Jolen Anderson, Global Head of Human Resources, and Sam Scott, Director and Board Member, recently discussed the movement against racial injustice that is sweeping the United States and the world. Below are excerpts from that conversation which took place during an all-employee town hall.
Jolen: Could you start with your reflections on recent events? What's your observation of how these events are impacting leaders and particularly Black leaders? And what advice might you have for both our Black and non-black colleagues as they move forward?
Sam: Well, you know, I'm hoping this time it's different. There have been some significant issues that have caused me to believe that something may change this time. What is happening is people are now truly talking about the subject. My contention has been that it's going to be corporate America that steps up to the plate in conjunction with the governments. Corporate America has the talent, the money and the longevity to be able to put this together. But just like any other business, we have to address it…as if it is a real business problem.
There's a lot of pressure on Black leaders today and in the past to lead. When your added job is to take care of all the issues of diversity in your organization, plus do your job on a day-to-day basis, the extra pressures are there. But we have to step up to the plate and deal with those issues. For non-Black leaders, truly, we have to get them engaged. It's no longer talking, it's getting engaged. It's dealing with the issues. It's becoming uncomfortable with what's going on in the world today.
Jolen: Let’s talk about some of the myths that exist around diversity and inclusion. One of the first ones that I often hear is that there is no pipeline of diverse or particularly Black talent. We're out there looking for diverse individuals to join our teams, but we just can't find them. There's not enough talent in the space. What do you say to that statement?
Sam: Well, I have heard that one when I was working, I've heard it since I retired, and it's constantly something on everyone's mind. If you look in the wrong spot, you will not find what it is you're looking for. There is diverse talent, there's Black talent throughout this country. You can find the talent in universities of every scale. And certainly, you can go to predominately Black universities and colleges and find talent and bring that talent into the workplace.
We have to bring people in at the middle management levels so that we have employees that entry-level folks can look up to and dialogue can take place at all levels of the organization. The myth that you can't find them is wrong. We can find people and it has to be a concentrated effort to look for them.
I think one of the things that I've noticed is that a number of Black young men and women with good MBAs, very talented individuals, have left the corporate role to start up their own operations. They want to be entrepreneurs because they don't see the movement available to them that they were hoping for in the corporate world. If we flip that around, some of that talent will roll right back in. They're there, we just have to figure out how we find folks and bring them in.
“It's no longer just talking. It's getting engaged. It's dealing with the issues. It's becoming uncomfortable with what's going on in the world today.”Sam Scott, Director and Board Member, BNY Mellon
Jolen: Thanks, Sam. I’ve got one more myth buster for you: that inclusion is a zero-sum game. So, if we're promoting more women, that means men aren't getting promoted. If we're hiring more African Americans that means someone else has lost out an opportunity. If you are changing the standards, it somehow means that it's a taking away from another population versus everyone benefiting from this collective inclusion together. Is that something that you can address?
Sam: I certainly can. We can find women and people of color that have no issue with respect to meeting the qualifications for what we're looking for. So, we’re talking about opening up opportunities to more people who have the aptitude and ambition to succeed, not taking away opportunities or limiting access to only a few. If in fact, we're going out and finding talent, we have to be prepared with diverse slates of people and then find ways to bring them into our organization and put them in key spots. And if we don't do that, things will not change. It just will not happen. It can't happen.
Jolen: We've talked a lot about inclusion and sometimes it feels like this lofty, unattainable concept. Can you share with us and break it down when inclusion is done right, what does it feel like? What does it look like?
Sam: Inclusion is where people feel comfortable. They enjoy what they're doing. They feel a part of it and there is equal opportunity for everyone. And we've heard about equal opportunity for years and obviously, it hasn't worked. To me, it has to be real if we're talking about opportunities that are equal for all people in the organization and people have to believe in that. But, it also is where you go to work and you're comfortable discussing subjects where the organization can come together, and it feels like family. And you can fuss, and you can feel, and then you can do what you have to do sitting around the dinner table. We go at each other, we joke, we play, we whatever, but it's a good space to be in. And you go home feeling good about the discussions you had that day. Very few companies are in that boat today. Very, very few companies are in that place today.
I used to give everybody a half a day a month to sit down and discuss whatever it is they wanted to discuss. That's where the opportunity comes to understand what's going on in this world today. And it's not going to happen overnight. Folks are going to feel extremely uncomfortable in some of these conversations, but without the conversation, nothing's going to change.
Prior to his retirement in 2009, Sam served as Chairman (since 2001), Chief Executive Officer (since 2001) and President and Chief Operating Officer (since 1997) of Corn Products International, Inc., a leading global ingredients solutions provider now known as Ingredion Incorporated. He previously served as President of CPC International’s Corn Refining division from 1995 to 1997 and President of American Corn Refining from 1989 to 1997.
Sam also serves on the board of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Board of Trustees of the Ringling College of Art and Design. He served on the board of Motorola Solutions, Inc. from 1993 until 2019 and was its lead director from 2015 to 2019. He also served on the board of Abbott Laboratories from 2007 until 2020. Sam received both a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master in Business Administration degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He served as a director of The Bank of New York from 2003 to 2007 and has served as a director of the company since 2007.
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As Global Head of Human Resources, Jolen oversees company's global Human Resources organization and directs the strategies, policies and practices supporting the company's diverse and inclusive culture and its employees. Over the course of her distinguished career, she has worked at the intersection employee relations, corporate culture and diversity, performance management and labor law. She has held leadership roles across a wide range of HR disciplines and demonstrated a commitment and passion for promoting talent in a global organization.
Prior to joining BNY Mellon, Jolen served as Senior Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer and Chief Counsel, Employment and Social Responsibility for Visa. She was responsible for the strategic development and implementation of Visa’s Global Diversity and Inclusion strategy, leading a global team focused on implementation of enterprise-wide efforts to attract, develop and retain top performing talent in an inclusive work culture. She also led a team providing strategic legal support to the Global Human Resources organization, including counseling senior executives and the board of directors on employment, executive compensation and corporate governance matters.
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