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A CEO And A Teen Activist Have A Candid Conversation About Inclusion

"We are an odd pairing and perfect equity partners."
Courtesy of Perdue Farms

By Randy Day, CEO, Perdue Farms & Marley Dias, Author and Activist

What brings people together is not their differences, but what they have in common. For us — a 13-year-old teen activist, and the CEO of Perdue Farms, a nearly 100-year-old company — that common ground is our shared commitment to creating a more diverse and inclusive world.

We come at this work from different perspectives.

One of us grew frustrated from reading books in school in which white boys and their dogs were always the main characters, and wanted more black girl protagonists.

One of us looked at business meetings and saw, with a few exceptions, people who looked just like him. He grew frustrated by the sameness, and wanted a company that better reflected its employees, communities, customers and consumers.

We first crossed paths at a CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion event, and realized that each of us is trying to find a solution to exclusion and bigotry, albeit in different ways — one through activism and outreach, another through leading a company. Recently, we came together again at Perdue Farm’s Diversity and Inclusion forum to have a candid conversation about inclusion.

In front of 100 or so of the company’s leaders, we dialogued about steps that each of us can take to promote and achieve greater equity:

  • Celebrate the diversity in our voices. Not all people are the same, and not all voices are the same. When we invite more people to share who they are, their stories and viewpoints, we are better able to learn more about each other. We can then celebrate and honor those differences in meaningful ways.

  • Make inclusion a priority. Inclusion will happen when we decide it matters. And we have to be intentional about it. Those in power must always consider creative ways to bring more ideas and new ways of seeing the world to those in their charge.

  • Move beyond equality to equity. Inclusion leads to belonging, and belonging means greater equity. Equality is about making sure that everyone has the same thing, but we are not all the same and our needs are not all the same. Equality is not enough because it does not focus on the core competencies of each person.

Perdue’s Diversity and Inclusion Summit was a step forward in moving beyond accepting diversity to celebrating diversity. A company that lacks diversity and inclusion will not stay relevant, and an organization that is not inclusive is not able to draw upon its greatest asset: its people.

On the one hand, you could say it’s unfortunate that we have to have events like this. On the other, there’s something joyous in seeing a problem, working to actively find solutions and providing resources to make a change.

There’s a lot at stake. When we do not create and support diversity, we run the risk of enabling intolerance. Lack of exposure to diverse experiences and people can contribute to hate and hostility.

Taking steps to make each individual feel valued and represented helps create a more just world. Everyone has a position of influence, and we should embrace equity and inclusion.

Marley Dias is an activist and advocate for diversity and equity, and the author of Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!.

Randy Day is the fourth CEO of Perdue Farms. Perdue will be celebrating its centennial anniversary in 2020.

CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion was spearheaded by PwC U.S. Chairman Tim Ryan.


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