Most of my career has been in Finance … as a CPA, a financial planner, a finance director, a CFO at a few companies – Arthur Andersen, AAA, McDonald’s, and PepsiCo. But it was through volunteering with the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) that I discovered a hidden talent for raising money and building the business case for diversity.
When I served as NABA’s CEO, we doubled revenues in one year by elevating the conversation from transactional career fairs and banquets to a strategic focus on business goals. I was named the most prolific fundraiser in the history of NABA. It was through NABA that I met Dan Heinrich (former Clorox EVP & CFO), and that relationship led me to my current role at Clorox.
Diversity Is What Got Us Here
Historically, diversity best practices have focused on bringing people who are different in the door. This effort has been quite successful increasing the representation of women and minorities in corporate America. As a person of color, I have benefited from past diversity efforts.
However, diversity isn’t as simple as grouping together people of different nationalities, races, genders or cultural backgrounds. It’s about building a team with varied thoughts and beliefs combine to create a more comprehensive solution to global business issues.
It’s Time for Inclusion
Today’s global marketplace is very different from the one many of us grew up in. We must create environments that value different world views, experiences, perspectives, and thinking styles.
They won’t change without each of us committing to behavior that creates inclusive environments for women and people of color. One where they feel a sense of belonging: respected and valued for who they are and supported by others so they can do their best at work.
Growth Culture at Clorox
At Clorox our mission is simple yet powerful: We make everyday life better, every day. We apply this approach to everything we do, including our inclusion and diversity strategy.
We encourage unique viewpoints and champion everyone to contribute to our growth culture: put the consumer first; be curious; embrace change; think boldly; and act like an owner.
I believe experiences, skills, and insights from all types of backgrounds enrich the workplace culture, improve employees’ effectiveness and satisfaction, and ultimately contribute to our performance in the marketplace.
Having served in customer facing companies most of my career, I’ve seen how changing demographics impact sales growth. Women and multicultural consumers now account for about 80% of shoppers. Women are the largest group; multicultural is the fastest growing; and millennials represent our future.
To reach these diverse consumers, our workforce and corporate governance need to reflect them. At Clorox, 41% of our global managers and one-third of our senior executives are female. Our board of directors is composed of 40 percent women and 40 percent minority. This compares favorably to other Fortune 500 companies, where the average board is 20 percent women and 13 percent minority.
Inspired by Innovation
I’m also proud to say Clorox has a rich variety of diversity-based groups and programs. Not only are they a way for employees to meet and socialize, but we also look to our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to sustain our inclusion and diversity efforts while also being a valued source of business ideas.
ERGs helped Clorox reach diverse consumers through their cultural insights. Latino was instrumental in the acquisition of Nueva Cocina® and launch of Clorox Fraganzia™. Asian expanded our portfolio with acquisition of Soy Vay®, Brita® marketing campaign in Canada, and launch of our Glad MatchWare™. LGBT developed unique marketing campaigns for Burt’s Bees® and Fresh Step®. Black partnered Ebony Magazine with Kingsford® charcoal for a summer grilling campaign.
However you decide to define inclusion and diversity, the key is to view it as something that will make your organization stronger and more effective. Think of diversity not as a problem or something that divides you. By working with an inclusive team, by tapping the best in each of us, building future diverse business leaders can be a game changer.
Written by Erby L. Foster, Jr., Director, Diversity