Who: Shannon A. Brown
What: Senior vice president and chief HR/diversity officer, FedEx Express
When: Dec. 4, 1978
Size of company/Number of employees (approx.): More than 151,000 worldwide
What special experiences or qualifications do you feel you bring to the D&I picture of your company?
Brown: I started working at FedEx as a handler in the Memphis Hub. As a man of color, my success here derives from working at a company that embraces diverse viewpoints, ideas and backgrounds of our employees — on a global perspective. In fact, embracing diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the company’s business success and continues to fuel our spirit of innovation.
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about diversity and inclusion, and how can you alter those perceptions?
Brown: One of the biggest misconceptions is that diversity and inclusion is local. The fact is that in today’s marketplace, diversity and inclusion must be looked at holistically from a global perspective. FedEx Express operates in more than 220 countries and territories. This global reach requires more interaction among people from diverse cultures, beliefs and backgrounds than ever before — even within our own workforce. With over 80 percent of the growth in consumption occurring outside of North America and Europe by 2020, understanding the cultural values of our team members, customers and communities we service gives FedEx a competitive advantage. It makes sense that our values reflect a sincere respect for all people and cultures. We encourage diversity because it’s the right thing to do, and it makes business sense from a global perspective.
What area of diversity do you place special emphasis on? What programs do you have in place to further your efforts in this area?
Brown: FedEx is committed to increasing the number of minority students in the U.S. attending college and preparing to work in the global economy. We do this by providing scholarships and internships for minority students while also investing in programs that educate and prepare students and their families to apply for college. Examples of scholarships we sponsor include the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, UNCF, and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Foundation.
An example of community outreach is our support of the LAGRANT Foundation. We enable them to provide 25 career development workshops each year. The organization coordinates career development workshops for students in major college markets nationwide. The workshops provide students with an opportunity to interact with industry professionals and learn more about what it takes to begin a career in public relations, marketing and advertising.
Are there special challenges in your company and/or industry you will address through diversity and inclusion? What makes D&I unique at your organization?
Brown: Our team members are our greatest assets and FedEx supports affinity groups within our company through multicultural forums, websites, publications and special events.
The affinity groups at FedEx share a common mission: to promote education, awareness and information regarding their respective culture at FedEx to ensure inclusion of all employees. Some affinity groups at FedEx include the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Friends Network, the Cancer Support Network and the Multi-faith Network.
How do you gauge the success of future diversity goals/initiatives? What metrics do you use to prove that diversity and inclusion contributes to the success of the business as a whole?
Brown: FedEx has strong policies to help ensure and increase minority and female representation. We continually monitor to ensure that we are meeting our goals and are in compliance with the applicable regulations in every country we operate.
Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is reflected by our workforce. For example, 42.6 percent of the members of FedEx management are women and minorities. At FedEx, 44 percent of all team members are minorities — who hold almost 28 percent of the manager positions.
FedEx is regarded as an employer of choice around the world. Recent recognition includes FedEx Latin America is ranked No. 8 on the Great Place to Work Institute’s list of the 2012 100 Best Companies to Work For. The Great Place to Work Institute also has ranked FedEx United Arab Emirates No. 1 on its 2012 list of Best Companies to Work For.
What role does senior leadership play in D&I efforts at your organization?
Brown: At FedEx, diversity and inclusion starts with the executive leadership. The FedEx Express Vice President Diversity Council is composed of senior officers at FedEx Express who support and champion diversity and inclusion. The council promotes inclusiveness by raising diversity awareness and supporting multicultural programs within the company and communities we serve. It’s a grassroots engine that helps drive our global mindset.
In addition, FedEx executives support and work with local and national organizations that promote human rights, civil rights, equality and the value of cultural differences. As an example, I participate with the National Council of La Raza and the NAACP.