Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend

2 fromAltria entering diversity, inclusion program

- BY JOHN REID BLACKWELL jblackwell@timesdispa­tch.com (804) 775-8123

Two employees of HenricoCou­nty based Altria Group Inc. will spend most of 2021 in a fellowship program working on ways that U. S. corporatio­ns can help foster racial equality, diversity and inclusion.

The Altria employees, Brandy Akins and May Nivar, have been selected as fellows for the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion program, a fellowship lasting at least one year.

They will work with employees of other U. S. corporatio­ns on diversity and inclusion strategies that companies can institute or promote within their own businesses or communitie­s.

CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion was started in 2016 by Tim Ryan, the former chairman and senior partner of accounting firm PwC, formerly Pricewater­houseCoope­rs, as a way for businesses to promote equality and diversity.

Since then, more than 1,000 companies have become signatorie­s to the program, including Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA and a major employer in the Richmond region.

Under the program, the employees will work directly for CEO Action on policy issues ranging from education and health care to economic empowermen­t and public safety, while remaining employed by Altria. They will focus their time exclusivel­y on their fellowship work with CEO Action.

Akins, a senior manager in human resources who has been employed at Altria for 13 years, chose to focus her fellowship time working with other employees around the country on public safety issues.

“I have spent about four years doing diversity and inclusion work with the company,” she said. “In my personal life, I have spent a lot of time mentoring in my community, mostly girls; I see such a need for them to be able to get connected to resources.”

Nivar, who has worked for Altria for 25 years, is senior manager in the company’s corporate citizenshi­p department. She also serves on the governor’s Virginia Asian Advisory Board and was founding chair of the Asian and Latino Alliance of Central Virginia. She plans to focus her fellowship work on education issues.

“I already have a platform that I can take further now with this fellowship than I could before,” Nivar said. “I feel like I have this advantage to be able to open up the horizons of my thinking and be able to bring it back to my work.”

Altria’s participat­ion is part of a social equity commitment the company made this year that included donating $ 5 million to national and local organizati­ons that address systemic racism and to help small businesses recover from summer vandalism that occurred after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapoli­s police custody.

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