Making Diversity Central to Success: Q&A With Chevron’s Chief Diversity Officer

Diversity is an overused word, but at Chevron it’s a perfect description of its corporate culture. How did it happen? The company’s 2018 Corporate Responsibility Report highlights how diversity and inclusion (D&I) feature so centrally in the company’s success story. The spectacular progress reflects a holistic view of diversity which closes the gap between aspiration and reality.

At Chevron, new ideas translate from a nod of the head to impactful actions. So we’ve zeroed in on the world’s leading integrated energy company’s efforts to improve gender diversity in the workplace. An early champion of the Men Advocating Real Change (MARC) gender inclusion program, Chevron recognizes the true power it can have to build self-awareness, foster individual inclusion skills, and sustain a culture of inclusion across the organization.

Earlier this year, Chevron announced a $5 million grant to Catalyst, a global nonprofit advancing workplace gender equality, in support of expanding the MARC program, which Chevron adopted in 2016. MARC is focused on empowering male executives and leaders to model inclusive behavior, influence more equitable talent management systems and processes, and build effective partnerships across gender.

Efforts to bring more diversity to the oil and gas industry are working. Since 2002, Chevron reports a 68 percent increase in the number of women and minorities in senior leadership and executive positions.

Chevron’s efforts reveal that change will not happen until companies go beyond tick-the-box programs and invest in creating a diverse and inclusive culture.

Lee Jourdan, Chief Diversity Officer with Chevron, is already hard at work to neutralize our biases and unleash untapped talent. In recent years, Jourdan has advocated increasing the number of talent initiatives for groups that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM – and has gotten results. In a remarkable interview with The HR Digest, Jourdan talks about the various Diversity & Inclusion programs which have put Chevron on the global map as one of the top companies for LGBTQ+ employees and executive women and minorities.

Chevrons Global HR Leaders on Diversity and Inclusion Featured

(L-R) Chevron’s Global HR Team: Rhonda Morris, VP and Chief Human Resources Officer; Lee Jourdan, Chief Diversity Officer; Brian Chase, Manager of Strategy and Planning, Global Diversity

The HR Digest: You have been critical in pushing for progress in diversity & inclusion (D&I) at Chevron. What spurred your interest and passion for the topic?

Lee Jourdan: In a previous assignment, where I played an influential role in senior-level succession planning, I became aware of opportunities to better leverage the skills and abilities of our workforce. It would require accelerating building on Chevron’s diverse and inclusive culture. This is what drives me, creating a culture where everyone has a chance to be the best version of themselves, and where everyone has an opportunity to compete.

 The HR Digest: Under your leadership, Chevron continues to make great strides in the field of diversity and inclusion (D&I). For the 14th consecutive year, Chevron has achieved a 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index – a rating focused on LGBTQ workplace equality. In these past few years, you also implemented a number of strategic initiatives, including Men Advocating for Real Change (MARC) and an inclusion-based leadership series and council. How do you measure the value these programs bring to the company?

 Lee Jourdan: One thing we’re doing, and it’s a bit subtle, is that we’re disaggregating the data we provide in our Corporate Responsibility report, so we can gauge how we’re progressing. It adds a further level of accountability which is critical to ensure the proportion of our diverse talent increases. It will raise awareness around the areas that we need to improve. I’m excited about the conversations it’s going to cause.

A profound benefit of the MARC program is simply raising awareness. The MARC program provides structure for men and women to come together and discuss the headwinds that impact women in the workforce. The MARC program helps employees recognize and remedy their own unconscious biases. Employees model the inclusive behaviors they’re learning and it’s having a multiplier effect. One of the things we measure is employee’s comfort level in speaking up when they hear or see something inappropriate. We’re seeing a significant increase in employees’ willingness to speak up.

The HR Digest: Can you tell The HR Digest readers more about Chevron’s recent initiative helping women return to work?

 Lee Jourdan: We have a returnship program called, “Welcome Back!” It has just started and it’s a 10-week trial. We’re in the process of recruiting broad and wide, and it’s not just for women, and not just for former Chevron employees. We’re looking at recruiting talent from people who have temporarily left the workforce and need a ramp-up coming back up to speed, with new technology or in other areas. We recognize that employees transitioning back into the workforce haven’t lost their leadership or management skills – if anything they’ve probably gotten better. Welcome Back will help us accelerate our efforts to increase our proportion of diverse talent. Check back with us on our progress. 

The HR Digest: What are the biggest challenges executives supporting pay equity for women and minorities currently face?

Lee Jourdan: There certainly is still work to be done. Pay equity is fundamental to providing equal opportunity to all employees. Our compensation systems are designed to minimize risk of bias based on race and gender and we’re confident they’re sound. Nevertheless, we need to continuously assess compensation programs to ensure they’re living up to their principles. We plan to expand our pay equity review outside the U.S. in 2019. One of the areas we’re focused on is expanding our pipeline of diverse talent through recruitment, development and promotion.

Lee Jourdan Blockquote

The HR Digest: How can companies commit to truer diversity and make progress without disenfranchising men and women who come from a privileged section of society?

Lee Jourdan: Our aim is to improve workforce demographics globally by providing equal opportunity through recruitment, development and promotion without regard to gender or race. Generally, our desire is to create a culture where everyone can do their best, everyone can participate, everyone can feel included. When everyone’s in, everyone wins.

The HR Digest: How can you tell if you’ve succeeded in convincing executives to bring more diverse talent on board, or if they are simply paying lip service to the idea?

Lee Jourdan: It’s almost the other way around. Our executives, starting with our Chairman, Mike Wirth model the right behavior. That’s what’s driving our progress. For example, our Chairman mandated inclusive leader training for the top 5,000-6,000 employees (senior executives and manager) starting with himself. This has had a marked impact on our workforce. Our leaders walk the talk.

The HR Digest: What’s next for Chevron?

Lee Jourdan: Continuing to execute our strategy which focuses on four pillars, Accountability, Communications, Training and Selection or ACTS. Only by executing a broad number of initiatives under these pillars – specific acts – will we be able to build on our diverse and inclusive culture.

This article was published in the July 2019 issue of The HR Digest magazine.

Lee Jourdan | Chief Diversity Office, Chevron

Lee Jourdan Headshot

Leland (Lee) T. Jourdan graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1978. Serving his five-year post graduate military commitment, he reached the rank of Captain while serving as a logistics officer and paratrooper in the 18th Airborne Corps. He currently serves as Chief Diversity Officer, Global Diversity and Ombuds Center of Expertise with Chevron. Prior assignments in Chevron include Vice President, Commercial, Chevron IndoAsia Business Unit, which included commercial and business development covering Indonesia and the Philippines, and GM Commercial and Business Development for Chevron’s Asia South Business Unit which includes Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Lee is an avid golfer, a published author and serves on the advisory board of SEARCH Homeless Services in Houston.


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Priyansha Mistry
Currently editor at The HR Digest Magazine. She helps HR professionals identify issues with their talent management and employment law. | Priyansha tweets at @PriyanshaMistry

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