Pursue Sustainable Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

The Top 15 Champions of Diversity are leaders who ensure that diversity and inclusion are more than talking points. They are people of action who are focused on embedding the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion in organizations and communities so they become natural sustainable elements of doing business.

Each year the Top 15 Champions of Diversity are introduced as people who strive to make diversity and inclusion (D&I) core principles for leadership decision-making and operational actions. This year, there is a noticeable shift in focus. The 2022 Champions developed programs and initiatives with the end goal of making D&I sustainable. They passionately believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion are crucial to long-term organizational and community success, and programs and initiatives should not be add-ons. D&I should be as deeply embedded as all other Human Resources policies in day-to-day business efforts.

For that reason, there are key descriptive words that kept appearing in the bios of the Top 15 Champions of Diversity. These words include strategic, vigilance, authenticity and more. The Champions do not want to simply increase spend with diverse suppliers or count more heads in the workplace. They want diversity and inclusion and diverse supply chains to achieve sustainability. But what does that mean? It means the talent pipeline is always filled with diverse people, vendor bidding processes always include diverse suppliers, and leaders at all levels make decisions that have diversity and inclusion as the foundation.

In many ways, it is saying the Champions want to get to the point where D&I programs and initiatives are not needed, because the organizational culture is based on always including diversity of people and thought. It is a natural way of doing business in an inclusive organization that appreciates diversity as a success factor. There is open dialogue about uncomfortable issues such as racism, because transparency and authenticity are embraced. Inclusion becomes the only accepted way to operate.

The Top 15 champions have also focused on outreach to underserved communities, in recognition of the untapped talent and businesses that can be found there and have so much to offer their organizations. Outreach efforts are a critical element of achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion sustainability. For example, Christopher Johnson at Frost, Brown, and Todd speaks of recalibrating the past DEI efforts and creating a diverse leadership pipeline. Rod Hooker at GM Financial leads a Sophomore Leadership Intern Program, and Tim Dismond at CBRE oversees a Community Impact Initiative in which strategic partnerships are developed to pursue environmental sustainability.

Another common theme among these diversity professionals is the use of data and data analytics to refine organizational decision-making. Vanessa Nazario is using a Healthcare Equality Index at Memorial Healthcare System. Michael Matthews at Synchrony and Kenneth Imo at Adobe are each advancing the diverse talent effort through a data-driven approach, while Kim Ribeiro relies on data analytics to increase the inclusion of members of underserved communities in clinical research trials.

A numbers of Employee Resource Groups, Affinity Groups, or Inclusion Resource Groups were formed to increase employee voice. Josh Oates at Office Depot developed the Men of Color Associate Resource Group, Susan Stith at Cigna guides the Enterprise DEI Council, and Krystal Ramsey leverages Affinity Groups. Kim Adams at Papa Johns works with the Inclusion Resource Groups and notes she relies on virtual gatherings to ensure anyone can participate without regard for location.

Some of the Champions focused on navigating discussions about race, like La Toya Haynes at Intuit and Donnie Upshaw at Wingstop. Accountability was frequently mentioned too. Fran Dillard at Micron is leading the development and implementation of accountability processes, and all the Champions are working with senior leaders to increase accountability by their leadership.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Top 15 Champions of Diversity are visionaries who are constantly looking for strategic approaches to Diversity and Inclusion. They are patient and impatient at the same time. They are patient because they understand the complexity of changing people’s mindsets. They are impatient because, in their mind’s eye, they envision a socially and environmentally just global environment, supported by their organizations that embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion as the only path to success. Without the effort of people like the Top 15 Champions of Diversity, the vision would never become a reality.

Kim Ribeiro

Head of Diversity & Patient Inclusion

Susan Stith

Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)
Cigna Foundation

Rod Hooker

AVP Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
GM Financial

Vanessa Nazario

Corporate Director, Chief Diversity Officer
Memorial Healthcare System

Kim Adams

VP, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, Culture, & Engagement
Papa Johns

Michael Matthews

Senior Vice President And Chief Diversity & Corporate Responsibility Officer

Donnie Upshaw

"Chief People Officer and SVP of Corporate Restaurants"