Nearly a century ago, writer and historian Carter G. Woodson boldly envisioned a way to raise awareness of African American contributions to civilization when he announced the first-ever Negro History Week. When he died in 1950, Negro History Week was a central part of African American life, as more Americans embraced the celebration. In 1976, approximately fifty years after the first celebration, it expanded to become what is now Black History Month. This year, as we pause to draw lessons from history with an eye toward the future, let’s recognize the power of a bold vision and courageous action.

Such traits are critical for DEI leaders to galvanize organizations, transform culture and sustain momentum. At Eaton, a global intelligent power management company with more than 85,000 employees and operations in 170 countries, we aspire to be a model of inclusion and diversity in our industry. This goal drove our decision to declare our bold 2030 commitments in our Global Inclusion and Diversity Transparency report. These include maintaining or exceeding the representation of women and U.S. minorities on our board and global leadership team and increasing the representation of salaried global women and U.S. minorities. We’re committed to this because we know that diverse perspectives power a better company. When we embrace the different ideas, perspectives and backgrounds that make each of us unique, we-as individuals and as a company-are stronger.

As of 2022, more than two-thirds of our directors were women or U.S. minorities and 54% of our global leadership team was comprised of U.S. minorities. We have taken other actions to increase equity outside of our company as well. For example, our Chairman & CEO, Craig Arnold, co-leads the Second Chance Business Coalition (SCBC) with the Business Roundtable to improve access to employment and advancement for people with prior criminal convictions. Of candidates who applied to Eaton with criminal flags, 81% passed our revised criminal review process. Plus, we were recently named a Mansfield 2.0 Certified Legal Department (MRLD) and achieved the MRLD Certification Plus designation. This means we consider at least 50% historically underrepresented lawyers for leadership roles when we interview. Underrepresented lawyers comprise at least 50% of our legal leadership team.

We also strive to ensure that ethics is woven into our culture, as ethics and inclusion are inextricably linked. We believe we cannot have one without the other, and our commitment has even been recognized. Last year, we were honored by the Ethisphere Institute as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for the 11th time. In addition, we have made it a priority to engage a diverse supply base that reflects the communities where we live, work and serve. In 2021, we purchased approximately $1.42 billion in goods and services from small and diverse suppliers through our supplier diversity program. Our spending with minority-owned businesses increased by 4% and with disabled-owned suppliers by 285% over the previous year.

DEI is hard yet hopeful work. There is no magic dust or quick fix. In fact, I often compare this work to a complex puzzle comprised of several uniquely shaped pieces—and every organization’s puzzle is different. Tennis legend Arthur Ashe once said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” With that in mind, I encourage you to do the following: Determine and declare what you are solving for, analyze the root causes of your unique barriers and challenges, and identify meaningful interventions for your specific culture. Then, take bold actions and challenge the status quo. Do not slow down. Do not give up. As we have seen throughout history, significant and systemic change takes vision and courage. Black History Month, now celebrated on a global scale, proves it.


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