DEI Roundtables

DEI Roundtables

DEI Roundtables

Together we are listening. Together we are learning.

On June 19, 1865 (Juneteenth), the same year Milliken was founded, slavery was effectively ended in America.. While much has changed in the world during that century and a half, the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many others, coupled with the inequities related to the COVID-19 pandemic, shined a glaring light on systemic racism in the United States.

At Milliken, we strive to foster a diverse and inclusive environment, where all our people can bring their best, most authentic selves to work. We have made great progress, but we know there is more work to be done.

There are stories to hear. There are experiences to learn from. There are opportunities for self-reflection and growth. There are voices to amplify. And there are changes that must be made within our company and our communities.

In June 2020, we began open dialogue within our company. That dialogue continues today.

Together we are listening. Together we are learning.

After the death of Ahmaud Arbery, Anna Blanton, Milliken HR Director, felt compelled to act. She reached out to Ricaye Harris, Milliken Director of Diversity & Inclusion, asking how she could help.

As anyone who has received a message from her knows, Ricaye’s email signature ends with this quote from SteeleThoughts:

“You don’t change culture through emails and memos. You change it through relationships…one conversation at a time.”

What came about from Anna and Ricaye’s conversation was a chance to talk, together.

The result was Milliken’s first ever Race Relations Roundtable, ‘I Don’t See Color!” — a virtual open forum for an unscripted, honest, and safe conversation about the realities minorities face daily, whether at work or in their personal lives.

The roundtable began with one simple question: How are you feeling? And the expressions of emotion began to flow. Frustration, sadness, exhaustion, anger, and love.

The team shared stories of lived racism, of the desire to learn, to act, to affect real change, and to rally together in solidarity.

Jim McCallum, President of Milliken’s Floor Covering Division, joined the conversation from the beginning: “The roundtables have opened my eyes to the degree of burden carried by our black and brown associates in their everyday lives. In my naivety, I hadn’t really understood the constant and persistent discriminatory environment they have to endure.”

The roundtable left some speechless and inspired others to think differently about their perspective of race relations, and how we can put our strength together—how we each play a role in being part of a solution.

The roundtable turned into additional weekly events, and conversations are moving from the forum setting to personal dialogues based on listening better, learning more, and empathizing more deeply.

Milliken Leadership opened the door for critical conversations like these by publicly committing support and doing the work within the company and its communities.

Learning and Development Specialist, India Martin, found solidarity within the forum.

“For the first time in my professional life, I was able to freely discuss how racism in America has affected me as a black woman. The topic of social injustice became real for those who attended, and the roundtables opened up many eyes and ears. Each session made me feel more confident to bring my authentic self to work and reassured me that I am not alone, even at work.”

Agnes Smith Stuckey, Plant Supply Chain Lead at Milliken’s Keystone Plant, is grateful for the new and open lines of communication. After learning about the roundtable, she was nervous, but excited. In her 21 years with the company, these roundtables were like nothing she had ever seen.

“At our roundtables, everyone can be a part of the movement. And we can change lives across the whole global company. It’s not coming from one individual—anyone who wants to be involved can be a voice to make a change that is going to impact lives.”

“Leaders at the roundtable are showing up.” And Agnes believes that leadership being a vocal part of the conversation is building trust within Milliken.

She’s already seeing the way trust shifts culture. The challenge, Agnes notes, will be to keep up the momentum and to channel it into action.

Today, the roundtables are alive and well. With topics ranging from LGBTQ inclusion in the community to allyship, the DEI roundtables continue to shape our teams as together we strive to be the best Milliken we can be.

Agnes Stuckey

Agnes Smith Stuckey, Plant Supply Chain Lead