CDO Series: KeyBank’s Helena Haynes-Carter

Following the murder of George Floyd, the role of Chief Diversity Officers has become more important as companies started to be more intentional with their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which has made the last few years tumultuous for many CDOs.

In the latest installment of a series of articles dedicated to catching up with CDOs who have moved in recent years to discuss their experience, what the move has done for them, the work they’re doing and the advice they have for other aspiring or current CDOs, Diversityinc spoke with Helena Haynes-Carter, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer at KeyBank (No. 18 on DiversityInc’s 2022 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list). Haynes-Carter came to KeyBank from UnitedHealth Group, where she was Senior Director, Global Diversity Equity & Inclusion.

DiversityInc: You’ve had experience working in diversity across a variety of industries. What sort of lessons have you learned through that experience that you bring into your work at KeyBank? How does that inform your perspective on DEI work?

Haynes-Carter: “My experiences span six industries, (Financial Services, Healthcare, Consulting, Housing, Transit, and Energy) as well as all three sectors of business (Corporate, Nonprofit, and Government). No matter what industry or sector, I believe the best practices for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have consistent and foundational pillars. And then, each company needs to adopt a DEI strategy to align with their own culture and success objectives. Every industry has unique levers that can be leveraged to create unique value for its shareholders.”

DI: What impact has the move to KeyBank had on your career and how would you describe your time with the company thus far?

HC: “I started at KeyBank in January 2022, and time will tell what the impact will be on my career. I am certain that this was the right move at the right time. I stand on the shoulders of powerful KeyBank leaders past and present. Greats such as Margot Copeland, the organization’s first Diversity executive; Beth Mooney, the industry’s first female CEO; Trina Evans, current Chief of Staff and Corporate Center Director; our current CEO Chris Gorman, and others.”

DI: How do you see DEI work evolving in the years to come and what excites you about the future?

HC: “I’m excited for KeyBank – and all organizations – to strengthen and sustain our momentum across DEI. There are compelling business, moral and social cases for DEI in corporate America, and we have the responsibility to get it right.

“Equity and inclusion are actions that must be embedded into business practices… or what I and others often refer to as “operationalizing.” We must set a high bar and raise it, focus on results and impacts, and continuously improve. DEI goes beyond commitments and must be core to “business as usual.”

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