(l to r) Robert Childs, EVP, Office of Enterprise Inclusion, Diversity and Business Engagement, American Express and Sonia Cargan, Chief Colleague Inclusion & Diversity Officer, American Express
By Robert Childs & Sonia Cargan
At American Express, we believe that the purpose of a corporation is to serve the needs of society, and that backing our colleagues, customers and communities is critical to our success. As one of the first companies to establish dedicated employee network groups and create a chief diversity officer role, we have a long commitment to inclusion and diversity. Throughout our history, we have made important strides, but last year, as we and other companies confronted systemic issues of racial injustice and inequality exacerbated by a global health crisis, we understood that to drive real change, we needed to further intensify our focus and make inclusion and diversity the heart of not only our workplace but how we do business.
That’s where our journey, together, begins. In our roles as Chief Colleague Inclusion & Diversity Officer and as the Head of the Office of Enterprise Inclusion, Diversity and Business Engagement, we are committed to promoting racial, ethnic and gender equity inside and outside of American Express. We’re doing this by working to build a deeper understanding of inclusion, raising awareness about the experiences of marginalized communities and empowering our colleagues to drive meaningful change.
For Sonia, this work started in 2018, when her team set out to enhance diversity training at all levels of the company, bringing colleagues from around the world together to openly talk about topics like race and belonging, and creating a more active dialogue among our executive leadership and 16 global Colleague Networks, including our Black Engagement and Hispanic Origin & Latin American Networks. This work built upon the efforts of our Chairman and CEO, Stephen J. Squeri, and the Executive Committee, who made inclusion and diversity a core tenant of American Express’ strategy, our company values and how we lead.
These efforts have created a sense of belonging and a strong foundation of community across the company. A community that came together – grieved and shaken – after the tragic deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, ready to accelerate the work that needed to be done.
In response, we created the Office of Enterprise Inclusion, Diversity and Business Engagement, led by Robert, to expand our inclusion and diversity work. We provided a framework to guide and integrate efforts across the company, which resulted in the creation of an enterprise-wide $1B Action Plan to promote racial, ethnic and gender equity for our colleagues, customers and communities globally. Through this plan, we have committed to maintaining 100% pay equity for all colleagues worldwide (which we achieved in 2020), doubling spending with diverse suppliers, expanding access to capital for minority-owned businesses and increasing the resources we allocate to community organizations that promote racial equality and social justice.
While we’re proud of the strong diversity of our workforce, we also challenged ourselves to do more to ensure greater balanced representation across all levels of our company. We have a comprehensive strategy for recruitment, hiring and promotion practices, and we’re partnering with outside organizations, like OneTen, a coalition of leading companies that is working to create employment opportunities and break down economic barriers for Black Americans. Although the initial focus of our work is on the Black and African American community, we are working closely with advisors from our Colleague Networks to ensure that we are inclusive of all groups globally.
Enduring change doesn’t happen overnight, and we are committed to continuing to build a welcoming and inclusive culture while conducting our business in a way that addresses society’s larger needs. There’s still so much work to be done, but we know that with the continued support of our American Express community, we can take our commitment to the next level with the aim of creating a more sustainable and equitable future where all people have the opportunities and resources to reach their full potential.