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

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