By Monica Jackson, Vice President, Global Inclusion & Diversity, Eaton
Just before he passed away last summer, U.S. Congressman John Lewis, who devoted his life to racial justice and equality, wrote about the importance of acting to bring about change. Lewis wrote, “Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.”
This past year has been a time of trouble in our history – some good, some necessary and some not so. When they were written midway through 2020, Lewis’ words were a necessary reminder that speaking out is important but it’s the courageous individual acts for good that make a difference in the long run. It has been far too long without sustainable change. Rooting out injustice, challenging systemic barriers that perpetuate inequality and ensuring access and opportunity for all is a long game – one that I am deeply committed to no matter how hard or how long it takes.
At Eaton, we’ve been taking intentional action for many years to advance inclusion and diversity in our company and in the communities where we live and work. Our aspirational goal is to be a model of inclusion and diversity in our industry — a place where everyone matters, a place where everyone belongs. We believe in leading by example, and that belief starts at the top with our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Craig Arnold. Our CEO passionately called on our 92,000 employees for compassion and courage during last spring’s social unrest. He reiterated our company’s commitment to do all in our power to foster a culture of trust and inclusion at Eaton.
Eaton is also leading by example with its diverse leadership. In 2020, Eaton reported that 50% of our Board of Directors are women or U.S. minorities. In the prior year, Eaton reported that 50% of our Global Leadership Team are U.S. minorities, and we increased the number of women and U.S. minorities holding executive and manager roles by 6% and 8%, respectively. Also in 2019, we purchased $1.9 billion in goods and services from small and diverse suppliers and purchases with minority owned firms increased by more than 1.5%.
We know the needs of the communities where we live and work are great, and there are many initiatives we’re engaged in that are worthy of our time and attention. But, in a year when the pandemic changed the way we do everything, one need stands out: addressing the significant “digital divide” that impacts minority communities. In today’s world, internet access is critical — it enables us to search for jobs, attend lectures, complete schoolwork, access health care and more, all remotely. Yet one out of four households in the Ohio county where Eaton Center is based lacks internet access, and most of those households are in Black neighborhoods.
When the COVID-19 pandemic required our schools to instruct remotely, 50% of the Cleveland Metropolitan School System students didn’t have internet access — a stark illustration of how the digital divide exacerbates already existing inequality. As a corporate citizen in our community, we’ve banded together with other business and civic leaders to advance digital inclusion by contributing our knowledge and resources. We’re confident we can make meaningful, measurable progress in a relatively short period of time to close the digital divide.
Moving our communities forward, addressing systemic racial inequity, and ensuring an inclusive workplace for our employees has and will continue to be a long-term journey. But we’re in this together for the long run – to improve the quality of life in every way we can.
As novelist and activist James Baldwin stated, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”