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Leading in Color Newsletter - June 2020
June 2020
  • Message from Tiffany Hamel Johnson 
  • A Case 4 Bold Action ... Tapping the Power or ERGs
  • Five Forward MBE Launches Online Learning App
  • We CU: More Bold Responses to COVID-19
  • Don't-Miss Chicago United  Programs 
Our intention is steadfast

Chicago United has always been solutions-oriented. We’ve always advocated ways to bridge the gap between race and business, to promote multiracial leadership in corporate America, and to unleash the ingenuity of minority-owned businesses in order to bring economic prosperity to struggling communities. This work required intention more than 50 years ago, and it still does…now, more than ever, as we respond to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the intensified  focus on fair treatment and social justice for people of color.


We need leaders who insist on supporting companies that are least resilient if we are to protect jobs and economic development where they’re needed most. National news reports indicate that the pandemic has disproportionately shuttered minority-owned businesses. As of April, the country lost nearly 450,000 active African-American businesses, 40% of them, as the pandemic intensified, according to data from the University of California at Santa Cruz. The number of working Latino businesses dropped 32% from February to April, while the number of Asian businesses decreased by about a quarter. This is a major contributor to unemployment in communities of color as MBEs typically hire more from those communities. 


Chicago United fully and intentionally supports business owners of color. They are among the leaders who’ll rebuild communities recently touched by widespread property damage and the economic downturn. Many of our Five Forward Committed Corporations are maintaining contact with their MBE Partners at this tough time, having honest conversations about business that allow those partners to make projections, build resiliency and plan. 

I applaud our members and supporters who’ve intentionally kept diversity, inclusion and access to opportunity at the top of their guiding principles for years now. As we move forward from this particularly painful moment, the communities most affected by these events will continue to have critical needs. Reach out to them. Support them. Together, our continual, intentional actions will serve to meet the challenges dealt by these incredibly trying times.   

Tiffany Hamel Johnson
President and CEO

A CASE 4... Bold Action

Case 4 Bold Action
Beyond networking: Employee Resource Groups can be key to business success                       


Diversity and inclusion is at the core of the culture and talent acquisition strategies at Astellas Pharma US. Astellas’ Eloiza Domingo, Executive Director and Head of Engagement, Diversity and Inclusion, shares tips on leveraging Employee Resource Groups (called Employee Impact Groups, or EIGS, at Astellas) to drive talent and business development outcomes.


Secure senior leadership support.

Over the past 10 years, executive sponsorship has been a critical component of success with employee resource groups at Astellas. Commitment from top management often leads to greater visibility, support and engagement with ERG initiatives. 

For example, with support from leadership, Astellas’ African American Employee Impact Group met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, DC, to share their thoughts on advancing diversity in the workplace and community responsibility. 


Encourage ERGs to serve as consultants.

ERG members are culturally competent thought leaders who can provide unique and valuable perspectives to help inform business insights. Encouraging and engaging ERGs to advise on topics ranging from talent acquisition and benefits to appropriate language for promotional content will drive business innovation and relevancy.

At Astellas, the benefits of engaging have been wide-reaching. One business unit partnered with the Asian EIG to review patient education resources for Vietnamese translational errors and colloquial accuracy. Another business unit partnered with the same EIG to gain support from employees who understand urology therapeutics as well as Traditional Chinese terminology to develop culturally appropriate marketing collateral. Recent consultation from the LGBTQ EIG contributed to the development of the company’s Gender Transition Guidelines, and ongoing consultation from the Military EIG has been instrumental in the development of enhanced military leave benefits.


Enable collaboration and partnerships.

Providing opportunities and tools that enable ERGs to easily collaborate and partner with each other, as well as with internal business functions, customers and community partners, is key. This can impact research and development, hiring and retention strategies, and corporate responsibility initiatives. For example, an Astellas business unit partnered with the Asian EIG to review a patient education resource targeting the Vietnamese audience for translational errors and colloquial accuracy.

These are just a few examples of how leveraging the diverse talents and energy of EIGs has helped Astellas make progress on achieving D&I objectives. Support for these groups helps exemplify your business’s commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion. Connecting ERGs to business outcomes illustrates an inclusive commitment to success. 

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Chicago United will partner with Astellas Pharma to present a series of virtual employee resource group symposiums, beginning Tuesday, July, 28. 2020,  9 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Dr. Robert Rodriguez, founder and President of DRR Advisors and a 2017 Chicago United Business Leader of Color, will be a featured speaker. More details will soon be available. 

Continuing our COVID-19 support to the community, Chicago United recently made a contribution to Frontline Foods Chicago (through World Central Kitchen). Frontline Foods funnels donations to the areas of most critical need. Every donation to Frontline Foods Chicago goes directly to local restaurants, who then feed frontline medical staff. 


Five Forward MBE delivers app to simplify online learning during pandemic

Parents of students at Chicago’s Dulles School of Excellence, a public elementary school, may be faring better than many who’ve been thrust into the role of teacher during the coronavirus shelter-in-place orders thanks to YEP Nation, a Chicago United Five Forward MBE Partner.

YEP Nation has developed an app that makes remote learning easier. The app, which is being used to teach music, video, graphics and mobile app coding, makes it easier to get lessons from teachers whenever the student is ready. The app also makes it easier for teachers to target messages to their students, thereby enriching the teaching experience.  The mobile app can also be used by organizations and businesses to keep in touch with members and clients. 

“It’s a powerful tool to connect instantly,” said Ed Prentice III, the founder and president of YEP Nation, whose studio is based on Chicago’s South Side. 

The organization’s goal is to train young women to create digital media. It partners with BP America Inc. in the Five Forward program, providing mobile apps that the energy company uses at trade shows. It has also provided online training to the company for its safety, human resources and supplier diversity programs.


Prentice, who said the distance learning app has been introduced to a school district in Indiana, said Five Forward has allowed him to make other valuable connections and get more business  from referrals from Debra Jennings-Johnson, Senior Director, Supplier Diversity at BP. 


“Five Forward keeps us connected,” Prentice said. “It benefits your business.”

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Check out theMBE Resource Webinar, June 10, 11 a.m. - 12 p.m.. Get information on PPP loan forgiveness, the City of Chicago reopening plan, and small business resources from ChiBizHub. R.S.V.P. to Julie Ong at or 312-977-3061. 

Northwestern Medicine is working closely with its health and social services partners to provide emergency supplemental personal protective equipment to partners in healthcare and various health services agencies throughout Chicagoland. Northwestern Medicine also is working with the Chicago Homeless Coalition to provide diagnostic testing to chronically homeless patients, and has partnered with several transitional housing shelters to ensure beds for respite following hospitalization. Northwestern Medicine is also deploying its internal courier resources and underwriting Lyft services to deliver food from food pantries to homebound individuals. 


In the United States alone, Deloitte has committed $2 million to support funding the unique and varying COVID-19 response and relief efforts in local communities across the country. As part of this commitment, a portion will go to the United Way Worldwide’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund.


KPMG U.S. and its KPMG U.S. Foundation have pledged over $2 million in donations to support nonprofit organizations impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, including $1 million toward a KPMG Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) COVID-19 campaign to aid 501c-3 organizations across the country, and $400,000 in community impact grants. Eight hundred grants, worth $500 each, will go to nonprofit organizations actively supported by KPMG U. S. staff members.


Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas will contribute more than $1 million in funding, as well as personal protective equipment, to help 42 community organizations across the region provide vital services in response to the COVID-19 emergency. The Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas Community Funds will provide about $400,000 to community nonprofits directly addressing the effects of the public health emergency. The funding will provide food and shelter for those in need and support health care workers on the front lines of the crisis. 

Tell us more!

If you know of bold actions by Chicago United members to help others during this COVID-19 crisis, please let us know. We’d appreciate your content suggestions. Contact us. 

  • MBE Resource Webinar, June 10
  • CEO Roundtable Series (for C-Suite executives) June 11, Aug. 6, Sept. 22, Oct. 20 
  • Lessons in Leadership During a Global Pandemic, June 26
  • Business Leaders of Color Author Series –  July 22, Aug. 4, Oct. 2
  • Employee Resource Group Symposium – July 28
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