Inaction or In Action?

Alveda Williams and Rebecca Bentley pose with other SOAR participants

I have no doubt that if we will all lean forward in action together…
we will soar.

SOAR, the inclusion summit held at the Great Lakes Bay Invitational LPGA tournament, began with a question. For the attendees – our customers, suppliers and community members – this question was personal, a daily challenge: inaction or in action?

Why now?

Inclusion, diversity and equity (ID&E) are under fire on so many fronts. Organizations in the public and private sectors – from schools to major corporations – feel the heat. But to be clear, the focus of SOAR was not political. It was not about the right or the left. It was about doing what is right and making sure that no one is left behind.

Our guests included LPGA players, business leaders, the Speaker of the House for the State of Michigan, retired baseball player turned philanthropist Derek Jeter and youth from the Great Lakes Bay Region. They all shared how they are leaning into action.

“The best share of the best talent”

President of Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics, Karen S. Carter, asked her panelists if, given current pressures, they were staying the course or reversing course with respect to ID&E. Senior Vice President and Chief HR and Diversity & Inclusion Officer, WM, Kelly Rooney, reaffirmed WM’s commitment – “DE&I is in the best interests of our people, our customers, our shareholders and the environment … If our organization and other organizations do not become a place that is welcoming and supportive of all people, you will not be able to get the best share of the best talent.”

Derek Jeter echoed the sentiment that you need a diverse team to win. Referring to his recent role as CEO of Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins, he said: “I’ve always liked to surround myself with people who look at the world differently and that’s what I brought down to Miami.”

Leveling the playing field – on and off the golf course

Throughout SOAR, we were reminded that each of us can make a difference and that the results can be life changing. Donnell R. White, senior vice president and Regional DEI Director for Huntington Bank and the youngest-ever executive director of the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP, spoke of being very aware of “walking across a floor you did not have to sweep and through doors that you no longer had to open.” ID&E opens doors, levels the playing field and gives all people a chance to compete.

That is why Dow remains unwavering in its commitment to ID&E. As Dow Chair and CEO Jim Fitterling said in his conversation with the Speaker of the House of Michigan Joe Tate, “If everybody has a path toward a productive life, the GDP of the economy improves, the quality of life of everybody improves and … the burden on the government goes down, not up.”

Moving ID&E forward, moving people’s lives forward, only happens through intentional action. And by the end of the session, after presenting sponsor PwC led us through an exercise that grappled with privilege, we wrote down our personal commitments to take action in our respective communities and companies.

And that’s what SOAR was all about – in action! I said it at the conference, and I’ll say it again and again: “I have no doubt that if we will all lean forward in action together … we will soar.” And soar we must.

Alveda Williams, Ph.D., Chief Inclusion Officer, Dow