Stand up against racism

A Message from Andrew Marsh, President & CEO, Richardson GMP to all Employees
 

On the heels of our recent message supporting the Pride movement, I now feel that I would be horribly remiss in remaining silent on the recent anti-black racist events in the U.S.

One of the communication challenges I have as a corporate leader is finding the balance between discussing business or professional development topics and disclosing my deeper thoughts and concerns on more wide-ranging subjects. The latter include the major geopolitical, social and economic issues of today as well as what feels like – given the extraordinary civil upheaval in the U.S. in recent days – an overall deterioration of humanity in general.

While initially I took the safe path and covered corporate issues in my weekly column to employees, I regretted this. That’s partly because of a call I had with someone I have become close friends with since my fellowship at the Aspen Institute. Kofi Bruce is a member of my group. He is an African American man who was recently promoted to be CFO of General Mills – an important global leadership job. And he lives in Minneapolis.

His perspective reminded me of what I have come to understand regarding the role I can play. What I have learned is that, while I know what obstacles I have overcome to achieve what I have in life, and I constantly work on my personal approach to inclusiveness and recognizing my own biases, I can’t change the fact that my path has been one of relative privilege. My role as a leader requires me to speak out. My role as a leader demands that I recognize that it is incumbent upon me, in my “position of power,” to ensure that our firm does everything possible to eliminate bias from our workplace.

I thought that just by sharing our firm’s Principles in my weekly note, that people would “get it”. My conversation with my friend Kofi highlighted his deep struggle to live up to his role as a global company leader, a leader in the Minneapolis business community, a leader in the black community, and a father to two teenage boys and was incredibly moving.

To honour him, and to try my best to lead the way, I feel that perhaps the best thing I can do is to share a reading and discussion we had at one of our Aspen seminars. I had never read “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, by Martin Luther King Jr before this session. I share it with you here.

I urge you to take a moment to read it and reflect. I had the opportunity to not only read it, but to then discuss it, and to learn what it means to the black men and women in my Aspen group. Hearing their perspective and their stories of personal experience was one of the most emotional and moving experiences of my life.

Because of these experiences, and the influence of some really great people in my life, I will do my best to recognize my opportunity to lead and stand up against racism in all its forms, in Canada and the rest of the world. As CEO of Richardson GMP, I will never stop working to make this company – our company – a firm for EVERYONE and to take a stand against racism.