Continuing our European engagement, True Blue Inclusion network members and staff participated fully in many venues at the 10th Annual Brussels Forum, March 20 – 22. Attending from the True Blue team were our President and Founder, Catherine Smith; CFO Rick Tubbs; and me, Celía Burke, the Diversity Fellow. Joining as guests and Forum panelists were three members: Trevor Gandy, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Chubb Group of Insurance Companies; Rosalind Hudnell, Vice President of Human Resources and Director of Communications and Diversity at Intel; and Janice Little, Senior Director, Diversity and Inclusion at McKesson.
The Brussel Forum activities started with the Young Professionals Summit, an impressive contingent of young people ranging in age from their mid-twenties to mid-thirties. They represented political, legal and activist circles and a variety of particular social issues. The young professionals were from across the United States and Europe, coming from many different racial and ethnic backgrounds. We had the pleasure of meeting this talented group during a dinner we hosted at a restaurant in the heart of Brussels.
During the dinner, our members discussed the work that they do along with the importance of diversity and inclusion, not only at their companies but in all spaces. Janice expressed how appropriate it was for her to be in Brussels as McKesson is expanding globally, having just acquired a German pharmaceutical company. After Roz introduced herself and described the nature of her work, one attendee from the States declared that diversity had always been a “fluff” word to him and that Roz’s insight and description of her work helped him to see it in a more positive light. After that, our three Diversity leaders sat at different tables and talked with the youth. The conversations were lively, with an exchange of passions and plans to make the world a better place.
Throughout the main sessions, our small group of True Blue team members and chief diversity officers was exposed to a wealth of perspectives arising from national, racial, ethnic, economic, religious and political diversity, among other different aspects of identity. Throughout the Forum, the excitement of being in a space full of intelligent people coming from many different experiences was palpable. It was pleasing to see how Trevor, Roz and Janice held their own, impressing the Young Professionals during a panel on diversity and inclusion in the private sector, with Trevor also contributing to a discussion on inclusivity and Roz moderating a breakfast panel on gender equality.
I truly enjoyed being in this space. It was my first time in Brussels, a city with more racial diversity than I expected, and I found it to be very charming. As an observer during the Forum, I was pleased to note that I never felt intimidated by the amount of power everywhere. On the contrary, I was motivated by humble leaders who saw needs in their communities and simply dedicated themselves to addressing the needs. I had many lovely conversations with people, both old and young, who are doing amazing things. I left with ideas swirling in my head, and no doubt our CDO’s as well as Catherine are considering new ideas and collaborations.
Keep an eye out for True Blue Inclusion’s white paper on the 2015 Brussels Forum, which will provide you with more details about the event. It will be available in the next month.