Lowe’s Commitment to Culture, Diversity and Inclusion
When Janice Dupré Little first laid eyes on her twin boys, the preemies were wrapped in tubes to help them breathe, eat – and survive. She understood those devices were startling but necessary, and as she reflects now, decades later, she realizes that experience equipped her to handle anything. That same strength and courage drives her commitment to instilling a mindset of diversity and inclusion at Lowe’s, one of the largest home improvement retailers globally. Because committing to diversity and inclusion is hard work, and history has been cruel to those ideals. But history hadn’t met the combined grit and determination of Janice Dupré Little and Marvin R. Ellison. Today, at the helm of Lowe’s, Marvin is one of only three Black CEOs in the Fortune 500. Promoted from Lowe’s first chief diversity officer to executive vice president, human resources in summer 2020, Janice became the first Black woman to hold a C-suite executive role at Lowe’s. “Taking on these new responsibilities amid a global pandemic was certainly unexpected and – if I stopped to really think about it – rather frightening,” Janice said. “But I’ve never backed away from a challenge. When the company calls on me, I want to lean in.” The summer Marvin promoted Janice, George Floyd was killed. As father of a young Black man, Marvin focused on critical conversations with his family at home, and his Lowe’s family – all 300,000 associates. “I have a personal understanding of the fear and frustration that many of you are feeling,” he wrote in a May 31 email to Lowe’s associates. “To overcome the challenges that we all face, we must use our voices and demand that ignorance and racism must come to an end. This is a time to come together, to support one another and, through partnership, begin to heal... “At Lowe’s we will remain committed to fostering an environment where all individuals are safe, treated fairly, valued and respected,” he continued. “We are a company with zero tolerance for racism, discrimination, hate, insensitive behavior or violence of any kind.” Later, when a reporter asked what other CEOs needed to do, he didn’t hesitate: “Talk less, do more.” Successfully committing to diversity and inclusion begins with the executive leadership team understanding that the more diverse representation at the table, the more diverse the conversation and ability to reflect our customers. Make no mistake, diversity and inclusion isn’t just about gender or ethnicity. It’s about smart business. Marvin and Janice both understood that engaging associates would be critical to success. They wasted no time. Lowe’s Business Resource Groups (BRGs) are aligned to the business and led by an executive who does not identify personally as a member of that group (e.g., Janice cannot lead the Black BRG). Lowe’s has amplified the company’s internal and external promises, from simplifying Lowe’s Employee Relief Fund aid to associates in need, to pledging $55 million in grants to minority- and women-owned small businesses, as well as rural businesses, hit hardest by COVID-19. The commitment begins with leadership and is integrated into how Lowe’s does business – right down to the products on Lowe’s shelves, and who supplies them. In September 2020, Lowe’s unveiled Making It… With Lowe’s, an open invitation to diverse small businesses to get their products in front of the mammoth retailer with just one click. A diverse small business is one with 51 percent ownership by a person who is a minority, member of the LGBTQ community, person with a disability, veteran or woman. In 2020, Lowe’s announced a $4.5 million commitment to military nonprofits. An annual event, Lowe’s Women’s Leadership Summit inspires strong leaders through dialogue and career development. Impactful change must be intentional, methodic, constant. Inclusion isn’t a conference room marked “reserved.” It’s a mindset. “Culture is a key driver of the success this executive team holds as our beacon,” Marvin said. “We have to be intentional about how we show up for ourselves so we can be intentional about how we show up for others – our communities, customers, leaders. Culture, diversity and inclusion are business imperatives for Lowe’s.” Understanding Lowe’s dedication to culture, diversity and inclusion offers a glimpse at how our leadership team stays focused on bringing Lowe’s mission to life: Together, we will deliver the right home improvement products, with the best service and value, across every channel and community we serve.
“At Lowe’s we will remain committed to fostering an environment where all individuals are safe, treated fairly, valued and respected” – Marvin R. Ellison