Group keeping discussion at forefront in 2021
by Mary Margaret Stewart / staff writer
As part of its recent virtual Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Conference, the Illuminators Educational Foundation held a panel discussion featuring grocery industry leaders discussing what companies and society can do better moving forward.
The panelists included: Sheryl Salazar, director of fresh for Albertsons Cos.; Subriana Pierce, managing partner of Navigator Sales & Marketing; Phil Miller, VP West region for C&S Wholesale; and Lupillo Ramirez, senior director of innovation and product development for Northgate Gonzales Market.
Serving as moderator for the session was Reena Hajat Carroll, executive director of the California Conference For Equality and Justice.
In a wide-ranging discussion, the topics ranged from the history of oppression in minority communities to company actions on addressing diversity and inclusion.
In the wake of the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, Miller shared how the leadership team at C&S Wholesale took a different approach. Instead of sticking to a company statement, they wanted to start a conversation with employees.
“We created these listen-and-learn sessions throughout most, if not all, of our locations. We’ve got 60 plus distribution centers across the country,” Miller said. “And those sessions were designed to get to the frontlines of our team members, and really allow the space for them to express their concerns, provide feedback on what they think the direction of the company needs to be and just allow their emotions time to grieve.
“It was so critical at that time – emotions were flying all over the place. So, in my mind, what it allowed us to be able to do is really enhance our perspective around how to continue to stand up and [use diversity and inclusion] strategy, how to engage with our employee bases in our communities in a way that can be very meaningful moving forward.”
Pierce said she has noticed substantially more announcements of companies hiring chief diversity officers and managers. She mentioned how organizations that exhibit gender and ethnic diversity are more likely to outperform their less diverse counterparts.
“We know organizations with more gender and racial diversity, bring an increased revenue, bring in more customers, bring in higher profits,” she said.
Salazar spoke about Albertson’s Co. commitment to diversity and inclusion through hiring, promotion, talent development, resource groups and community engagement. She also noted that the company is providing contributions to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the National Urban League.
For Ramirez, diversity extends beyond race and refers to political niche, culture, sexual orientation, religion, class era, gender identity and differences.
“Inclusion means that everyone in the diverse mix feels involved, valued, respected, treated fairly and should be part of the culture – empowering all associates in recognizing their special talents is part of creating an inclusive company,” he said.
“When we talk about equity and inclusion, it’s not just notions. They’re just not nice notions, they are business imperatives, and they’re necessary for the success of the business.”