WoCA 2021: The Power of LGBTQ & BIPOC Allyship in Today’s Business World

The following session is from DiversityInc’s fourth annual Women of Color and Their Allies event, held Oct. 21, 2021. This year’s theme was “Sustaining Workforce Positions for Women of Color.” Throughout the day, panels consisting of researchers, thought leaders and executives shared their insights and strategies for helping women of color overcome common workplace barriers and spotlight allies working to sustain their positions within the workforce.

 

Moderator: Anita C. Ricketts, Chief of Staff at DiversityInc

Panelists: 

  • Wade Rakes, President and Chief Executive Officer at Georgia Centene Corporation (No. 36 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021)
  • Mark King, Vice President of Global Diversity at WestRock
  • Thomas Bonsaint, Director of Enterprise Campaigns at Northrop Grumman (No. 21 in 2021)
  • Del Galloway, Senior Vice President of Atlantic and Pacific Regions at Wells Fargo (No. 25 in 2021)

Over the past few decades, the BIPOC and LGBTQ communities have faced a massive number of setbacks and challenges. But they’ve also made incredible headway in fighting discrimination, increasing their rights, and bringing significant rights and equality — both in the workplace and outside it — to all members of their groups.

The fights for both segments are different — but those differences can also unite them, bringing them closer together. In this informative session, panelists from several of America’s top corporations will discuss how they work to be valued allies.

Session Highlights

“One of the shared experiences within the LGBTQ+ community has been the Gay Rights Movement. I think a lot of people look back and say that it started at Stonewall. It started a lot earlier than that, but at Stonewall, we saw the people standing up to the police were often trans women of color. The Compton Cafeteria riots the year before Stonewall, they have been there for us. I benefit from the activities of those people who were literally putting their lives on the line for white gay men like me. So, to be an ally means to me, in some small way, trying to give back for all the sacrifices that have gone before to make my life a little bit better.” — Thomas Bonsaint 

“We’d never done anything like a forum to talk about issues of race inside of our organization; we’re still pretty early in our DNI journey here. The topic of race and race relations was pretty sensitive for a lot of our senior leaders. Part of my privilege is having built rapport where someone said, ‘if you are willing to stick your reputation on this, we’ll give it a shot.’ And it was wildly successful. We called them courageous conversations, and that was a lesson learned because a lot of people pointed out that this isn’t really courageous. If it were courageous, we’d have been talking about this for years, not just now. — Mark King 

“It’s not only about understanding and us all becoming more educated through listening and learning, but it’s also about doing things. Anyone can do a great brochure. Anyone can cut checks. First, it’s being a company that recognizes talent. The second is a company that does more than talk. I run a multi-billion dollar subsidiary. On my leadership team, I have seven direct reports. Five of them are women or African Americans. With me as the CEO, six out of eight people are either women or African American.” — Wade Rakes

“I was pushing some senior executives to take messaging further than that with which they were comfortable. Their pushback was around the fact that some people might not be comfortable covering these issues, and some may not share the same point of view. My response was, ‘we as a company have a published set of values that we say we subscribe to. Let’s demonstrate it. Because if folks don’t live up to those, then perhaps they need to find opportunities elsewhere.” — Del Galloway

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