Chapter OneMeet the Trailblazers
"Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself." —William Faulkner
Industry leaders—especially those determined to build a culture of inclusion and diversity within their organizations—are becoming more abundant. You don't have to look far to see the effects of the efforts that so many visionary people have made in industry as well as in society. They are often unsung heroes that step up, face the unknown, and move forth in sometimes the darkest hours, clutching the belief that what they do now will have a lasting impact on others for years, and generations, to come.
These Trailblazers, as we will refer to them in this book, each have a story to go along with their incredible efforts and accomplishments. Each was carefully chosen to exemplify the true spirit of not only diversity and inclusion, but also of holding true to one's own and the organization's values.
As we conducted our interviews, what became apparent was that each person had unique experiences and stories, which shaped their views and behaviors regarding inclusion at a relatively young age. Each individual we've spotlighted has faced many challenges along their journey. Rather than accept what was good enough and handing down the idea of a system that wasn't effective to the next generation, they instead focused on actions to create a better tomorrow for everyone.
All of these incredible people, both men and women, are pioneers in their fields. Many of them have worked for and led diversity and inclusion initiatives in more than one organization, moving forward to continue paving—and trailblazing—the way for others who will ultimately follow. These Trailblazers deserve more than they would accept, and ultimately, this qualifies them as true leaders of our age.
It's important that you get the chance to know each of these individuals from the outset. We want you to understand where they come from, what helped to guide them to their true calling, and what continues to inspire them to this day. Strangers are easily dismissed, but those with whom we become familiar can often inspire and instill hope in others to move toward the dreams and paths they have begun to lay out.
Take a moment to meet these 12 inspiring individuals we interviewed. Meet the 12 Trailblazers who have accomplished incredible objectives and continue to instill the benefits of inclusion and diversity within their organizations.
"The most dangerous phrase in the language is, 'We've always done it this way.'" —Rear Admiral Grace M. Hopper, U.S. Navy
Managing Director of Diversity Strategies, American Airlines
The passion that inspires Michael Collins in the field of diversity and inclusion was sown at an early age. The son of a Baptist minister, Michael came into his faith when he was around 9 or 10. His faith puts forth the basic premise that all people matter, that everyone makes a difference. The color of your skin or where you come from doesn't matter; everyone is valuable.
Growing up in an environment of inclusion certainly had its impact on Michael's professional life. The concepts to which a person is introduced and with which he is surrounded can have a lasting impact on the rest of his life. Michael certainly captured that essence and carried it with him through his professional career.
In 1989, Michael Collins started his diversity work with true passion and desire. American Express was beginning to consider the concepts of diversity and inclusion within their business model. The company opened a new operations center in Greensboro, North Carolina, that was facing a much different workforce than any of its others. A large portion of the staff included highly educated African Americans; and the need to retain these employees for the long term meant that American Express would have to provide broader opportunities for advancement. Another issue that faced the company also had to do with maintaining satisfaction among all the employees as well as the community.
Michael Collins was only one of two African American managers at his level or higher at the time, and the company had already noticed his potential. While excelling in a leadership role that included managing two large groups, he developed a quality reputation within the organization. It was at this time that he began to research the idea and concept of diversity and inclusion.
Michael took it upon himself to present some innovative ideas to his leadership team. Due to his ambition and passion, American Express asked Michael to participate in helping them to develop a diversity strategy for the entire company. This allowed Michael to delve even deeper into the value of diversity and see how it impacts not only employee satisfaction and well-being, but productivity as well. The more he learned, the more he knew that this was what he wanted to do with his professional life. Michael has devoted 21 years so far to the field of diversity and inclusion. Today, with American Airlines, Michael has become an integral part of their continued growth and leadership with regard to diversity and inclusion.
As stated in American Airlines' Diversity Statement, "By encouraging and supporting the talents of diverse people, we've created a rich tapestry of engaged, dynamic teams, all committed to our airline. Our focus on diversity and inclusion is felt by our customers, employees, and the communities we serve around the world. We remain steadfast in the important everyday work of bringing people together through diversity and inclusion" (www.aa .com/i18n/aboutUs/diversityInclusion/leadershipSidebar.jsp).
Elizabeth A. Campbell
Partner and Chief Diversity Officer, Andrews Kurth, LLP
Elizabeth Campbell's work with diversity and inclusion includes a long and personal awareness of the impact of the Civil Rights era. Though she doesn't feel that she was "called" to get involved in this kind of work, per se, her upbringing, the challenges she faced, and the accomplishments she achieved helped her to realize that her background positioned her to have a positive impact on others who were attempting to carve their own path through life.
Growing up in New Jersey during the earliest stages of the Civil Rights era, Elizabeth recalls experiencing overt discrimination and was impacted by comments from detractors that said she couldn't be a lawyer. The people who were telling her these things were not neighbors or peers; they were her educators and advisors, those who were meant to inspire and support young burgeoning talent such as hers.
But instead of allowing others to keep her dreams from coming true, Elizabeth took their lack of support as a challenge—and used it to press forward with her dreams and aspirations. As a young woman, Elizabeth was amazed that there were people in the world who not only failed to encourage others to become their best but in fact attempted to undermine their confidence and hinder their abilities to move ahead in life. Elizabeth turned this on its head, however, and used it as encouragement to apply to and eventually attend Princeton University and Michigan Law School. Today, she views the naysayers as catalysts for her success.
In her previous work for Aramark, and now for Andrews Kurth, LLP, Elizabeth realized that her life history—the path that brought her to this point in time—might serve as a positive influence for other people. She pondered the notion that people may not get a chance to succeed if they aren't told that their differences—the things that make them unique—are valued. Elizabeth truly believes that celebrating people's differences makes far more of a difference than merely "not discriminating."
This is the very tenet of proactive inclusion that Elizabeth has built into the diversity and inclusion strategic plan for Andrews Kurth, LLP. She works with the firm's leadership and marketing team to help drive branding strategies. In addition, she is a Community Relations ally who works within the community to help promote endeavors that align with the firm's strategic plans. Elizabeth, an attorney, has worked in a variety of positions in human resources, including employee relations and diversity with several large corporations. Elizabeth has used her past to help positively shape the future of countless other individuals by ensuring that they have the opportunity to contribute their talents in an organization that respects, needs, and encourages diversity of ideas to solve client issues.
Some of the awards she has received include: 2008 Diversity Officer Leadership Award by Diversity Best Practices and 2008 Legal Diversity Award by the Texas Diversity Council. She has had numerous articles published on diversity and inclusion in business and law journals throughout the nation.
Ana Duarte McCarthy
Chief Diversity Officer, Citi
By her own account, Ana's path to the field of diversity and inclusion was unusual. Her life experiences as well as her passion are what guided her along this journey and ultimately planted the seeds for her to want to help others have a level playing field on which to compete.
Ana jokingly referred to herself in her youth as "a rebel without a cause." That soon changed, however, when she transitioned from life in an all-girls high school to a student at a co-ed university. The school Ana attended—Lafayette College in eastern Pennsylvania—had only recently begun admitting women, so there weren't many opportunities for women in leadership on campus at that time. Ana's school was dealing with the growing pains of change at the same time she was. She cites one particularly eye-opening example: The college didn't have any dining facilities where women could eat on campus after their freshmen year. Instead, these young women had to resort to invitations from local fraternity houses with dining facilities. She recalled that the fraternities actually voted on who they would invite to join them for meals! While it posed an incredible challenge for her and her women classmates, Ana was part of the tenth class of women at the school, and credits this particular pioneering experience for her and her peers as being a catalyst for change at Lafayette College.
It can be challenging enough to attempt to fit into a college environment—with its demanding studies and need to forge new friendships and relationships—without having to face even more difficult challenges of being accepted based on your gender. Ana didn't view these hurdles as setbacks, but rather as opportunities to drive change. By the time Ana was a senior, she and her peers had created sororities that had become national. And she didn't stop there. Among other accomplishments, Ana and her peers worked with the administration at Lafayette College to establish dining facilities for all upperclassmen on campus, regardless of their gender.
Though Ana's initial major field of study had been in biology, by her senior year, her focus had turned to working with and advocating for people to improve their lives and their place within it. To that end, she earned a graduate degree in multicultural counseling and psychology.
At her core, Ana is keenly interested in advocating for a fair and level playing field and equal access to opportunities for all people regardless of heritage, background, or any other factors. She leverages her role as chief diversity officer to execute a clear vision for a different and better future for the workforce at Citi. For Ana, as with many of the other Trailblazers, this is both exciting as well as exhausting at times.
Chief Diversity Officer, The Coca-Cola Company
Steve Bucherati was presented with an opportunity. As he reflected on his current role, he confided that he didn't exactly choose this area of expertise. He admitted that he was instead "drafted." After the year 2000—when The Coca-Cola Company settled a highly publicized class action lawsuit alleging racial discrimination—the company agreed to make sweeping changes to their human resources policies and procedures. They turned to Steve Bucherati to lead this significant cultural transformation.
As Steve related his story to us, he indicated that his selection to lead this effort initially puzzled him and he wasn't certain why he had been chosen. He was both happy in his current job and thought he possessed absolutely no foundation upon which to lead a diversity and inclusion function. Being a White male, he initially thought that he had no experiences of bias or prejudice and didn't have to deal with any of the same experiences that many underrepresented group members had dealt with. But as Steve began to do this work, he reconnected with several of his past experiences. One in particular stood out for him. As a young man, he was the only White basketball player on an otherwise predominately Black competitive traveling basketball team. Steve credits this experience in particular and the lessons he learned along the way around fairness as the basis for some of the pivotal work he has led at The Coca-Cola Company where he strives to foster a culture of fairness and inclusion.
Steve Bucherati is passionate about his work as a chief diversity officer. He strives for a more inclusive culture, improved engagement, and a culture of fairness with opportunities for advancement for all. He, like others in his role, truly sees the opportunity and the gains for the people of The Coca-Cola Company that come about when you treat all people with fairness and respect.
Gilbert "Gil" F. Casellas
Vice President—Corporate Responsibility and Chief Diversity Officer, Dell
Gil Casellas has a long career of being a supporter and advocate for equal employment and diversity and inclusion. His rich history of efforts in this field have included positions as the Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and a partner in a major law firm before joining Dell. Having attended segregated schools in the South as a youth, Gil was exposed to the issues of bias and prejudice at an early age. As the son of immigrant workers who did not speak English, Gil understood early in life the importance of the concepts of inclusion and exclusion as applied to himself and so many others.
Gil recalls that many of his relatives were actively involved with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) during the height of the Civil Rights movement. His exposure to these movements helped him realize the opportunities and experiences that could be available to all people. His subsequent and later involvement in diversity and inclusion, then, was a matter of natural progression. Once he finished law school, he became involved in many organized bar activities that later included the formation of, and becoming President of, the Hispanic National Bar Association.
As Gil, the only person of color, began work for one of the largest law firms in Philadelphia, his advocacy led him to become actively engaged in hiring matters as he strived to consistently make a difference for his firm by reflecting a core set of values of diversity and inclusion.
In 1993, President Clinton appointed Gil as General Counsel of the Air Force. Many are aware how former President Clinton was determined to create what was then the most diverse and inclusive administration that represented the people of the United States. Gil's boss, the Secretary of the Air Force, was the first woman in history to be named to that post.
During his time as General Counsel, Gil was asked to serve as Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where he served for three and a half years. In this role, Gil was the chief enforcer of workplace antidiscrimination laws. In this role, he was the driving force and enforcer of equal employment opportunity for the American workforce. His legal acumen combined with his beliefs in diversity and inclusion have compelled him to continue to impact community organizations and his company as a dedicated, balanced advocate for corporate responsibility and diversity and inclusion. For Gil, diversity and inclusion is integral to the way he lives his life. Gil has devoted his passion to the forward momentum of equal access and inclusion in the workplace.
Gil has been a trustee of his alma mater the University of Pennsylvania for over 13 years and chairs the Yale committee on workplace diversity.