By Barbara Frankel
Why would a line business executive with major experience in sales, marketing and commercial operations want to be a chief diversity officer?
For Johnson & Johnson’s Wanda Bryant Hope, the reason starts with a roll of toilet paper.
Bryant Hope grew up in Bridgewater, New Jersey, where her mother, Tillie Bing Bryant, was a paralegal and a passionate civil-rights activist. In the ‘60s, Tillie was involved in protests, marches and lunch-counter sit-ins – and was arrested numerous times.
“One of the times she was jailed, she took a roll of toilet paper out of the jail cell and wrote out her story. She wrote about equal rights and fairness for all. Her own mother had told her not to participate in civil rights because she was afraid she would get killed or hurt. My mom wrote she had to do this so her children could have a better life,” Bryant Hope recalled.
That roll of toilet paper has sat in the tin cup her mom had in jail in her parents’ china cabinet for more than 50 years – “and not one piece of toilet paper has been lost,” she said.
Tillie, and Wanda’s father, Robert, are retired now and they can see that passion when their daughter talks about why she took on the chief diversity officer position.
“I went after this job. I want to use my business experience to have an impact on the Johnson & Johnson culture and employees and the communities we serve,” she said.
Bryant Hope believes that diversity and inclusion is critical to drive innovation and results and fulfill its guiding principle – its Credo. The Credo identifies four fundamental responsibilities:
• The Credo puts the company’s first responsibility to “Doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products,” which Wanda says includes being inclusive in all dealings with customers and having a workforce and leadership that reflects the global communities the company serves. This allows us to have deeper insights about our patients and customers and better serve their needs.
• “Responsible to employees, who work with us throughout the world,” which includes having a fair and equitable workplace and recruiting, retaining and promoting talent from diverse groups.
• “Responsible to the communities in which we live and work,” which includes giving back and helping the underserved
• “Responsibility to stockholders,” and for this Wanda cites DiversityInc’s stock index, which shows that DiversityInc Top 50 companies beat the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average over a 1-, 3- and 5-year period
|WANDA BRYANT HOPE|
Chief Diversity Officer, Johnson & Johnson (No. 9 in the DiversityInc Top 50)Previous Position
Vice President, Global Performance & Development, Johnson & JohnsonEducation
Bachelor of Science Degree, Marketing, Penn State UniversityCommunity/Organizations
Board Member, National Sales NetworkActive mentor for Penn State students
Bryant Hope has only been on the job since April and she is taking these initial months to see how “we can take D&I to the next level.” Her initial plans include a focus on recruitment, better use of teams throughout the organization to build D&I, engagement of middle managers and, most importantly, increasing senior leader accountability for diversity results. To do that, she intends to have integrated strategies around hiring, promotion, talent development and retention.
Citing her experience as a senior leader with Profit & Loss (P&L) responsibility, she says she has credibility with the top leaders of the organization “because I have walked in their shoes.”
“We’re pleased with our diversity efforts and have received many awards for diversity but we’re not satisfied. How do we become the leader in this space? How do we impact all our employees?” she asked.
High potentials, she continued, especially from under-represented groups, want to work for organizations that “align with their values and keep giving them room to grow with different openings and different experiences.”
She intends to collaborate extensively with Johnson & Johnson’s employee resource groups, which she knows well. Wanda’s been involved for years with both the Womens Leadership Initiative and the African American Leadership Council, and had served as executive sponsor of the Janssen North American Pharmaceutical D&I council.
Proving D&I Works
Bryant Hope knows from first-hand experience more diversity will lead to business. She cites her own experience when she was appointed Region Business Director at Janssen and hired a diverse team including five district managers (who oversaw 60 sales representatives) – three were Caucasian women, one was a Black woman and one was a Black man. Her team outperformed all the others.
Her new job is not just confined to the United States. There is a global diversity focus at Johnson & Johnson, including many key markets such as India, China, Japan and Brazil.
She’s been with Johnson & Johnson for 26 years and the company is like a family to her. She’s also busy with her own family, which includes her husband and her 9-year-old son.
She hopes her child will be as inspired by her life as she has been by her own parents. She recalled another story about Robert and Tillie. They had been married a year and a half (and Wanda was a baby) and they wanted to rent their first apartment at a local complex. Although they knew there were vacancies, they were repeatedly told there were no apartments available. So they went to a civil-rights organization, which sent in a Caucasian woman who said she had four children. She was offered an apartment immediately. When she presented her credentials and explained she was there on behalf of Wanda’s parents, management gave Tillie, Robert and baby Wanda an apartment.
“My brother, sister and I grew up hearing those stories. They shaped my values,” she said.