The mere mention of the terms diversity and inclusion to Latraviette D. Smith, vice president of global diversity and inclusion for American Express, cause her to beam with enthusiasm and the mounting excitement is evidenced by the goose pimples raised on her forearms. The corporate powerhouse is responsible for leading an international team of professionals to drive key elements of the company’s global diversity and inclusion strategy and instituting the best practices to accomplish that objective.
During a recent visit to the company’s downtown Manhattan headquarters in the World Financial Center, Smith shares some interesting perspectives on the distinctions between a mentor and a sponsor, why she doesn’t believe in pressing reset and her top three reading choices.
Why is American Express committed to diversity and inclusion?
For American Express, diversity and inclusion isn’t a nice to-do, it is truly an imperative that drives our business. Having a diverse workforce ensures that we have a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds that reflect the communities we serve. Inclusion helps to ensure that we are creating an environment where everyone who works here can thrive and feel as though they can succeed.
What’s next on American Express’ diversity and inclusion agenda?
We are coming out of our current three-year strategy that focused on workplace, market and talent …. Globally, for the next year, we will be focused largely on … our women in the pipeline and at the top as well as millennia’s and people with disabilities. In the U.S. specifically, we will continue our work with African American talent advancement and investment and our Hispanic leader advancement.
Why should a corporate professional seek a mentor?
People need mentors as well as sponsors. [They need] mentorship from the perspective of being able to identify areas for growth and how to address those areas with specific skills and developing specific solutions. [They need] sponsorship from the perspective of who is going to take a chance on you, who is going to create those opportunities where you can advance [within] an organization and who is going to be an active advocate for you.
When do you know that you need to press reset?
Based on my experience, I haven’t pressed reset. I seldom advise people to press reset because I think there’s something tremendously powerful in bringing the totality of your experience and the fullness of yourself forward.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.