D-FW executives plan session to promote diversity, equality and inclusion

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Did the death of George Floyd spark a fundamental realization about racial inequality in corporate America, or was it just a moment in time?

How can businesses take action that spreads economic opportunity within their organizations and underserved communities as well?

On Wednesday, two dozen or so corporate commanders will have the opportunity to frankly and confidentially discuss diversity, equality and inclusion, simply known as DEI.

The session is the third North Texas CEO Forum held by The Dallas Morning News and McKinsey & Co. The invitees, who all have CEO titles at marquee organizations, will share best practices, discuss their biggest hurdles and hopefully come up with actions that they are uniquely qualified to tackle because of the clout they hold.

It’s part think tank and part group therapy.

The first forum, held in person in 2020, focused on shifting culture, building teams and maximizing individual leadership. In September, a Zoom forum discussed returning to the office with a hybrid in-house and virtual workforce.

This time, the CEOs wanted to talk about DEI.

The topic is intensely personal to Lori Ryerkerk, CEO of Irving-based Celanese Corp., “not just because I’m a fervent believer that it’s critical to business success but also as a woman who has been fighting for my own equality in the chemical and energy industries my entire career. This was a topic of discussion during my interviews for the CEO role at Celanese. It’s part of what attracted me here.”

Her company’s annual report includes a breakdown of the demographics of its 7,658 employees globally. As of Dec. 31, women made up 24% of its global workforce and held 28% of management roles. People of color represented 30% of the total head count in the U.S., filling 29% of management roles.

Jean Savage, CEO of Dallas-based Trinity Industries, agrees that DEI is more than a corporate buzzword. “When all employees have a strong sense of engagement and value, we all do better,” she said.

Trinity Industries put together a defined, multiyear game plan to improve gender and ethnicity diversity among its 6,375 employees in the U.S. and Mexico.

“This starts with our ability as a company to attract and retain the very best talent — meaning we aim to increase employee engagement, satisfaction and retention by strengthening our working environment so that all employees feel a sense of belonging and feel valued for their unique characteristics and contributions,” she said.

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