“The fact that we’re getting more college degrees than any other group in the last 30 years, but we’re still not represented in the C-suite, and we don’t have the positions that we should have, are the reasons why we’re having this event today,” said DiversityInc Chief Operating Officer Carolynn L. Johnson.
Johnson opened DiversityInc’s first-ever Women of Color and Their Allies conference on Oct. 2 at the Hilton Atlanta, highlighting the significance of the gathering of hundreds of professionals from around the country.
Top executives from Accenture, AbbVie, AT&T, EY, Marriott International, Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and Southern Company, all DiversityInc Top 50 companies, participated in candid panel discussions about the challenges women of color face in corporate America.
“For the companies that are in this room, you know they care about the subject because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be here,” Johnson said.
She then explained why allies are essential.
“One voice that has been missing is that of an ally because we know that power cannot be taken, it must be given or transferred,” Johnson said. “So who is helping us to get where we need to be
“I have to admit, when I think of an ally, the first face that comes to mind is of a white man. Don’t get me wrong, white men are our allies, but we are allies to ourselves. Black men are our allies as well, so that’s why we need to have this conversation.”
Johnson said it’s important to see allies supporting one another.
“You needed to see me and Luke standing together,” she explained. “You need to see Sam [Johnson] and Leslie [Patterson] of EY together to understand the dynamics of the relationship.
“We need to see the pairs that are going to make that progress happen.”
DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti shared his enthusiasm for Johnson creating the event.
“When Carolynn came to me and said she’d like to do this event, I immediately jumped on board,” Visconti said.
“Carolynn is the most successful business woman I’ve met in my life. I don’t say that lightly. She’s been working for me for 16 years. I hired her at 23-years-old as a junior marketing person.”
Visconti said because he was “perceptive and open enough to understand talent when I saw it,” he eventually became Johnson’s mentor and sponsor.
“Carolynn was prepared to receive the advice and take action,” he said.
Visconti offered the following advice to the audience:
“I’ve been a very successful businessman and I would position to you that if your companies had 50-57 percent women in senior management, you would be much more successful than you currently are.”
Event sponsors included: Abbott, AbbVie, Accenture, AT&T, Bayer, Boeing, Cox, EY, Hilton, Johnson & Johnson, KPMG, Marriott International, Mastercard, Novartis, Southern Company, TD Bank, The Hershey Company, Toyota and Wells Fargo.
View a photo gallery from the event below: