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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

By Trevor W. Coleman

The truism “action speaks louder than words” was evident when TCF Financial Corporation Executive Chairman Gary Torgow announced in July his bank will provide $1 billion in loan commitments to minority communities and minority- and women-owned small businesses, and $10 million in grants to assist low-to-moderate income home buyers.

The five-year programs are among the first tangible products of his bank’s public commitment made to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan following a wave of civil unrest across the country in the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd in May.

“We really understand that a company is only as healthy as the communities it serves,” he said. “And our community, the American community, is hurting. We at TCF have some real opportunities in the cities and towns where we serve, especially in our hometown of Detroit, to champion causes that support social justice in different ways.”

TCF, a Detroit-based financial holding company and the largest Michigan-based bank, has $50 billion in total assets and a top 10 deposit market share in
the Midwest.

Stressing that every citizen has a stake in the “harsh realities that is life for minorities in America,” Torgow said businesses must do more than offer words of encouragement or token gestures of support to communities historically victimized by prejudice and discrimination. It is both a moral and business imperative that they leverage their resources to work to level the playing field for minorities who for too long have been discriminated against and marginalized in the
marketplace.

“We work in a bank, and we recognize that banks have a unique place in this discussion,” he said. “Who better than a bank to drive homeownership? Who better than a bank to strengthen small businesses? Who better than a bank to contribute to the strength and vitality of the communities it serves?”

Wright L. Lassiter III, President and CEO of Henry Ford Health System agreed with Torgow about the necessity for business leaders to act in meaningful and demonstrative ways to leverage their influence in the cause of social and economic justice. And for him as a Black man, the situation has brought about a renewed sense of urgency.

“I do feel a heightened sense of responsibility and accountability,” Lassiter said. “And so, how do I leverage my voice? My position? What I started with is you should always start with – what can you control most.”

Among the areas he has direct control over is ensuring that the executive team is not only the best and brightest but also reflects the diversity of the community in which they serve.

“So when I think first and foremost about a team of 10 or 11 individuals and I’ve got three African American women and myself, I say, well, that’s stronger than you see in most organizations,” he said. “Certainly when it comes to healthcare or most corporate settings with people carrying C-suite titles or senior VP and above titles, that’s pretty strong.”

Henry Ford Health System, also included hiring a Physician Director of Diversity and Inclusion to ensure the institution is doing a better job of broadening the diversity of physicians who are employed by Henry Ford Medical Group.

In keeping with that commitment, Henry Ford Health System is striving to provide more opportunities for the community, including:

• Partnering with Streetwise to provide mentoring opportunities to the Henry Ford team members and residents from the city of Detroit.

• In collaboration with Detroit Regional Workforce Fund developed apprenticeship cohorts for new hires and entry-level team members for targeted healthcare positions.

• Focused hiring with zip codes surrounding the city of Detroit. Several hiring events took place with 243 hires in 2019 and 50 more in the first quarter of 2020.

• More than 26,000 Henry Ford team members have completed an online equity course.

Donated 4,000 facemasks to the City of Detroit for protesters to use to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The tone is set at the top by saying, as an organization, Henry Ford is going to focus on diversity, inclusion, and racial equity not as an entitlement, or simply because I am a Black man,” Lassiter said. “But because it is the right thing to do in a community where you have a health system supporting a significant population that is comprised of people of color.” •

Trevor W. Coleman is a former Detroit Free Press editorial writer and columnist and director of communications for the Michigan Department of

Quotes from Executives

“Racism and injustice in all forms have been an ugly and persistent part of our nation’s history, but they should never be allowed to be part of our future. It is time to put an end to hate and intolerance forever. It is time to embrace justice, equity and inclusion. We cannot do this without unity and solidarity.”

Hassan Jaber, President and CEO, ACCESS

“At this point in time we have a rare opportunity. But success starts with acknowledging the inequity around us and taking action. Courageous leaders work to build trust, listen openly to those often excluded and partner across sectors. The systems in place – in education, housing, health care and finance – open doors readily for some but not for all. We need to reimagine and rebuild systems with equity as the focus. Our children need us to succeed.”

La June Montgomery Tabron, President and CEO, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

“There are certainly no quick solutions, but each step we take against racism can help make a difference. We need to start working together and lead a march to equity for all, and be willing to have the uncomfortable conversations that are necessary to address ongoing racial inequities in our community. Let’s use our collective voices to stop racism at every level and become a truly inclusive society.”

Rachel Stewart, President, Gardner White Furniture; Chairwoman, New Detroit

In our society, we have to understand and take seriously the impact of inclusive growth. By understanding how a truly inclusive society will lead to reduced poverty, address inequality, and lead to more economic growth for us all. When excluded groups don’t gain greater access to education, employment, and business opportunities, we limit that growth.

As leaders in the business community, we must ensure all within society have a sense of belonging and feel respected, valued and seen for who they are as individuals. We all bring unique qualities and experiences to any table. The most fascinating ideas come from a table of many
perspectives.

Shannon Smith, Middle Market Banker, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

We begin by understanding – honestly and painfully – the long-standing and deeply entrenched impediments to full equity, justice, and inclusion. The list is all too familiar: policies, practices, norms, and attitudes embedded in virtually every facet of our society, our economics, our politics, our lives. These insidious structures are as foundational and fundamental to the United States as the ideals of equality to which they stand in opposition. Armed with that understanding, we do the heavy lifting – piece by piece, reimagining what we seek to accomplish as a society and recalibrating the methods by which we accomplish it. And then, intensification and acceleration – creating a new societal passing gear in which we transform the power of the “moment” into a gateway for
enduring change.”

Rip Rapson, President and CEO, The Kresge Foundation

“I like the saying, ‘An inclusive organization is, by definition, diverse; not every diverse organization is inclusive.’ A corporation promotes inclusiveness as an intentional, strategic vision of its leadership rather than through its human resource processes. The inclusive organization continuously uses employee feedback to monitor how staff evaluates the organization’s performance with regard to mutual respect and recognizing individual dignity. This is how the nimble, successful organization negotiates the tension between the need for all employees to assimilate into the core business culture versus the opportunity to harness the innovations that a dynamic, diverse workforce brings to the workplace.”

Shirley Stancato, Principal, SRS Advisory Services, LLC