team.

Under his leadership, he established formal responsibility around McDonalds’ DEI journey. Jacques appointed Simone Alleyne, Canada’s first-ever Senior Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Culture and Change. This was a significant structural change that demonstrated the business imperative and social responsibility to foster equity in the organization. Also, he is committed to inclusive talent acquisition, ensuring their talent management process and franchisee selection represent a diverse talent pool.

Because of Jacques’ commitment to DEI, McDonald’s Canada has held safe talk listening sessions, inviting employees to share their experiences within and outside McDonald’s.  The Leadership team participated in an “un-learning” session on Black and Indigenous Canadian history, which challenged their knowledge of racism in Canada. Also, in early 2021, Jacques signed the Black North Initiative (The BlackNorth Initiative) — a strong commitment to join the movement to eliminate systemic racism against black people in Canadian businesses. Signing the pledge demonstrates McDonald’s eagerness and responsibility to look beyond their industry to combat injustices.

Up until recently, the only ERG within Canada was the Women’s Leadership Network.  With Jacques’ endorsement, the company has added the Women in Technology, Pride Network and BIPOC Network. Jacques is a proud, visible and vocal member of all Canadian ERGs.  His support exceeds the boardroom table. He has appointed an executive leader from his leadership team to sponsor each ERG. Also, he ensures the ERGs have access to resources, time and commitment required to advocate their mission.

Jacques has been steadfast in his commitment to diversity and inclusion. He actively participated in the change to make DEI a business priority and committed the attention and resources needed to create real, meaningful change. He understands Diversity, Equity and Inclusion must be embedded in organizational culture. Jacques is committed to understanding the critical cultural dimensions impacting the organization. 


Winner: Patrick M Hodgson Sr., President of Black Employee Resource Group, Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Patrick serves as the president of PG&E’s Black ERG, which supports PG&E’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategy. In this role, Patrick is responsible for aligning the mission of the Black ERG with the company’s business objectives in a voluntary capacity on top of his core job responsibility as a principal, business architect for the Customer Energy Solutions line of business.

As president of the Black ERG, Patrick partnered with the DEI office to create and deliver a webinar to thousands of co-workers titled “Learning and Leading in Times of Trauma”. In this webinar, Patrick partnered with allies throughout PG&E to show a united front against racism in the workplace. Not only did this approach explain some of the basic themes about racism, but it also took a data driven approach to explain the impacts of not acting. This bias to action culminated in the final slides of the presentation where Patrick provided various layers of support any individual can take to help make change.

Patrick also assembled a committee from the Board of Directors for the Black ERG. They came together and leveraged reference material from consultants to develop a framework for identifying, quantifying, and recommending change.  The product of this effort was the creation of a strategic plan that represented the collective voice of Black ERG members to inform the company’s leadership at a critical time about initiatives or areas to focus efforts for improving its DEI culture. This was presented to the company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council of leaders, ERG and ENG leaders and internal diversity ambassadors.

2020 was a very trying year for PG&E on many fronts. The company and employees were processing a myriad of emotions associated with the racial reckoning from the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others, a global pandemic, and a traumatic political climate. Additionally, the company also was in the process of emerging from bankruptcy and was a key stakeholder in mitigating wildfire risk brought on by climate change in the state of California. Last year, Patrick leveraged partnerships with DEI, the ERG community, and allies to deliver over 35 events, 120 board engagements, and over 40 membership engagements and communications. Patrick was undoubtedly instrumental in creating an inclusive workplace for PG&E employees through his effective leadership.

Winner: Kasey Chow, President of APA – Asian Pacific American ERG, Southern Company

Kasey Chow is currently Senior Counsel at Southern Company Gas in Atlanta, Georgia. In her previous role as Attorney for Southern Linc, she was a founding member of and served as advisor to Southern Linc’s Inclusion Action Team responsible for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. She also served on the Operations Inclusion Advisory Council. She is the President of Georgia Power’s Asian Pacific American Employee Resource Group (APA ERG).

Kasey’s leadership of APA has been nothing short of inspirational. In December 2020, Kasey was about to finish her term as president when the incoming president left the company. With the future of APA’s leadership up in the air, the company was worried about how to maintain momentum for the ERG. Kasey stepped up and offered to serve another year as President, demonstrating an inspiring commitment to ensuring APA’s success.

When COVID-19 forced the cancelation of ERG events, we had to pivot to serving members virtually. Kasey’s solid, creative, and unflappable leadership style ensured that APA excelled with this challenge. Kasey led her team in creating engaging, thought-provoking, and educational events for APA members including virtual tea tasting sessions, stunning Lunar New Year and Diwali celebrations, virtual cooking classes, a reading group, and virtual Get-to-Knows with ERG leaders.

She has a deep understanding of how ERGs support the business by creating a culture of belonging and serving as a conduit between API employees and executive leadership. She was therefore able to use her role as ERG president and the trust and reputation she’s established with members and executives to elevate the needs and concerns of her community.

Kasey is also strategic. She knows precisely what types of data make for a more compelling argument, and so was able to leverage quantitative representation data, benchmarking data from peer organizations, and qualitative data in the form of employees’ personal narratives to make her case stronger.

Most importantly, Kasey has been able to earn the trust of other API employees with her persistent advocacy. Other API employees share how much they appreciate Kasey’s intelligent, courageous efforts to bring about change for API employees and create a culture of belonging at Georgia Power. They confide in her and believe in her to represent their needs and interests – and senior executives admire her thoughtful and persuasive approach to advocating for the API community.


Winner: Network of Black Leaders & Executives (NOBLE), The Estée Lauder Companies

In the summer of 2020, NOBLE- the Network of Black Leaders and Executives employee resource group at the Estee Lauder Companies, held a town hall as a direct response to the unjust killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.  What was intended to be a small gathering for NOBLE members, grew into a forum for the entire company with nearly 2,000 ELC employees joining for a real and candid conversation with NOBLE’s Executive Sponsors.  The conversation sparked a multitude of actions including NOBLE leadership developing a workplace equity strategy for Black talent that informed the company’s racial equity commitments – a set of commitments to ELC’s employee base, consumers and communities around the areas of representation, talent development, workforce diversity, supplier diversity and social impact.

NOBLE members rallied and partnered with the company’s employee matching and volunteering program called Good Works to request a five times match toward non-profit social and racial justice organizations including the Equal Justice Initiative, the NAACP Legal Defense fund, which resulted in $2.8 million from employee donations and company matches. To date, this was the most successful employee matching campaign and the highest level of engagement for any Good Works campaign.

NOBLE also partnered with ELC’s other ERGs to create the ERG Alliance for Justice, a platform for ERGs to stand in solidarity and promote equity and equality. NOBLE, along with 19 other ERGs, donated the balance of their ERG budgets to social and racial justice-oriented nonprofits.

Throughout Fall 2020, NOBLE continued to engage their members and the broader ELC community, while also continuing to partner with the company on its racial equity commitments and giving back.  In fall 2020, NOBLE partnered with The Young Women’s Leadership School (TYWLS), which is a network of black and brown all-girl public schools, to create a career coaching program for TYWLS Alumni where NOBLE members became coaches to TYWLS Alumni during a four-month program. This program fully aligns with the Estée Lauder Companies Philanthropic mission to provide girls in the U.S. and around the world with access to quality education, necessary life skills, and leadership competencies to thrive in and out of the classroom. These young women were able to receive personal interactions with ELC employees from various levels within the organization, while gaining career advice and resume building skills. Lastly, as part of The Estée Lauder Companies’ ERG Community Impact Grant, NOBLE donated $5,000 to Girls for Gender Equity and $5000 to the Covenant House.

NOBLE also partnered with the company’s Global Talent and Inclusion, Diversity and Equity teams to create the From Every Chair Leadership (FEC) Program, a program created as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to ensure Black employees have equal access to leadership training and mentorship programs with senior executives.  The FEC Program’s objective is to create equitable advancement, access, advocacy, and professional development opportunities for Black talent and has engaged several C-Suite executives including ELC’s CEO, Fabrizio Freda who is serving as a Sponsor in the program.

NOBLE is a collective, and everything they have been able to accomplish is because of the extremely passionate leadership and members that are willing to go above and beyond their day to day jobs, to bring ideas, thought leadership, partnerships with the Company and its brands to develop and execute meaningful and impactful programming.


Winner: League of Employees of African Descent (LEAD), Merck & Co., Inc.

LEAD is a global organization with more than 1,800 members across 13 national and international chapters. Members from various chapters collaborated to bring the programming to the attention of the organization and the community at large. These efforts expanded across multiple Employee Business Resource Groups (EBRGs) and divisions of Merck, and the impact and contributions can only be expressed in recognition of the EBRG as a whole. 

Early in the pandemic, LEAD partnered with multiple groups across Merck to foster greater awareness of health disparities with COVID-19 and to highlight the importance of inclusion of people of color in all aspects of awareness education, prevention, and treatment of COVID-19. To this end, LEAD partnered with the Merck Hispanos Organization and the Merck Native American and Global Indigenous People EBRGs to facilitate an enterprise-wide discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and what it may mean for the future of healthcare. This event had over 300 attendees and spring boarded into other opportunities that have or will make an impact in the community.

The Pennsylvania chapter of LEAD, in collaboration with Merck’s Manufacturing Division leadership in their supply chain, organized a donation of PPE consisting of delivering 14,000 masks, 100 gallons of sanitizer, and other supplies to the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium to enable continued provision of free COVID-19 testing to underserved communities in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

LEAD’s commitment to healthcare community impact has continued into this year. The organization accelerated to form a Diversity in Clinical Trials committee in 2021. The purpose of the committee is to support the efforts to increase the participation of underrepresented populations in clinical trials with a specific emphasis on Black patients. They have created a resource to assist in recruitment at Merck sites that focus on COVID-19 research studies. The resource focuses on understanding what clinical trials are, why they are important, and includes a call to action to consider joining a clinical trial and how to find one.

Furthermore, the virtual chapter of LEAD hosted 25 webinars across all areas of Merck’s commercial business. These webinars were created to educate field-based personnel on the impact of social determinants on the health of communities of color, and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on diverse communities. Over 1,200 participants were engaged, and 100 percent rated the events as very good and productive. These discussions garnered more than 700 ideas shared by the field regarding the generation of culturally relevant materials for vaccination and disease education.

In the future, LEAD plans to take the feedback gathered across the events and continue to iterate on the next projects to move the needle. The EBRG chapters will move to identify more opportunities to support vaccine confidence and efforts of Merck. Additionally, the field sales chapter will work on more resources to use directly with doctors or the next series of talks to ensure cultural competency continues to be part of the learning for all employees. The LEAD Diversity in Clinical Trial committee has a seat at the table of Merck’s Diversity In Clinical Trial COE and will continue to provide insights and work on more resources and partnerships to expand the use of the first resource.