Macy’s, Inc. celebrated Black History Month by embracing and expressing the diversity of black people and black culture. Celebrating diversity is an integral part of our culture as an organization and this month, Coast to Coast had the opportunity to connect with some our colleagues to share their thoughts on the importance of Black History Month, what black excellence means to them and the opportunities that lie ahead.
Macy’s Chief Financial Officer, offers great advice from her storied career in Corporate America and her journey to the C-suite:
“As I ponder the milestones on the black freedom movement, I can envision a future where there is more access and therefore opportunity to self-actualize. Achieving often has as much to do with access as it does education or experience. So, it’s not only important to find your towering strength— that thing that distinguishes you from the next person—usually something you’re both good at and passionate about, but to also find a mentor or sponsor. Sponsors can open doors and provide the access that is so often elusive. They may think about your towering strength, and take a chance on you.
For me, it’s always been best and easiest to gain mentors and sponsors when I engaged them in a challenge. I might take a presentation and ask them to review—to be really critical and give candid feedback. This gives us a focal point and allows for reverse mentoring too. After you have established a rapport, you then need to be clear about what your goals are as opposed to leaving them guessing—the more they know, and the more you share, the more they can help appropriately.”
Our Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion shares his thoughts on what “black excellence” means to him and why the tradition of Black History Month resonates with him:
“Black excellence is really about the extraordinary strides that have been made to date. It’s such a powerful concept and a reminder of the power of resilience when you think of the many challenges that Black America has endured. Our history has shaped the journey and the experiences of African Americans.
Black History Month is a moment of deep reflection on how far we have come and how I am able to contribute to the flourishing of Black America. There is such vast richness in black culture, and the fact is that black culture has not only had a profound impact on all spheres of American life but has also had an outsized influence on cultures everywhere. From music and fashion, to the arts, black culture truly shaped some elements of the human experience. I encourage all colleagues to take the time this month to educate ourselves, learn about the lived experiences of your Black colleagues so that we can better understand each other, overcome our fear of the ‘other,’ and foster a culture of inclusivity.”
Director of Divisional Finance spent some time in Ghana recently, and the trip provided a deeper appreciation for her history and the profound legacy that she hopes to sustain.
“Having spent the better part of this recent holiday in Ghana, I gained a deeper understanding and a profound appreciation for the black rights movement. I think it’s important to acknowledge that slavery splintered the continent and bridged African Americans with the western world. So my take on the next narrative is focused on authenticity, maintaining the position I have attained today, while fully embracing my blackness, the fact that I am African American, and all that comes with it. Up until this point, to get to a certain point in life, you had to blend in and make certain tradeoffs. However, this next phase is really about showing up as the ‘whole package’. This is everything from how I express myself and my appearance, to my history.
For me, Black History Month carries greater value now and has new meaning. In Ghana, I visited the castles where it all started, and that made things so much more real to me. I was able to see the other side of the story, and I feel like I completed a story—the duality of the journey there vs. what’s happening here today. Black History Month is not only a time of remembrance of the past but a moment to ponder what we need to do to further the conversation in the U.S. and other places where the diaspora is impacted. It’s a moment of solidarity, a time to educate, empower, and unify.”
Director, Merchandise and Execution, speaks to the importance of representation and sharing resources to help others aspire to greatness:
“Given the dismally low number of black CEOs among Fortune 500 companies, the next narrative should center on representation. This is particularly important because, from childhood, my mentality was shaped by beliefs that were limiting. All-too-commonly used phrases, such as ‘the sky is the limit, but be realistic,’ and ‘you are a product of your environment’ suffused my understanding. So, to see senior-level professionals within my community and in corporations globally who look like me is incredibly important. Achieving this means that you no longer feel a sense of disparagement in the pursuit of your dreams.
The term ‘black excellence’ has evolved as I have gotten older and embraced my identity. It is no longer just about major accomplishments that prove that I belong but that I embrace my identity, and I am seen for who I am—a black man. Now more than ever, I understand how important it is to share my resources, experiences and knowledge to help a larger group aspire for greatness while fully embracing who they are.”
Buyer, Fragrances & Men’s Skincare, Bloomingdale’s, speaks about discovering her heritage during Black History Month and why she deeply values difference:
“I like the use of the word ‘amplifying’ within the context of the significance of Black History Month. It is exactly about greater visibility for Black trailblazers that span the spectrum of industry, including the arts and culture. Discovery is a big part of my family’s Black History Month tradition. We are always seeking to learn more about our people and the events that took place historically that may have been forgotten or overlooked. While the month of February is designated to focus on black history, we should continue to educate ourselves beyond this month.
One lesson I have learned over the course of my career that has now been amplified by my experience in MOSAIC—an initiative for developing multicultural talent at Macy’s is the importance and power of “naming” our differences. While it’s often easier to focus on our sameness, being able to address our differences creates space for us to offer our unique points of view or perspectives. As we look to evolve as a business, it’s even more critical. We should think critically about how we examine ‘firsts’ and the ‘only.” While we should celebrate it, we should also acknowledge that being the ‘first’ or the ‘only’ in the room often makes conversations about difference even more high pressured.”
Macy’s Senior Counsel reflects on black excellence and on the importance of being an agent of change in her community:
“Black History Month is about remembering the contributions of everyday Black Americans and their hope of a brighter future. I remember so fondly how my mother told me stories of her upbringing in Cincinnati, attending ‘colored only’ schools through the 1950s, while navigating the status quo. So, this Black History Month, I think of her, and many others who lived through segregation, as I reflect on the many freedoms that I enjoy today.
Having been raised by a single mother who was a big proponent of education, I learned very early on that education is the path to success. Also, I am now learning through leadership development that being a change agent at work and in my community requires a little more than education. Black Excellence is indeed, an ever-evolving concept.”