African-American Partnership Cabinet Spotlight: Elaina L. Ford
Global Diversity Engagement Leader, Kimberly-Clark Corporation
AAP: Tell us about your role at Kimberly Clark and how you impact the company’s strategic goals?
Elaina: As Global Diversity Engagement Leader for Kimberly-Clark, I help lead our company’s efforts to build and retain a diversified workforce that reflects our consumers. In this role, I lead our Employee Resource Groups, Community Relations strategy and Diversity Recruitment efforts. In addition, I partner with business units within Kimberly-Clark to set and implement effective Diversity & Inclusion strategies.
AAP: What advice would you give to someone wanting a career in diversity and community engagement?
Elaina: At most companies, the Diversity & Inclusion and Community Engagement Teams have a small number of people and it can be challenging at times to find entry-level opportunities on these teams. Typically this is because people on these teams have vast experience in these areas and they rarely leave because the work is so intrinsically rewarding. This was the situation I faced. I was very passionate about these areas, but I found it challenging to “break in”.
If you are interested in a career in Diversity & Inclusion or Community Engagement, my advice is to build your exposure, knowledge, and credibility through your volunteer efforts. Participate & lead one of your company’s Employee Resource Groups. Volunteer to help with your company’s diversity recruiting team and community service efforts like the United Way Campaigns. Volunteer in the community and if you feel especially drawn to a specific cause or organization, find ways to contribute in a significant way like serving on their board or co-leading a key initiative.
AAP: How have you seen your industry change during your career?
Elaina: Digital disruption has significantly changed the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPGs) industry in how and where connect with consumers. Gone are the days in which a CPG company could place a TV or print advertisement and expect to reach the majority of their target audience. We are now in the Digital Age in which consumers are informed, connect with one another, are entertained in various and disparate channels within the digital space. This fragmented landscape presents a challenge for companies to effectively and efficiently connect with a critical mass of their target audience.
AAP: Why is philanthropy important? How do you give back to the community?
Elaina: Philanthropy is very important as the work helps improve wellbeing of humankind. I recall the quote “To whom much is given, much is required”. I personally feel God has blessed me with so much and because of that, it is my responsibility to “pay it forward”. I give back to the community through my public service sorority, my church, my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop and school, United Way initiatives, serving on non-profit boards, volunteering for various service projects, and just plain helping when I see someone in need.
AAP: Who is your favorite African-American trailblazer that serves as a source of inspiration to you?
Elaina: My favorite African-American trailblazer in servant leadership as of late is Robert F. Smith who gave the commencement address to the graduating class of Morehouse College and surprised them by paying off the student loans of the roughly 400 graduates. He gave of his treasure to truly impact generations to come. I believe that he is setting a resonating example to other high-earning individuals to give back in meaningful and significant way. Very inspirational.