Promoting African American Executive Leadership In Pittsburgh Part 3

Lynne Hayes Freeland spoke with Evan Frazier, President and CEO of the Advanced Leadership Institute, Robert James of Highmark Health, and Andrea Stanford of BNY Mellon about an initiative to promote Black executive leadership in our region.

Video Transcript

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LYNNE HAYES-FREELAND: We are back here on "The Lynne Hayes-Freeland Show." So I mentioned before the break, I wanted to talk about what all of this means to our region. It's great. I mean, every-- Evan, awesome opportunity for you. Robert, Andrea, great opportunities for you. But let's talk about what this means for our region.

I mean-- because you can look around at the city of Pittsburgh. You can look at corporate Pittsburgh. You don't always see many people that look like you guys in the C suites. So what does this mean? What do these opportunities mean? And talk to me about, you know, for you personally and what you bring then to the city of Pittsburgh.

EVAN FRAZIER: Well, let me just say broadly, for the region, it's about building diverse representation, which means greater strength in organizations and companies. But also, it means the ability to recruit and retain diverse talent in our region. We're far behind even other peer cities.

And this is an opportunity to really help build that pipeline, to help really build executive African-American and diverse executive leadership. And that's really what this is about. And TALI really is meant to solve two issues. One is to help African Americans to find greater opportunities to advance within our region and then two, when you have talented people, like Bob and Andrea and many others, a lot of the reason a lot of people leave is because they feel isolated and disconnected.

And what TALI does and through the telling network and the alumni network, the goal is to really create a greater sense of community so people want to stay in Pittsburgh and want to invest their time today and their futures here because they believe there's real promise in their organizations and in the region. And so it provides hope, and it provides diverse leadership, and it provides opportunities for Pittsburgh to be able to continue to grow as a city and as a region.

LYNNE HAYES-FREELAND: So Bob, I know you're a native of Pittsburgher. Does all of that resonate with you?

ROBERT JAMES: Yes, it does. And so when you talk about C suites, those tend to be the highest level executives in the company. Those are the decision makers. Those are the ones who decide what the strategy is and how it will be implemented. And so as chief diversity inclusion officer at Highmark Health, I am tasked and responsible for implementing a strategy as it relates diversity and inclusion.

And so we have a focus, a five-year focus, in particular, on African Americans. And so we plan to double the number of African Americans, enterprise-wide, over a five-year period in our workforce. We will double our number of vice presidents over a five-year period within our enterprise, and we will triple the number of directors, African-American directors in our enterprise over a five-year period.

And we pledge to triple our spend with African-American suppliers over-- over a five-year period. So I think having-- being in a C-suite position, I'm able to have the conversation with other decision makers within our enterprise that affect different communities, one of which is the African-American community that, as you said, over the years has maybe not benefited from some of the decision making that would have-- would have helped in terms of recruiting.

And so I encourage talent, diverse talent, and African-American talent to check out our 3,000 to 4,000 job postings that are up at any given time and apply because internally, we have that commitment. And we want to see diverse talent that represents the communities that we serve.

LYNNE HAYES-FREELAND: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. And Andrea, you are not-- we're claiming you now because you've been in Pittsburgh long enough. But your position at BNY Mellon is an offshoot. Did that come about after you went through the program?

ANDREA STANFORD: It was actually during the program. You know, again, Evan set it up so nicely in terms of, the purpose of TALI is really to build a pipeline of visible, diverse talent that is here in the region. My background was previously in the public sector. So I was able to make a transition in the middle of a pandemic to start my time at BNY Mellon. And it's been a wonderful journey thus far.

And I think, Lynne, to your question about what does this do for the region, it really provides a rebuttal to the misconception, the myth that diverse talent isn't in the city. As a transplant, I now call Pittsburgh my home, right? And I am surrounded for my talent cohort from 2020-- you have Bob's cohort from 2019, there's a network of alums of almost 80 alums who have come out of the TALI program.

So I think what this does for the region is it provides, it gives credence to the fact that talent has always-- diverse talent has always existed in Pittsburgh, but this program truly provided visibility. And that level, or that perspective is so needed because it's not always what you know-- we know this. But it's what you know and who knows you conversely.

So I think the strength in TALI is that it brings in regional partners, CEO leadership, and really blends that so nicely to really propel the cohort forward. And that's what's exciting about this program, and that's what's exciting for the region, I think.

ROBERT JAMES: Hey, Lynne, can I give an analogy? I'll give you an analogy. So in sports, when you think of the immaculate reception, can you imagine if Franco Harris wouldn't have been part of the talent pool for the Steelers? We would have never had the immaculate reception, and the brand that the Steelers now enjoy wouldn't currently exist. And so when I think of TALI, I think of us as that immaculate reception. And we are going to help to build the brand of Pittsburgh to reflect the greatest talent, we think, in the US.

LYNNE HAYES-FREELAND: There you go. And that's probably the perfect place for us to end. We're so excited to know you've got the third class going on right now, correct?

EVAN FRAZIER: Correct.

LYNNE HAYES-FREELAND: And they will finish when, Evan?

EVAN FRAZIER: They will finish in August, yes.

LYNNE HAYES-FREELAND: In August, OK.

EVAN FRAZIER: And there's also some new programming coming up, and we'll be able to show that a little bit later.

LYNNE HAYES-FREELAND: Evan always sets the stage to come back on the show, you know? It just never fails. I guess that's part of the team. That is Evan Frazier. Well, we say congratulations to you. We're excited about your new growth.

So you'll come back. When they're getting ready to finish, you'll tell us about the new programming. And by August, let's see-- yeah, that should be time to have the party, yeah. So we'll have the party, we'll celebrate their graduation, your new position. And hey, you guys are doing awesome things, and I thank you for taking the time to come on the show today.

It's really exciting. And finally, we're at a point in 2021 where we have things to celebrate. So I thank you all for joining us this week. We have so much to celebrate. Thank you, and congratulations to you all. Really good stuff.

EVAN FRAZIER: Thank you. Really appreciate it.

ROBERT JAMES: Thank you.

LYNNE HAYES-FREELAND: [INAUDIBLE] talk about today. Appreciate you all.

ROBERT JAMES: Congratulations, Evan.

LYNNE HAYES-FREELAND: All right, and we'll be back in just a minute to wrap all this up when the "Lynne Hayes-Freeland Show" continues.

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