Gloria Johnson Goins – Chief Diversity Officer, The Home Depot
Building Diversity: Gloria Johnson Goins, chief diversity officer for The Home Depot, talks about the new definition of diversity.
By Susan Smith
To Gloria Johnson Goins, diversity is personal and professional. As chief diversity officer for The Home Depot, she works to execute diversity and inclusion initiatives. Before joining the home improvement giant, Goins was the vice president of diversity at Cingular Wireless. She’s also served as general attorney with BellSouth Cellular Corp.
In celebration of our April.May Diversity Issue, PINK talks with Goins about the changing definition of diversity.
PINK: How do you define “diversity”?
Gloria Johnson Goins: It’s certainly what people commonly think of – what we call the “primary dimensions,” like your age, your race, your ethnicity. But it also includes what we call the “secondary dimensions” – things you can’t see, like your educational background, your tenure, your title. Diversity is all the human capital that individuals bring to the workplace that companies have to understand and value.
PINK: What is The Home Depot doing to encourage diversity?
G.J.G.: For us, [diversity] is a business priority, so I spend a lot of time partnering with various organizations inside the company to help them use diversity and inclusion to meet their business goals. I help them see what may be missed opportunities to gain market share or to gain customers. One of these organizations, the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, gave Home Depot access to 40 million Hispanics in the U.S. and Mexico. The hiring partnership with them is designed to attract bilingual associates.
PINK: What sparked your interest in diversity?
G.J.G.: As an African-American female, diversity is both personal and professional. It’s what I do and it’s my life.
PINK: How do you feel about affirmative action in the workplace?
G.J.G.: I think affirmative action is a tool, but it’s not the endgame. Diversity is very different from affirmative action. You can have affirmative action, but you still may not achieve what I call “inclusion,” which means having a culture and an environment that are really welcoming of all human capital.
PINK: What is the most innovative thing you’ve ever done to drive business?
G.J.G.: We launched an unprecedented hiring partnership with four national nonprofit Hispanic organizations. The purpose was to put more qualified bilingual associates in our applicant pool – to really partner with these organizations and become part of their DNA and market to the Hispanic community. That’s one thing I’m proud of because, at the time, we had places in our company where we felt we did not have enough Spanish-speaking associates to serve customers.
PINK: What was your biggest career challenge?
G.J.G.: When I was practicing law, I was given the seemingly impossible task of reducing outside counsel fees by 50 percent in a 12-month period. I took on a lot of the work myself, reaching out to people who’d been successful in that particular area of law, and at the end of 12 months we had cut outside counsel fees by 65 percent. At the end of 18 months, we’d cut them by 95 percent.
PINK: What is your perspective on balancing work and life?
G.J.G.: It’s a constant struggle to keep those two things in balance. I don’t know if you can achieve balance perfectly. Sometimes work is more challenging, sometimes home is more challenging. The secret is to have a good support system. I am fortunate that I have a great spouse who helps me keep everything in line in terms of marriage, work and home. It’s important to have a good partner. My husband does all the grocery shopping, pays the bills and takes care of our daughter.
PINK: What inspires you?
G.J.G.: My faith. It serves as a guidepost for how I live my life. Through my faith I am inspired by the ability to help other people improve the quality of their lives.
PINK: What do you do in your spare time?
G.J.G.: I read. I probably have about 600 books in my library. I’m probably not allowed to bring any more books home! I don’t read fiction. I spend a lot of time reading books on creating wealth and self-help. I’ve recently read The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach [Broadway, 2005] and Why We Want You to Be Rich by Donald Trump and Robert Kiyosaki [Rich Press, 2006].
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