Earlier this month, the company set aside a day for purposeful reflection, effective learning and meaningful celebration of inclusion and diversity throughout the American Water workforce.
“Inclusion and Diversity Day is a time when the entire company, from our executive leadership team to our frontline employees, focuses on our I&D journey and learning how every person has a part in moving the needle,” said Nicole Boyd, newly appointed Director of Inclusion and Diversity. Along with Nicole and our Chief Inclusion Officer Valoria Armstrong, at the heart of the second annual I&D Day initiative was American Water’s Inclusion and Diversity Council and our network of I&D Champions. These dedicated members of our team worked diligently to guide local leadership and colleagues in pulling off a day of virtual learning and celebrations.
Along with a variety of smaller internal events organized by council members and champions, American Water’s Corporate team held two live podcasts for all employees. Each was developed with specific themes that were not only meant to shape the meaning of the day, but also help reinforce the fact that I&D is at the heart of American Water’s company culture.
I&D across the board…
For the first podcast, a group of senior-level employees in talent acquisition, supplier diversity, benefits, and learning and development discussed enhancing American Water’s efforts to foster a culture of I&D.
The live event, streaming to 2,400 employees across the country, delved into how American Water’s core culture impacts and is impacted by the company’s diverse employee base. For example, Marianne Taylor, American Water’s Director of Talent Acquisition, pointed to the company’s Inclusion Starts with Me program as an “opportunity for employees to voluntarily self I.D. their gender, race, ethnicity, disability status, military status, LGBTQ+ affiliations, etc. With this confidential data, we are able to better understand our employees and create an inclusive workforce, where everyone feels accepted and valued.”
Here are some other highlights:
“My role and responsibilities are focused on ensuring that diverse suppliers have an opportunity to compete for our business. The reason this is so important is that we want to work with suppliers that mirror the communities that we serve…it extends beyond me and throughout the company. I encourage everyone to broach these important conversations, [and] ask, ‘Have we looked at diverse suppliers?’”
– Larry Wooten, Sr. Manager, National Supplier Diversity
“When it comes to inclusion and diversity, we may not generally think of benefits programs. But, that is another area where American Water has been very intentional…we have worked hard to provide a more customized benefits offering. This includes Autism support programs…and we also added gender reassignment services for both of our medical plans so our employees and their dependents can be their most authentic selves.”
– Erica Butler, Benefits Lead
“We’ve long been on a journey with I&D training. This year, we hope to take it to another level. The topic is going to be on allyship in the workplace. In past years, our topics have focused on self-reflection and awareness. This year, we want to give employees actionable ways to create a more inclusive work environment.”
– Kevin LaMonaca, Director, Learning and Development
…and from the top, down.
The second live podcast, our Inclusion and Diversity Day panel, brought in 2,500 employees to watch and listen to an upbeat, informative discussion about the state of I&D at American Water from key leaders: Valoria Armstrong and President and CEO Walter Lynch. Lynch recognized the progress made and outlined goals going forward, opening with the motto “the culture begins and ends with all of us.”
President of Regulated States & Military Services Group, Bruce Hauk, joined the panel, along with two special guests: Sheri Evans Depp, Global Director of Human Resources at Lexmark International and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympic Champion and CEO of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation. They shared ideas on the importance of having initiatives and conversations around I&D.
“The reason that this conversation, along with others that we have had, is so important is that it creates a foundation for understanding. Then, understanding is that springboard to learning and with both, we can make effective, meaningful change.”
– Bruce Hauk, President of Regulated States & Military Services Group
“For me, it’s all about respect and having an honest conversation. It leads to understanding of where someone else is coming from and then developing empathy. So, I think this conversation is great as the company continues to grow…Everyone wants to and should feel counted and appreciated.”
– Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympic Champion & CEO of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation
“To me, diversity, equity and inclusion is incredibly important when you’re looking at building high-functioning organizations. Being able to learn from each other, hear each other and understand each other’s viewpoints helps us all become better. When we look at the creativity and synthesis of ideas that come from that mutual respect, that’s when you see real change — companies able to go to that next level and employees excited to be there with them.”
– Sheri Evans Depp, Global Director of Human Resources at Lexmark International
American Water’s second Inclusion & Diversity Day was a resounding success; it provided time for guided reflection, learning and celebration of concepts so critical to our company. We are committed to bettering ourselves every day for our “Beautifully Different” customers and employees.