DEI programs have evolved considerably in scope and complexity in recent years. What were once often derided as PR efforts paying lip service to the objectives of DEI have developed into sophisticated efforts touching virtually all aspects of the organization and managed by a dedicated team of committed professionals.
Tiara Chesmer-Williams, Head of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity for Moët Hennessy, has helped the company build up such a robust and deeply engrained DEI program, and the benefits to both employees and organization have been considerable.
Climbing the Corporate Ladder to a DEI Role
Like many of the DEI leaders we speak with, Chesmer-Williams didn’t set out on her career journey with DEI in mind. She was focused on the fast-paced world of finance and expanding her business education, but her passion for DEI work soon became apparent after her first stint in Corporate America.
“I began my career as a receptionist for Blackstone, a global alternative investment management company,” says Chesmer-Williams. “It was a busy time in my life. Besides my full-time job, I was also a full-time student at NYU studying for my degree in business administration. Over the course of eight years, I would work my way through the organization to become a Senior Financial Manager. Blackstone provided many opportunities to be involved in various diversity-related efforts, and it quickly became a passion of mine to support women and people of color in finance.”
Chesmer-Williams says that while she didn’t necessarily set out for a career in DEI, she had a lot of early positive exposure to such a career. “I like to think DEI has always been in my DNA,” she says. “My mentor from childhood also had a career in DEI so it’s always been at the forefront of my mind. After Blackstone, I spent six years with Morgan Stanley as a diversity officer before being promoted to Vice President. Switching industries from finance to wine and spirits, however, was the byproduct of a conversation I had with someone from LVMH. We had both spoken on a panel together and he suggested I apply for the open position at Moët Hennessy.”
When we started our CDO series, it was very common for DEI leaders to tell us they were the first person to hold their position. Today, it’s increasingly common for many companies to have an existing DEI program in place when new leaders step in.
That was the case with Chesmer-Williams’ role at Moët Hennessy. “In fact, the division was founded in 2018 and focuses on four pillars: People, Brand, Business and Culture,” says Chesmer-Williams. “I’m proud of the longevity of the mission for our organization.”
DEI at Moët Hennessy
Moët Hennessy has developed a robust DEI program over the years. Below is just a sample of some of the efforts that go into that broader program.
- The company provides an Inclusive Leadership Journey program to all levels and divisions and has six Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that foster company culture.
- To promote D&I in their supply chain, Moët Hennessy sponsors over 200 diverse suppliers to be certified through their platform.
- The organization invests in development programs such as leadership training, management programming and Leader Forums that provide diverse talent exposure to senior management.
- They recruit from multiple sources such as HBCUs, 100 Black Men or AABDC and offer internships which often turn into full-time roles/management programs within the organization.
- Building diverse teams at all levels is important for creating an inclusive culture – Moët Hennessy works with HR on diverse issues and providing cultural competency sessions hosted by the company’s ERGs.
“One of our newest programs, which is open to all levels and divisions in the organization, is our Inclusive Leadership Journey,” says Chesmer-Williams. “The program is centered around the tenants that make a great leader at Moët Hennessy, but with a DEI lens. We launched this April with small cohorts of ten individuals.”
Another recent initiative at Moët Hennessy is the Pathways Internship program just launched in March 2022 and now finalizing applications and kicking off Moët Hennessy’s first session this summer. “Over the course of nine weeks, we’ll provide interns with intensive work experience and then a number of those individuals will go into a two-year full-time role/management program within the organization,” says Chesmer-Williams.
DEI Remains a Journey with Many Right Answers
While DEI efforts have matured dramatically over recent years, they’re still relatively new in many organizations. That means there’s a lot of remaining uncertainty among some businesses and DEI leaders on the best path forward.
The good news is that there is a tremendous number of organizations that are getting DEI right, meaning there are lots of right answers and good examples out there.
“For any organization looking to bring DEI into its mission, don’t be afraid,” says Chesmer-Williams. “Commit to learning and growing together with your colleagues. Commit to doing right by them, and by extension we’ll continue to do right by our friends and families. Together, we can all move forward. I’m grateful that Moët Hennessy has provided me the autonomy to create something from the ground up and make it my own. The work is not for the weary, but I love helping people, and helping the next generation.”
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.