Wil Lewis is Bank of America’s diversity and inclusion executive and the company’s head of global disability and LGBT strategies. Based in Chicago, Lewis is responsible for ensuring that Bank of America remains a leader in the field when it comes to acquiring talent from diverse backgrounds.
Lewis recently spoke with rolling out and shared his thoughts on how diversity impacts corporate America.
How do we increase diversity across the board?
I think when you take a look at diversity, we have to realize that it transcends just race and gender. Let’s talk to everybody about diversity and acknowledge and accept the fact that we all bring different characteristics and elements of diversity to the table as well. Whether your skin is brown, or whether your skin is not brown, you’re still diverse in your own way. If we’re all at the table having a discussion, we can all make progress together.
What is a normal day in the life of a corporate diversity executive?
I have accountability for three specific areas inside the bank, which is helping drive our employee networks, driving our disability strategy as well as our LGBT plus strategy. I’ve also spent time helping drive diversity [and] inclusion in many of our lines of businesses across the country, which include race and gender. That really means spending time with other senior leaders in the organization, helping them map their strategy on how they are going to impact, influence and drive diversity in the company and then also driving inclusion. Inclusion is about ensuring that everybody inside their organizations feels like they are valued inside of the organization.
What’s the strategy for how people who are new to corporate America can make a smoother transition?
You don’t want to be afraid to ask questions along the way and get mentors. And when I say mentors, those can be people that are your peers, people that are above you, or people who may be two or three levels above you as well. One of the ways we learn is by engaging and asking questions. And don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Asking those questions is part of what’s going to help you grow and mature in your career as well.