Women of Color and Their Allies

On Oct. 2, 2018 in Atlanta, DiversityInc brought together top corporate executives, across various industries, to have frank conversations about the challenges women of color face in corporate America.

Abbott’s General Counsel Hubert Allen Reflects on the Values His Parents Instilled in Him

Abbott's Hubert Allen reflects on the values his parents instilled in him, how he built one of the most diverse teams at the company and its commitment to reaching young students.

Hubert Allen's parents immigrated to the U.S. from a very small island in the West Indies; he was the first of his family born in the U.S.

After attending public schools in Boston, he attended college at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and eventually law school at Yale.

Allen started his career at law firms, first in New York and then in California. After a stint at McKesson Corporation, Allen made his way to Abbott. Today he serves as the company's general counsel, a role he assumed when Abbott separated from its proprietary pharma business, AbbVie, in 2013.

Shane Nelson: Your parents are your first true teachers. How important was education to them?

Hubert Allen: Education to them was extremely important because they saw it as a way for us to grow up and have a very different life than they had. Being born in the '30s in the West Indies, they were born into a very different world than the world we occupy today.

But they had a vision for what they wanted our lives to look like and a big part of that was education. They did not attend college but they were very focused on us being educated. They had a sense of how they believed the world worked. They taught us about outlook and character. They were very big on integrity.

They were very big on the idea that you should say what you're going to do and do what you say. They were very big on the idea that you always do the right thing in any situation. They instilled an innate sense of curiosity in me and my siblings.

They also taught us perseverance, that life is not always going to be great and it will often kick you in the teeth. But the real question is: what are you going to do about it? How do you stay in the game and how do you keep moving along?

They taught us a sense of embracing challenge. They believed you should always challenge yourself, through education and through your work. Challenge yourself to always be better than you were at a given moment in time. They thought that growth was an important part of life.

When you think about it and you think about being an immigrant, all of this makes sense. It was a tremendous thing for my parents to pick themselves up from someplace where they were pretty comfortable, and move to this world that they knew nothing about. They did it because they thought we would have a better life.

But it was a major undertaking. When you do that, you have to have a sense of optimism about the world. You have to have a sense that your place in the world matters and that there are things that you can control and if you control the things that you can control, good things will come your way.

Shane Nelson: Great! I want to jump right into your diversity efforts. After the split with AbbVie, you had to build a new team and you were able to build it into one of the most diverse teams at Abbott. How were you able to do that?

Hubert Allen: There are a couple of things that worked for us.

One is Abbott's reputation. Abbott is a company that is committed to diversity and that commitment is very visible. That is very helpful for us when building a more diverse team.

The second thing is we knew that in order to achieve diversity in our teams, we had to start with our pipeline – who is applying for, and being considered for, Abbott jobs. We were, and still are, very clear that we expect a diverse set of candidates to consider. We also focused on diversity at the law firms we use. Specifically, we focused on having them use a diverse team to present to us for every engagement. It's not always going to be the partner leading the matter; there tended to be a fair number of diverse people working on any issue. With the associates, and with people who are on the team, we just created an expectation for them that when they put together a team for us, it must be diverse.

That's important because often for in-house jobs, you tend to hire people that you've worked with. A lot of our people, the people who come to us, are people who were associates at the law firms we interact with. They know us, we know them, and when there is an opening, they put up their hands to say, "Hey, I'm interested in that." So, if you want to build a diverse team, you have to work on making sure that, that interaction is also one that then reflects diversity.

The next thing we did is we started building connections. We built connections within the legal community where we could tell our story as an employer and as an in-house department. A lot of folks coming out of law school think about their career choices, I know I did, in three buckets. You could be a private lawyer at a law firm, you can be a government lawyer or you could become an academic. But there are other options.

For a lot of people, myself included, working as a lawyer for a company like Abbott might actually be the best option because it might marry your interest with opportunity in a sense that it requires a different skill set than you would use working for a law firm. It allows you to do things that you wouldn't do if you were at a law firm.

We have a pretty large team in terms of geographic spread and we interact with legal systems in more than 100 countries across the globe. Doing that type of work has been very fulfilling for me.

Getting that story out there in terms of being present in events that the law firms have for their summer associates is important to us. We do some work with organizations that are committed to diversity in higher education and it's important to us to get that story out there through those organizations.

We do some other work with social organizations. One of the things we've also had some success with is engaging in community service projects. One of the expectations for all of us here is that we're going to spend a certain amount of our time doing community service and a certain amount of our time doing pro bono work. It's a way of giving back and also a way where we get to connect with each other.

One of the things we do when doing that work is we make a point of inviting associates from our other law firms that we work with to join us. As we do that, we particularly focus on making sure that the people who join us reflect the diversity of the profession. It gives us an opportunity to interact with associates in a different way than you might at a party because you're doing work. In doing the work, it brings out a different part of you.

It's one thing to kind of stand around and have a conversation at work, but it's a different thing to have conversation while you're moving boxes or while you're trying to accomplish a task. We found that very helpful in terms of connecting with people and getting our story out there and having folks get to know us.

Shane Nelson: Abbott does a lot to reach students early and get them interested in the industry. What are you doing to reach students early and get them interested in the legal profession?

Hubert Allen: I think this is a very important part of what we do. It's a commitment to help build our own organization and a commitment to the profession in general. One of the things I often say, and I mean this, is that it's incredible for me at this age to have this job that I never knew existed when I was in college, and I never knew existed even when I was in law school. As a profession, we need to get to students early on and show them that there are a lot of places depending on your interests and depending on your personality. As a profession, we perhaps are not good at that early on enough. What ends up happening is people go to law school with their vision in their mind, which is the usual courtroom law firm vision, and people for whom that isn't attractive, they don't end up in the profession at all. That's a problem.

I was involved with an organization when I was in college called Sponsors for Education Opportunity. They placed students in investment banking firms. That was an important experience for me in two ways. It showed me that there was this world of investment banking that I didn't know existed. That was very important. The second important thing was it showed me there were people like me in that profession.

With that in mind, we focus a lot on trying to interact with groups that do the same type of work. One of the groups we interact with here in Chicago is called Just the Beginning Foundation. They take students as early as middle school and try to get them to think about their life after high school, their life after college and what their careers would be.

We work with them and with other organizations like them to have their students come to Abbott Park to spend the day and learn what our lawyers do. We support them in their moot court efforts. We've done Q&A's with middle school students through that organization. We get ourselves out there to show that this is a viable part of the legal profession and to show them that there are people like them who actually occupy positions of responsibility.

Shane Nelson: I'd like to turn to career advice. What advice would you give to someone on developing and maintaining a successful career?

Hubert Allen: I would give them the same advice my parents gave me. A successful career is ultimately built up on the three things: curiosity, perseverance and always challenging yourself.

The world will always shift. If you can remain curious about things so that you're always learning, if you can always challenge yourself and if you can persevere through hard times, you're going to be in a pretty good place in terms of having a fulfilling career.

As part of your curiosity, seek out the advice of people who have been down the road before. Mentorship and connections with people who are older than you and who know different things than you are very important part. At the end of the day, each of us are responsible for our lives and our careers, but there are a lot of people in the world who can and will help you fulfill that responsibility to yourself. You have to go through the work of seeking out those people.

And the last thing I'd say, as counterintuitive as it is, is advice that I have heard over a number of years from my father. You've always got to remember it's just work. It's part of your life, but it's not your whole life and you have to round out your life in every way that you can. You must have interests outside of work because ultimately those interests and things outside of work, a bigger life, will make you a better person and help you do a better job at work and also to persevere through the down times.

Shane Nelson: What type of engagement do you look for in the people you sponsor?

Hubert Allen: Integrity is key to me. For the people I sponsor, I expect integrity and accountability in everything they do. I like people who are broad thinkers and in order to be a broad thinker, you need curiosity and you need to always challenge yourself. You need to think of yourself not in the context of what you are today but what it is you hope to become.

Wells Fargo's Le Nette Rutledge Talks Transferrable Veteran Skills and Why it's Important to 'Show Up'

Rutledge, a Senior Learning & Development Consultant at Wells Fargo, talks about her journey transitioning from the U.S. Navy and why it's important to allow your authentic self to show up whether in the military or Corporate America.

Le Nette is a Learning & Development Sr. Consultant within Talent Development & Organization Effectiveness (TDOE) at Wells Fargo. She facilitates courses and programs providing leadership coaching that reinforces the vision and values of the Company for team members across all levels of the organization. Le Nette's 'why' in life is "…to courageously and compassionately impart excellence in every life, place and situation" presented to her.

Le Nette joined Wells Fargo in 2009. Prior to that, she served as a leader of learning teams for Fortune 100/500 companies to include QVC, Inc.; Lowe's Companies, Inc. and Family Dollar Stores, Inc. She retired from the United States Navy after ten (10) years of service. During that time, the fields in which she focused included Leadership Development, Facilitation/Instructional Design, Career Counseling (specifically recruiting) and Anti-submarine Warfare.

Le Nette holds a B.A. in political science from Norfolk State University in Norfolk VA and has begun work on a M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She holds Lean Six-Sigma green belt, Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and various coaching certifications.

DI: Tell us a little bit about what it was like transitioning from the military to Corporate America.

Overall, it was fair. I had served in the US Navy for close to ten years. Prior to that time, I had held (what I refer to as ) my first 'real' job as a Bank Teller. The thought of re-entering corporate America and now having a son for whom I needed to provide was a bit intimidating. Thankfully I had a really good Transition Assistance Program experience that equipped me with information and resources to begin seeking employment. I was unemployed for approximately one year before finding continuous employment.

DI: Were there any skills you developed while in the military that have been useful in your current role?

While my primary area of expertise (rating) in the Navy was not directly applicable to most occupations in the corporate sector, the opportunities to direct teams and hone my leadership skills proved to be a great asset. Additionally, collateral assignments provided exposure to and experience in various HR disciplines. For example, since I was a Naval Instructor I learned about facilitation techniques, principles of instructional design and evaluation program effectiveness. As a result, I was able to easily transition into Learning & Development as a civilian occupation. The time I spent as a Naval Recruiter exposed me to recruiting practices, policies and experiences that were helpful when coordinating/supporting mass recruiting efforts (i.e. job fairs, seasonal hiring, conferences, etc…) in the corporate arena.

DI: Were there any ERG's, programs, or even some personal methods used to help with the initial transition of getting acclimated to a new workplace?

Great question! This is where for me there was a most noticeable void. Prior to Wells Fargo, employers with whom I worked offered nothing to assist Veterans with the initial transition. If I found an external resource that could help in my transition, my employers were typically supportive. But again, they offered/developed nothing. It would not be until several years later when joining Wells Fargo that I would (for the first time since I exited the military in 1998) have an employer who offered internal resources/programs to assist members of the military community within the organization.

DI: Also, did you always have an idea of what career or industry you wanted to pursue post-military life?

This question makes me smile. Actually, I credit the Navy with helping me realize that creating consistent and compelling learning experiences was my sweet spot; the point at which what I can do, what others need me to do and what I love to do converge. Since exiting the military, no matter the position or employer, some component of Learning & Development has been a critical component of my job responsibilities. So, a huge 'shout out' and "thank you" to the Navy for helping me discover my passion.

DI: Lastly, there are stereotypes that women can't handle the mental strain of combat or aren't strong enough. In what ways have you personally opposed these gender stereotypes in the military and continue to do so in your new role?

People will think what they think until they are willing to be open to new and different perspectives. For me, it's not so much about challenging stereotypes but rather ushering in a paradigm shift. Reality is, yes. For some women the mental strain of being in combat is more than they can bear. AND, the same is true for some men. Whether I failed or succeeded at points in my military career, it wasn't because I am a woman. It was because I am human and imperfect. This is not to say that others have not had experiences tied to gender stereotypes. It is to say that adversity due to gender was not my reality.

That being said, it is no secret that (generally) women disproportionately face certain dynamics in corporate settings than our male counterparts do (e.g., glass ceiling, equal pay, etc…). How do I usher in a paradigm shift/challenge stereotypes? I simply show up. As my best, authentic, unrelenting self – I show up. I do my best. I challenge the status quo if there is viable challenge to be made. And, I focus on helping others realize and walk their full potential. I'm a woman. When people see me, they know that. So, just in my showing up in this authentic yet results-oriented way, I offer the opportunity for others to reconsider gender stereotypes and shift their paradigm. As my mom would say at times, "Sometimes you have to show 'em rather than tell 'em."

I heard one Wells Fargo leader share this, "The military is a microcosm of society." This is so true. The same stereotypes that abound in society exist in the military…because those who serve in the military bring with them the life experiences, assumptions and beliefs of the societies of which they were previously a part.

Kaiser Permanente's Anthony B. Coleman: Veterans Should Discover Their Passion and Allow it to Lead to a Profession

Coleman, talks with DiversityInc about his journey transitioning from life in the U.S. Navy to working as an Assistant Hospital Administrator for Kaiser Permanente.

Anthony B. Coleman, DHA, is the Assistant Hospital Administrator (Operations Support) for Kaiser Permanente, Fontana and Ontario Medical Centers.

He was born at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. At 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy serving aboard the USS Pioneer (MCM 9) and USS Ardent (MCM 12). After completing a full sea tour he was transferred to shore duty, and earned a Bachelor's degree in Workforce, Education and Development, as well as a Master of Health Administration.

He later earned a commission as a Naval Officer serving in various roles overseas and afloat, including Chief Financial Officer at U.S. Naval Hospital Beaufort SC, Human Resources Director at U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan and Medical Operations Officer onboard the USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75) nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

Anthony retired in 2016 with 20 years of honorable service and holds a Doctor of Health Administration Degree and currently serves as the Assistant Administrator (Operations Support) for Kaiser Permanente Fontana and Ontario Medical Centers.

DI: What was the initial transition like going from the armed services to a civilian career?

My initial thoughts on transition brought unnecessary anxiety. However, when I learned that my preceptor was a retired Air Force Colonel, it helped put me at ease about the transition. On my first day at Kaiser Permanente, the staff and physicians welcomed me and ensured that I had the support I needed to make a successful transition.

DI: What are some skills or habits you developed while serving in the military that have helped you in your current role?

Two things stick out in my mind as important.

The first is transitioning mindset from duty to desire. I joined the navy at 17, and during the first 3-5 years of my military career I didn't realize I was part of something bigger than myself so I competed tasks out of obligation (duty). After completing my first full sea tour, I realized how my efforts contributed to the overall mission of the U.S. Navy and the duties I carried out started to come from a desire to do so. This realization helped shape my leadership style and how I groomed young sailors early on in their enlistments. I wanted them to realize their very important part in the overall U.S. Navy mission and motivate them to bring their "A" game every day.

This has helped in my current role overseeing nine non-clinical departments (Housekeeping, Food and Nutrition, Engineering, Construction, Parking, Safety, Property Management, Telecommunications, Security and Supply Chain Management) where the majority of the employees I oversee are entry-level and can feel disconnected to health care because they are not physicians or nurses. However, I stress to them as often as possible that whether their job is to nourish the patient, clean and disinfect a patient room, make sure life-saving equipment is in working order, or any other of the hundreds of non-clinical functions they perform day in and day out, they too are vital to a patient's health and healing.

The second is attention to detail. Most times, my staff are the first and/or last interaction our members have with Kaiser Permanente. It is crucial for them to pay attention to every detail about the patient they encounter because each and every detail about the patient, large or small can help us do a better job in serving them. Sometimes, it may be as simple as a smile or word of encouragement that could make all the difference in the patient experience.

DI: What career advice can you offer to veterans or current military folks who are looking to pivot, and what types of jobs should they be looking for?

Stay current in world health affairs, as well as the political climate in the US. Now more than ever, politics are shaping our approach to health care and vice versa. Veterans and current military members should make sure they have an idea of where civilian health care is, as well as where it's going in the future, so they can demonstrate their value to potential health care employers.

Devote time to discovering their passion and allow it to lead them to a profession. So often, when military members plan to transition to civilian life, they tend to focus on their ability to continue providing for their families beyond military service. This can cause us to accept positions for the sake of securing post military employment, or accept positions that are not aligned with our core beliefs, or passion.

DI: Did you always have an idea of the type of career you wanted to pursue after the military?

Yes. As a matter of fact, I began planning my exit from the military in 2005 when I discovered my passion for eliminating health disparities however, because I was a single father of a 5 year old girl, my mom convinced me to complete a full career first.

In 2004, the Navy sent me to graduate school to learn how to be a health administrator. During the summer of 2005, I interned at Wallace Thomson Hospital in rural Union County, South Carolina. While there I met a kitchen worker who impressed me with her skill in preparing meals for all of the sick patients at the hospital, specific to their individual needs. Her name was Pee Wee and even though she never finished high school, and worked a second job to make ends meet she somehow found a way to show compassion for each patient while contributing to the healing environment.

After the rotation was complete, I went back to finish graduate school and learned that Pee Wee died of a stroke. She was 52. Her death really affected me and I began to look at how a person in America could die so young of a preventable health issue. That's when I learned about health disparities and discovered my passion for eliminating them. I understand that I may not be able to complete this task in my lifetime however, I am completely comfortable with making it my life's work at Kaiser Permanente.

Wanda Bryant Hope Shares Her Best Piece of Career Advice

Wanda Bryant Hope, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Johnson & Johnson, and panelist at DiversityInc's 2018 Women of Color and Their Allies event, shares the best piece of career advice she once received from a mentor. #DiversityIncWOC

Produced by: Alana Winns
Videography by: Christian Carew


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