Adrienne Trimble started her career working as a receptionist in the HR department of a Cincinnati hospital. Even then, she was keenly interested in people and the ways they related to one another and interacted in the workplace. She remembers watching the head of the employee relations department mediate problems between employees, and thinking, “I want to do that.” 

Today, Trimble is the President & CEO of the National Minority Supplier Development Council. She has dedicated her life to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“For me, diversity and inclusion is really about how we make sure that we are allowing everyone to participate,” she says. 

Trimble describes HR as a study of people. But that study extends far beyond the workplace. In times of intense upheaval—like now, when discussions of systemic racism are receiving national attention—her life and career spent immersed in the fields of diversity and inclusion gives her a nuanced perspective.  

As Trimble explains, racial, systemic challenges are obviously not new. “That’s why, as companies, we have to fight so hard to ensure that there are ethical practices in place,” she says. Right now, we have a heightened awareness of it. In the wake of the death of George Floyd, companies large and small are making statements in support of equity and justice. Many individuals are wondering how they can actively make their workplace and community a better, more inclusive place.

“You have to be intentional around what we’re going to do,” Trimble suggests.  “Purpose statements are great, but we need to see the actions. What is going to actually happen to address these barriers once and for all, so we’re not sitting here again 15 years later? … Intention has to be coupled with accountability.” 

Highlights from Adrienne Trimble include: 

  • Corporate Responsibility: “I think it’s [a company’s] responsibility to say, “We support Black Lives Matter, we denounce racism, and this is how we’re going to show you that our company does that: by diversifying our leadership roles, and by being intentionally inclusive.’ Tell me what you’re gonna do. And then I can hold you to what you said you’re gonna do, then that way we don’t have any problems as we’re moving forward.”
  • Creating a More Inclusive Environment: “Address the elephant in the room. Have a conversation and talk about the challenges. Do real problem solving. Get insights from other employees to understand what is needed to support them in a business environment. Then prioritize where you want to start. What is going to be most impactful? Show them you want to make progress, and make it public.”
  • Finding Diverse Talent: “Diverse talent is out there, and you really want to cultivate a diverse workforce. Having one or two executives of color is not enough. That is not representative of the workforce availability. The challenge is corporations just have to have the will to find and cultivate and grow and develop [diverse talent]. … Identify that talent and putting processes in place to develop the talent so they can have access to opportunities.”

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