BLACK ENTERPRISE Hosts Second Annual Chief Diversity Officer Summit &

todayJune 29, 2024 12

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IMG 4171 Chief Diversity Officer Summit & Honors, DEI, diversity equity inclusion by Kay Rose

June 27, 2024

Panelists underscored the need for strategic, united action

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BLACK ENTERPRISE successfully hosted its second annual Chief Diversity Officer Summit and Honors in partnership with The Executive Leadership Council (ELC), Fidelity Investments, and Merck. The Summit took place on June 11, 2024, at Guastavino’s in New York City, bringing together esteemed leaders dedicated to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across corporate America.

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Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., CEO of BE, opened the Summit by commending attendees for their commitment to promoting equal access and solidarity within their organizations. “Thank you all for championing DEI amidst challenging times,”Graves remarked. He highlighted the pivotal role of DEI professionals in reshaping corporate landscapes despite recent legislative opposition and corporate commitment setbacks following the George Floyd tragedy.

Graves acknowledged the political and legal challenges threatening DEI progress, urging the corporate community to resist short-sighted pressures and reclaim the narrative. The Summit celebrated trailblazing executives who historically advanced DEI and continue to champion this mission despite the challenging climate. Additionally, the event sparked meaningful discussions to further progress in DEI.

The Summit featured two powerful sessions led by leaders in the field, examining the future of DEI candidly. Graves thanked Fidelity Investments, The Executive Leadership Council, and Merck for their bold leadership and partnership. He also thanked the DEI professional community for their transformative work, setting the stage for a critical town hall discussion defending corporate DEI.

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Minda Harts, founder and CEO of Memo LLC, moderated the town hall, initiating a conversation on the current state of DEI. Panelists Celeste Warren from Merck, Traci Sanders from Verizon, and Audria Pendergrass Lee from FINRA shared insights on evolving challenges and the imperative to reclaim the DEI narrative. Sanders emphasized that diversity remains essential for business success despite expanding pressures on DEI roles. Pendergrass Lee stressed the importance of creating inclusive environments where all individuals can thrive.

Harts emphasized the perceived “war on DEI” and the importance of maintaining dignity, equity, and respect in the workplace. Warren discussed fears and targeted attacks on DEI progress, likening opposition efforts to futilely trying to stop a tsunami with a bucket and mop. Sanders highlighted the risks of undermining DEI education for future employees unprepared for diverse workplaces. Pendergrass Lee clarified that DEI aims to ensure equitable opportunities for all, dismissing portrayals of discrimination against white males.

Panelists underscored the need for strategic, united action, including active allyship from all demographic groups to sustain and advance DEI initiatives. Pendergrass Lee and Sanders emphasized the importance of white allies in DEI efforts, encouraging them to engage as team members rather than saviors.

The discussion also highlighted the role of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in fostering inclusion and breaking stigmas. Pendergrass Lee mentioned FINRA’s strategy of inclusive ERGs, while Sanders shared Verizon’s practice of involving C-suite leaders in ERGs to enhance engagement and education. Both agreed that DEI must be embedded into all organizational processes. Warren emphasized the importance of resilience and mutual support at work. The panel discussed mentoring younger employees, respecting their boundaries, and leveraging their innovative approaches. They stressed the need to align company values with expected behaviors, particularly in diversity and inclusion, advocating for ongoing, sometimes discreet, efforts to make progress.

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Harts concluded the Summit with gratitude for the robust conversation and handed it over to Black Enterprise’s Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer, Derek T. Dingle. He reflected on the session’s message about the urgent need to combat threats undermining decades of progress for Black executives and diversity leaders, emphasizing the significance of this discussion near the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 55 years since the founding of Black Enterprise by Earl G. Graves Sr., urging vigilance in holding corporate America accountable for preserving hard-earned advancements.

As the Summit concluded, the message was clear: the journey toward true equality and inclusion is ongoing and requires collective effort from all stakeholders.

RELATED CONTENT: BLACK ENTERPRISE’s Chief Diversity Officer Summit & Honors Event Acknowledges DEI Leaders Past And Present

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