Companies Try a New Approach to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Honest Conversations

For years, organizations have spent billions of dollars on DE&I programs that have largely failed. But there’s something different going on now.
Aug 7, 2020 1:00 PM ET

By Theresa Avogino

Disgusted and saddened by the May killing of George Floyd while in police custody, Jaime Irick wrote a letter about racism to his team of more than 6,000 employees at PPG. The executive explained how he learned about the subject from his Black father, who protested segregation in the 1960s, and how he would lead the unit in conversations about recent events.

As a result, discussions about the typically taboo subject sprung up all over at the Pittsburgh-based maker of paints and specialty materials.

"What surprised me was how many people wanted to tell their stories," says Irick, PPG vice president, architectural coatings, U.S. and Canada. "There's just a lot of people who are unaware [about racism]."

Tatiana Berardinelli was shocked when she heard Black colleagues describe being gripped by fear after being pulled over by police while driving, and others explain how they worried about their children's safety when they left the house.

"These things never came to my mind," says Berardinelli, PPG human resources director, global architectural coatings.

PPG already has a variety of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives, though it doesn't break out statistics on people of color. Berardinelli says these conversations are different from PPG's other DE&I endeavors.

"What we haven't done before is have these open discussions and understanding of our colleagues' experiences," Berardinelli says.

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