Blog Post

DBP Members Celebrate National Diversity Awareness Month

By Deanna Keenan
April 2, 2021

April is National Diversity Awareness Month in the United States. In 2004, it was created as a month-long celebration of Emancipation Day (April 16), which marked the anniversary of the day President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing more than 3,000 slaves in the District of Columbia. It has since been broadened to recognize and honor the diversity of the United States through the celebration of differences, developing greater cultural awareness for those in local communities.

National Diversity Awareness Month celebrates differences in the United States including, racial and ethnic groups, LGBTQ+ people, disability awareness, and more. In October, Global Diversity Awareness is celebrated to demonstrate the international multicultural society and to aid in embracing the values of other cultures.

Here are a few ways our Diversity Best Practices members are celebrating this month:


Boston Scientific

In 2020, the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affected communities of color and were underscored by civil unrest. As a result, Boston Scientific committed to investing in a $3.5 multi-year external strategy in the United States to combat inequity, systemic racism and social injustice in our communities.

The five pillars on which Boston Scientific operates — community, economic empowerment, education, healthcare disparities, government/politics — is intended to:

  • Create deeper awareness of racism and its impact on communities.
  • Advocate for anti-racist policies and practices that support equity and inclusion.
  • Empower key partners to take action in the fight against racism.

Boston Scientific’s combating racism strategy complements and accelerates internal diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, which encompass long-standing initiatives to prevent and address discrimination and racism in our workplace. It is critical that we do our part to create a better future for all.


Hewlett Packard Enterprice

In a month-long challenge, managers and employees are encouraged to Get Engaged to drive change and enhance a culture of inclusion and belonging, Get Inspired to educate for greater understanding and cultural competence to ignite action for positive change, and Get Connected through sharing of programs and opportunities so all employees can engage in the company’s DEI strategy and goals.

Participants in the initiatives will develop a deeper understanding of DEI and its value, reflect to consider new learnings and the impact of various concepts, and act by applying new learnings to their everyday lives to enhance the culture of equity, inclusion, and belonging. Commitments will total about 15 minutes each day through a competition in which points are assigned based on tasks completed (for example: readings, watching videos, attending events, engaging in short DEI-centered activities), followed by end of the week reflection stops. The points they earn go towards DEI competency designations.


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Pictured: On Left: Hosetta Coleman, Upper Left Quadrant: Annette Barnes, Lower Left Quadrant: Jewanna Gaither, Upper Right Quadrant: Karl Riley II, Lower Right Quadrant: Damien Todd
Fifth Third Bank

Fifth Third Bank

As part of Fifth Third Bank’s journey to accelerating racial equality, equity and inclusion for its employees, customers and communities, the Bank works to support inclusion and diversity in its workforce and among its suppliers through its six bold goals. One of those goals is to ensure that its workforce reflects the communities it serves. Hosetta Coleman, senior vice president and manager of university relations, stresses how important this goal is.

“One of the young men I recruited shared with me that he had never seen a Black man in a tie until an accountant spoke in one of his high school classes. As a result of seeing that, the young man knew being an accountant was possible for him. From that moment, he aspired to achieve a college education and decided to major in accounting,” she explained. The young man now works Fifth Third using the analytical skills he gained at Central State University. “That representation is what we must reflect; the inside of the Bank has to mirror the communities we serve,” Coleman said.

Central State University is among the historically Black colleges and universities that are part of Fifth Third’s HBCU recruitment strategy. Although the Bank already recruited from HBCUs, in 2017, under Coleman’s leadership, the Bank launched the new strategy to deepen its relationships with HBCUs and to develop and cultivate students who attend those institutions. To date, the Bank has developed relationships with more than 20 HBCUs through this strategy, and its executives have immersed themselves in providing career coaching, financial education and opportunities to acquaint the students with Fifth Third as their business acumen and professional skills are developed.

Coleman has been an HR professional for over 25 years and has worked at Fifth Third for nearly 16 of them. She has a passion for helping those who are early in their careers, and she understands that recruiting talent from these higher institutions of learning isn’t optional but is imperative. For her, this work isn’t business as usual — it’s personal. Coleman and the majority of her family members who hold college degrees are proud HBCU grads.

“My father grew up with limited financial resources but worked as a janitor to save enough money to apply for admission and put himself through Tuskegee Institute, now known as Tuskegee University, which led to him becoming an educator. He was able to raise the tide for our entire family because of an HBCU’s willingness to accept a marginalized student, offering a financially viable option and allowing him to work toward excellence,” she explained. Following in her father’s footsteps, Coleman graduated cum laude with a degree in business administration from Tuskegee.

According to the United Negro College Fund, the nation’s 106 HBCUs make up just 3% of America’s colleges and universities, yet they produce almost 20% of all African American graduates and 25% of African American graduates in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Coleman says corporations should support these colleges and universities because they provide an excellent value proposition on a personal and global level.

“The war on talent is a critical component to the world’s economy, and it has to be recognized. These schools must be supported by companies to ensure that their sustainability is not at risk to provide options for a pipeline of intellectual capital produced at HBCUs,” she said.

Over the last four years, Fifth Third has contributed to HBCUs by establishing scholarships for deserving students, purchasing computers and providing housing funding for students who were impacted by the pandemic, and sponsoring campus events and activities, including career fairs, graduation receptions and academic competitions. In 2020, Coleman led the Bank’s effort to join the congressional HBCU Partnership Challenge. The bipartisan initiative strengthens public-private investments in HBCUs to ensure their future sustainability, increase career prospects for their students, and advance diversity and inclusion within all sectors of employment. Coleman said that collaborations such as the Partnership Challenge and the Bank’s relationship with the HBCU Business Deans Roundtable gives way for shared best practices and increases areas of impact, which in turn makes for a better experience for the students that are recruited and for the executives that are involved in recruitment efforts.

“It’s important for us to have relationships with national partners because we help each other to be better. By ourselves, we’re just sailboats, but together we’re a fleet.” (Coleman is featured on the left side of the photo.)

As part of celebrating diversity, a few of Fifth Third’s employees who are also HBCU alumni shared how their university made a difference in their lives.

Annette Barnes, (pictured in the upper left quadrant), a graduate of Wilberforce University, started at Fifth Third more than 25 years ago as a leadership program participant. She’s worked in several roles at the Bank and now serves as a vice president and leadership program development manager. “Wilberforce prepared me for the real world by showing me how to have compassion for others even in moments of needing to give tough love. With my campus responsibility as a resident assistant, I learned how to embrace, work with and build trust with people and to see them as unique individuals.”

Jewanna Gaither, (pictured in the lower left quadrant), earned her undergraduate degree from Fort Valley State and her graduate degree from Clark Atlanta University. She is the marketing manager for the Bank’s Georgia region. “My HBCU professors and counselors genuinely wanted to see me succeed and invested additional time outside of work hours to ensure that I excelled. My HBCUs were instrumental in helping me explore my passions and understanding the role I wanted to play in the world.”

Karl Riley II, (pictured in the upper right quadrant), a graduate of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, is a small business community lender. “Going to FAMU was one of the best decisions of my life. As a business banker, I have to be organized, professional, knowledgeable and collaborative to help my clients be successful. FAMU’s School of Business and Industry provided me with professional development skills, marketing, finance and accounting classes, a knack for excellence with caring and a strong network.”

Damien Todd, (pictured in the lower right quadrant), earned his MBA from Tennessee State University and is a credit risk analyst. “Tennessee State University provided me with a strong, higher level business education. It provided me with confidence to excel in a field full of highly intellectual and dynamic individuals that, a majority of the time, do not look like me. All of my classes and experiences at TSU were very diverse and included Africans, Middle Eastern, Asian, Hispanic and white students as well. This led to more creative dialogue and open-minded evaluations, and, as a result, my ability to successfully collaborate with people from different backgrounds, ideologies and thought processes skyrocketed.”

What did Coleman’s HBCU educational experience teach her? “That I’m valuable, that I matter and that I always have a voice.”

Coleman’s vision for the Bank’s recruitment efforts includes changing paradigms. “I want us to continue to think bigger and broader, to expand our reach and to allow our reputational excellence to speak for itself. I want us to continue to invest in universities that positively impact Hispanic, LGBTQ, female and Black students. That work makes a difference in how we reflect our community both inside and outside of the Bank.

The Bank hosts its inaugural HBCU Leadership Conference May 18-19, a two-day virtual event for high-achieving HBCU freshman and sophomore students who wish to explore careers in investment banking and financial services. The event will feature national speakers and Bank leaders. In addition, it will give attendees the opportunity to network with fellow HBCU students from around the country as well as with participants and graduates of our Leadership Programs. To learn more about the Bank’s leadership programs and other careers, please visit: www.53.com/careers.


Merck

2021 Day of Understanding: The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion is the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In April, CEO Action will facilitate the third annual Day of Understanding, encouraging leaders to participate in an opportunity to lead open dialogue with over 13 million employees. Merck will host a global Day of Understanding on April 15, under the theme “Becoming an Ally to All”.

Engaging in Bold, Inclusive Conversations: This month, Merck will continue to deliver a series of Bold Inclusive Conversation Workshops, which aim to discuss polarizing societal events that can have a detrimental impact on employee performance. These workshops attended by employees across the organization provide a framework and skills necessary to support engaging in dialogue across differences/polarizing topics.

Global Diversity & Inclusion Speaker Leader Series: Each month a leader is selected to participate in a one-hour session to provide education and awareness of what diversity and inclusion means to them and the impact to their country or region. Participating leaders are selected from a different region each month. In April, a leader from Merck’s Asia Pacific business will lead this important session.

Global Diversity & Inclusion New Hire Orientation Sessions: These monthly orientation sessions are an opportunity to reinforce Merck’s company commitment to diversity and inclusion and ensure employees are aware of and have access to resources to help build their diversity and inclusion capabilities.


State Farm

In State Farm CEO Michael Tipsord’s 2020 Founder’s Day address, he committed to creating forums for internal dialogue as a way to provide support for employees so they feel seen and heard, and their experiences are recognized. In his message, he also called on leaders to continue Conversations Worth Having by creating spaces for employees to have meaningful discussions.

The D&I team has coordinated Yammer conversations, executive listening sessions, panel discussions and small group dialogue meetings. As another opportunity, employee videos are being created to encourage ongoing dialogue that will build trust, encourage compassion and open-mindedness, and reinforce the State Farm commitment to a culture of diversity and belonging. In these videos, called Stories Worth Sharing, different employee groups share their lived experiences, providing opportunities for employees to have more open, honest, and empathetic conversations and better understand the experience of others. Discussion guides, including conversation starters, message points, and other resources will accompany each video to aid in ongoing dialogue. The first set of videos centers on the lived experiences of Black/African American employees. Many employees said they could relate to others through the videos and felt relief that these topics are being openly discussed and shared. State Farm will be releasing a second set of employee videos focused on People with Disabilities in April. Additionally, a second series of Employee Voice Sessions will be held to give CEO staff/senior executives an opportunity to hear directly from employees. The session in April will be with employees from the AAPI community.

Other ways State Farm is embracing diversity in April is by hosting these additional events:

  • April 7 – Virtual learning event on American Sign Language hosted by our ADE (Advocacy for Disabilities and Education) ERG
  • April 14 – ADE ERG session on Teams and Adaptive Technology
  • April 19 – AsiaNet ERG sponsoring a virtual event focused on Japanese Culture
  • April 29 – Live Yammer Session hosted by two executive level leaders who sponsor our ADE (Advocacy for Disabilities and Education) ERG. Leaders will pose questions related to people with disabilities for employees to react to, comment about and connect on. The objectives are to educate employees, help them understand the disability community and learn how to become better allies to this demographic.

Ulta Beauty

To celebrate Diversity Awareness Month, Ulta Beauty is launching their inaugural Diversity Week in April. The week will have curated impactful moments that bring their D&I momentum to life in the form of awareness, education and participation. From offering D&I training opportunities, to a cooking class that teaches about cultural appropriation, to multiple fireside chats with focuses on generational differences, women in leadership, and cultural celebrations, associates will be able to choose a unique event to participate in each day. Ulta Beauty will also welcome LaSaia Wade, Founder and Executive Director of Brave Space Alliance as their Diversity Week keynote speaker to share her story and educate on the topic of intersectionality. In addition to the many event offerings, associates will be able to access resources to help them celebrate Diversity Week within their teams or at home with their family and friends. It’s sure to be an inspiring week at Ulta Beauty!

About the Authors

Deanna Keenan
Research Analyst, Insights
Seramount