Pictured: Jessica Rice, Eleise Richards, Robert Wells and Phil Croskey (left to right)
The Greater Baltimore Committee’s Bridging the Gap Committee hosted a webinar about “Racial Equity in the Workplace – Moving from Statements to Action” on October 7, 2020.
The discussion illustrated how leading companies are taking action to advance racial equity and social justice within their organizations and in the community.
Topics covered included Under Armour’s Diversity & Inclusion efforts and the data-driven approach the company is taking to measure progress toward goals related to hiring, compensation and workplace culture; the recently launched Black Business & Startup Initiative at Miles & Stockbridge in which the company is providing pro-bono legal services to black-owned businesses; and the LyftUp Initiative in which Lyft has committed to providing access to 1.5 million rides to help those in underserved communities reach food, essential jobs and services.
Panelists included Jessica Rice, Global Head, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Under Armour, Inc.; Eleise Richards, Community Strategist, Lyft; and Robert Wells, Principal, Miles & Stockbridge, P.C. Phil Croskey, CEO of MD Energy Advisors and Chair of the GBC’s Bridging the Gap Committee, served as moderator.
In his introductions, Croskey said, “The Bridging the Gap Committee’s mission is to promote a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion here in the Baltimore region. …We’ve had a banner year as a Committee and we’ve been able to tackle some tough issues. It’s been a really challenging year in 2020, but it’s going to be a fruitful year for the rest of 2020 and going forward.”
Croskey then kicked off the discussion with “Statements are nice, action is a lot more impactful. How do we move from cursory statements into more action?”
Representatives from each of the companies discussed the importance of developing a diverse team and focusing on leadership.
Rice outlined three core values at Under Armour – Stand for Equality, Fight on Together and Stay True.
“The main goal is making sure our external diversity, equity and inclusion voice is authentic to our internal voice,” she said.
Rice noted that Under Armour’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Acceleration Plan included discussions, training, supporting minority-led organizations and advancing supplier diversity. The company created a discussion series to open up dialogue around race and diversity and declared Juneteenth as a corporate holiday.
“We’re taking a holistic approach that not only looks at our teammates and our culture, but also looks at the community,” Rice said.
Richards noted that Lyft’s plan for equity and inclusion incorporates the addition of programs for grocer access, job access, voting access, disaster response, bike share and community grants. “Here at Lyft, we believe everyone should have access to reliable and affordable transportation,” Richards said.
“It is more important than ever to remove barriers that stand in the way of people’s abilities to access essential needs, opportunities,” she added.
When discussing Miles & Stockbridge’s Black Business Initiative, Wells said the firm is developing an information center and conducting bias training. Additionally, the initiative allows the firm to provide legal services to black business startups or early stage businesses at no cost.
“We decided action was necessary,” Wells said. “We are continuing to build the airplane while it’s in flight, but I’m proud our organization decided to fly.”
Croskey asked Richards why Lyft felt it was important to be active in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
“It’s just the right thing to do. We’re always looking to do what will help improve the lives of our riders and drivers through a transportation lens,” she said.
On roadblocks and challenges faced, Wells said he’d like some of the businesses the firm works with to come in a bit more prepared and to know exactly what they want to do in the marketplace. “Maximize the program. Use it for things that are most likely to propel your business forward,” he said.
Croskey asked Rice if she had advice for smaller companies who wanted to improve their diversity and inclusion programs.
“The place to start is making a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Sometimes organizations try to do too much at one time,” she said. Additionally, allow the employee base “to come to work and be who they are authentically. It does require intentionality and consistency and accountability. …There does need to be some sort of time investment from the leadership and the organization. It doesn’t just happen.”
Concerning implementing a successful program, Rice said, “Make sure you get your leaders on board. Can your leaders really even articulate the difference between diversity, equity and inclusion? They’re actually quite different and how you tackle them is quite different.”
Winding down the discussion, Croskey noted that the Baltimore region is creating an ecosystem and working collaboratively. “What you have is the makings of a really vibrant, diverse business community that we may not see … today or tomorrow, but in the coming years, you’re going to really start to see some minority businesses, some women-owned businesses begin to flourish in this region and it’s an exciting time,” he said.
Croskey ended the event by asking each of the panelists how we ensure that this isn’t just a moment and that there’s an ongoing focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
“We have to make sure this is not a moment. This is a movement. Have a sustainability plan so you know there’s long-term change ahead,” Rice said.
Richards agreed and added, “Everyone has to care. This is an issue for all of us. Inequity and injustice impacts us all if we all just stand around and do nothing about it.”
Wells cited Miles & Stockbridge’s core values of respect, compassion, integrity and diversity and said, “When that type of commitment is from the top of the firm down, it becomes and organizational norm.”
Additional information from Lyft:
See: Under Armour’s DE&I acceleration plan
- Nominations are now open for the 2020 Bridging the Gap Achievement Awards
- BBJ: Miles & Stockbridge brings on scores of new minority clients after launching diversity initiative
- Structural Racism in America: What is it?
- BBJ: Here’s where employers can start in addressing structural racism in the workplace
- We Stand for Racial Equity, Justice and Peace
The Bridging the Gap Committee is dedicated to evolving the business culture of Greater Baltimore by developing and fostering relationships between majority, minority, and women-owned businesses. In addition to promoting a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all organizations, the Bridging the Gap initiative provides targeted support and programming to help women and minority-owned businesses in Greater Baltimore succeed and grow.