Senior Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, and Head of Culture & Engagement
LEADERS Worth Watching
Education: MA, counseling psychology, Howard University; BA, psychology, Spelman College Company Name: Lincoln Financial Group Industry: Financial services Company CEO: Dennis Glass Company Headquarters Location: Radnor, Pennsylvania Number of Employees: 11,000 Words you live by: Listen, learn, and then, lead. Who is your personal hero? Shirley Chisholm What book are you reading? White Fragility by Robin DeAngelo What was your first job: I started working for my father’s printing business in second grade, helping collate books. Favorite charity: Urban League of Philadelphia Interests: Rowing, interior decorating, trying new recipes, community service, helping to preserve HBCUs, and mentoring young African American females Family: From a family of four; recently married into and now part of a family of six—with my husband and four stepchildren
Without the Burden of Racism Education was always paramount in our family. It was positioned as one of the factors necessary to independently navigate one’s life. I am fortunate and proud to have attended two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Spelman College and Howard University. Deciding to attend an HBCU for both undergraduate and graduate school were choices “by design.” Growing up in the south, which by the way I loved, afforded various types of opportunities to learn and experience race relations (both positive and negative). At the age of 17, I made the decision to attend a college where gender and race would not be “by design” differentiators or obstacles. This was important for me, because I craved the freedom to compete and achieve based on merit and talent. I wanted at least four years in life where race was not an issue, and to be “judged by the content
of my character, not the color of my skin,” as Martin Luther King famously said. These are formative years as you begin to define who you are, determine what you want to do, and build the confidence to go out in the world and be your best. I did not want the real or perceived barriers of race, racism, sex, and sexism to get in my way—and they did not. Without the burdens of discrimination based on race and gender, assumptions of inferiority, and suspicion of not earning what was awarded, I flourished. We were supported and encouraged to achieve, to be successful. The only limits were the ones you set for yourself. This experience enabled in me the confidence and tenacity to lead with my talents, to not be deterred by barriers placed in my way by others, and to expect to be treated equitably. One wise saying I learned in school, and think about more now than ever, is this: Race
does not have to be a factor. It is not your burden, it is others’. When you encounter racism, it’s not because of you; it’s because of the perpetrator’s ignorance. Having the opportunity twice to live, learn, and develop intellectually without barriers and burdens imposed by others instilled in me an unwavering assurance that I could successfully address diversity challenges in the workplace. Today, in my role as chief diversity officer, I am responsible for and passionate about developing, implementing, and overseeing diversity and inclusion strategies throughout the organization. The expectation is that I can help advance inclusion, equity, and equality within our workforce and in our workplace, marketplace, and community engagement practices. My experiences led me to a career that I am passionate about—one that allows me to address these challenges every day.
Allison Green Johnson