UPS: Staying True to its Past and Investing in an Inclusive Future

February 14, 2018Below is a blog from our Catalyst CEO Champions For Change storytelling series, "Spotlight Stories."Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing these stories to show what’s working at Catalyst Champion companies that help to advance women into leadership. 

UPS’s Chief Human Resources Officer and Senior Vice President of Labor, Teri Plummer McClure, has long been an integral part of the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. From the beginning of her career at UPS to her work today as a senior leader and founding member of UPS’s Diversity and Inclusion Steering Council, helmed by CEO David Abney, she helps to drive an inclusion strategy that paves the way for future leaders like her. Through the council, McClure and other cross-functional business leaders ensure that inclusive behaviors, practices, and programs are integrated into the company’s core business objectives because at UPS, seeing diversity as a business imperative starts at the very top. Says Abney:

"We don’t view diversity and inclusion as a ‘strategy’ or efforts relegated to a diversity and inclusion department. It’s not a program, it’s not a campaign. It’s part and parcel of our business."

McClure shares this perspective. Of her 22 years with UPS, she says: 

"A focus on diversity and inclusion has always been a part of the culture, a company value, something discussed at the leadership level. That level of commitment has continued to grow over the years."

When UPS relocated its corporate headquarters from Connecticut to Atlanta in the early 1990s, Board Member and former head of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission William H. Brown challenged the company to build a workforce more reflective of Atlanta’s diverse population. UPS accepted the challenge, intentionally drawing from a gender- and race-inclusive talent pool. This conscious effort led the head of UPS’s legal department to discover McClure in his search for talented attorneys, and to actively recruit her. That gave her an opportunity. More than two decades of hard work and dedication have propelled her through the organization’s ranks.  

Two years later in 1997, when UPS’s Diversity and Inclusion Steering Council was formed, McClure was invited to be part of the team that built it from the ground up. To ensure support at the highest levels, the council has always been chaired by a UPS CEO, and it comprises senior leaders from multiple global functions and business units. The council guides strategic diversity efforts across four pillars: customer, supplier, community, and employees. It is from this vantage point that McClure has been able to help advance efforts to build a more inclusive UPS. 

One such effort was the launch of the Women’s Leadership Development (WLD) Business Resource Group (BRG) in 2006. Says McClure:

"We started to notice that mid-career turnover for women exceeded that of men at the same level, and recognized that if we didn’t address the underlying issues, the pipeline would not support our need for the leadership talent of the future."

McClure and a dedicated team began conducting regrettable-loss interviews and benchmark analyses to determine why women were leaving. One common theme emerged, says McClure: 

"A key finding was that women tended to feel isolated in their roles because of the company’s structure and geography. One way to better support them was to bring them together and help them think about their careers and opportunities for advancement."

The plan was to create a network for UPS women founded on three principles: understanding UPS and identifying leadership opportunities, developing leadership opportunities through community involvement, and forming connections through networking. Initially, the prospect of a program dedicated to a single group was met with some resistance. UPS was “Big Brown” and UPSers took pride in seeing themselves as one team. But with support from leadership, the program—and UPS’s first BRG—took off, growing from a pilot in the United States to 65 chapters across 30 countries. Its success later made way for nine additional BRGs; together the company’s BRGs support a variety of constituencies across 169 chapters around the globe.

In 2016, UPS celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the WLD BRG by hosting the Women's Leadership Exchange®, a summit aimed at producing more women business leaders through collaboration, education, and sharing best practices. And the WLD will likely be around for the long haul. UPS’s history of promoting from within—CEO David Abney began his career with the company as a part-time package loader 43 years ago—and commitment to giving high-performing employees like Teri McClure opportunities to move around within the organization to broaden their experience, are assets. (For example, McClure assumed operational roles prior to returning to the legal department as General Counsel and Corporate Secretary in 2006.) But a focus on internal promotion, coupled with the fact that front-line positions tend to be male-dominated, make it imperative for UPS to actively recruit and retain women through programs like WLD. 

Abney, who recently named Diversity and Inclusion one of UPS’s five key business priorities, is fully invested. And this year, The UPS Foundation announced it will award more than $7.7 million in global diversity and inclusion grants to 39 organizations supporting economic empowerment, initiatives to empower women and girls, and workplace inclusion.

For McClure, having a leader dedicated to building a culture of inclusivity is critical:

"This company is doing a great deal to advance D&I. David [Abney] has taken our commitment to a whole new level. Leadership is always important to diversity efforts, and having a leader focused on it makes all the difference."

UPS is leveraging its history of prioritizing diversity, rewarding hard work, and valuing loyalty to shape its future. With the guidance and support of leaders like Abney, McClure, and other members of the Diversity and Inclusion Steering Council, the hope is that commitment will translate into continued success for UPS, its employees, and communities around the world.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.