By Sheryl Battles, VP, Global Diversity Inclusion and Engagement, Pitney Bowes Inc.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously dreamed of a world in which his children “would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” In my opinion Dr. King was not advocating a color-blind society. He was instead pointing out that just like eye color, for example, skin color distinguishes individuals but does not and should not exclusively define who they are or limit what they can achieve.
In 2020 we were graphically reminded of the unfortunate reality of how far we are from realizing the dream. The twin pandemics of Covid-19 and racial injustice illuminated a wide array of underlying inequities such as higher unemployment, increased food insecurity, wage disparities, chronic health issues and educational achievement gaps exacerbated by the digital divide.
In 2021 and beyond, corporations have a unique opportunity to translate the dream into reality and dismantle the false narrative that difference limits worth. In a world where people increasingly curate truth and relationships with those most similar to themselves, the corporation provides one of the greatest opportunities to experience differences and learn about others while working together toward a common goal. Each conversation, project, business challenge, or win is an opportunity to discover each other’s strengths, note commonalities and experience the power of diversity in action.
At Pitney Bowes we believe there is one race – human. We are over 11,000 strong, speak 44 languages and are 49% people of color and 43% female. We celebrate what we have in common, as well as the differences that distinguish us, and combine them to deliver superior products, solutions and services to 750,000 clients, including 90% of the Fortune 500. We are intentionally inclusive of all voices and insights because this rich mix helps us meet client needs, deliver relevant innovation, create a strong supply chain, support our communities and attract, grow and maintain the best talent.
Our legacy of inclusion started in the 1940s during World War II when our CEO Walter Wheeler was appointed head of a regional War Production Board by President Roosevelt. Part of his focus in coordinating production resources to support the war effort was to convince manufacturers to fill labor shortages with women, African Americans and the disabled. He quickly recognized the work ethic and quality of this previously untapped talent and his eyes were opened to diversity’s link to productivity and performance. Over the next 20 years he took a series of professional and personal actions to create equitable opportunities for diverse talent including writing a memo in 1942 to ensure no systemic issues precluded our hiring of qualified people irrespective of race or religion. In 1964 he submitted testimony before the U.S. Senate in support of the Title VII Equal Employment Act of the historic Civil Rights Act.
Each Pitney Bowes CEO since has taken action to advance our diversity and the inclusiveness of our culture, workforce, supply chain and communities in which we operate. Last year CEO Marc Lautenbach led other businesses to establish the Fairfield County Corporate Collaborative for Education Equity in Connecticut with the Fairfield County Community Foundation to help reduce or eliminate disparities for the most vulnerable students pre-K-12. He is also on the Business Roundtable Committee for Racial Equity and Justice. People of color are currently 17% of our CEO’s Senior Management Team, 18% of senior executives and our Board of Directors is 50% women, including our newest member Shelia Stamps, an accomplished African American professional who sits on several Boards. While we are proud of our progress, we realize there’s always more to do to infuse diversity throughout all levels of our business. We have embedded a diversity and inclusion lens, including data analysis, throughout all our talent management practices including talent acquisition, learning and development, performance management and succession planning. We are facilitating professional growth, personal wholeness and understanding of differences through training, experiential learning, mentoring, courageous conversations, webinars on topics like Allyship and inclusion networks.
Dr. King dreamt of a world where your value couldn’t be summed up at a glance. We all benefit when we create an inclusive environment which honors our common humanity, celebrates the diversity that distinguishes us, and utilizes it to do together what we cannot do apart. That is the journey we have been on at Pitney Bowes, and that is the dream we are committed to translating into a reality.