One moment he was advising the most powerful men and women in the world – presidents, kings, a queen – the next, he was sitting across the breakfast table from his wife getting a clue that his daily presence at home might put a dent in their 53-year marriage.
General Colin Powell told that story and many others with humor, class, intrigue and a passionate sense of purpose to a packed crowd in a ballroom at the Westin Riverwalk. The former Secretary of State shared professional and personal stories during his keynote speech at the Texas Diversity & Leadership Conference’s 3rd annual CEO Champions of Diversity Awards on May 1.
He encouraged attendees to ensure that our companies, boardrooms and schools reflect the community. He verbally saluted CPS Energy President & CEO Doyle Beneby, Jeffrey Arndt of VIA Metropolitan Transit, Ed Dolanski of Aviall, Gary Kelly of Southwest Airlines, USAA’s Joe Robles and Dan Singleton of Harland Clarke. All were honored with a 2014 CEO Champion of Diversity Award.
Diversity doesn’t happen without leadership, Powell reminded the crowd.
While Beneby has received awards for leadership in a variety of areas throughout the more than three years he’s helmed CPS Energy, I believe this latest accolade is probably a little bittersweet.
“I look forward to a time when awards for achieving diversity are unnecessary,” he was quoted in the awards program, “because opportunities for minorities and women are such that they are fully represented at all levels, from pools of qualified entry-level job candidates all the way to the boardrooms of our most powerful companies and institutions.”
I echo that sentiment.
And, I have to admit, it wasn’t until later that I realized none of the award recipients were women. Perhaps it’s because my daily professional pursuit takes place at CPS Energy, a company where, in my nearly four years here, I consistently cross paths with women and minorities, whether meeting with executives or discussing tech changes with IT.
CPS Energy has a long history of diversity, reflected bottom to top: Among our executive leadership team, a third are women, and half are minorities.
Our 3,200+ workforce closely reflects the racial makeup of San Antonio: 51% Hispanic (55% SA); 41% White (35% SA); 6% Black (7% SA); and roughly 2% other ethnicities (3% SA). We do have a gender gap – perhaps understandable considering the physical and outdoor nature of many frontline positions – with 23% female employees. Of those, 94% of females are in salaried roles.
Recently, someone — a non-minority by the way — asked me about the ethnic makeup of our company, noting that his company was low in minority employees. I was proud to say, “Honestly, we don’t have that issue. I see plenty of people who look like me on a daily basis.” Unfortunately, this is probably the first place of employment in my nearly 25-year career where that’s the case.
As a four-star general noted, we’ve come a long way as a country. Recent events in the news confirm we — the human race — still have a lot of progress to make. Future generations and employees are depending on all of us to lead the way. Like Gen. Powell, I’m optimistic that we won’t fail them.