Why Activism, Advocacy and Allyship Are Essential to Corporate Diversity
Dec 14 2022
By Erika D. Williams, Vice President, Client Development
In 2013, I became a named plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Wells Fargo filed on behalf of more than 300 Black employees alleging discrimination. It was the start of a grueling, four-year journey to a settlement. I recently reflected on that experience with fresh eyes when I was interviewed for a Washington Post article on the NFL’s failed Rooney Rule for increasing diversity among head coaches — and its equally ineffective adoption by large corporations.
My life changed forever when I decided to fight for equitable treatment in court — not only in this case but also in a second case against Wells Fargo and one against JPMorgan Chase. My job prospects evaporated — I was persona non grata in the industry. When I tried to move into other industries, I realized that the lawsuits were coming up in searches on my name and branding me as trouble. After being told over and over that I — not a discriminatory corporate culture — was the problem, my confidence sank.
Yet, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all again — even knowing how grinding the process would be. The experience helped me find my voice and use my talents to eliminate the barriers that hold us back. I’ve spent my entire career advocating for myself and others in similar situations; and it’s clear to me that as we continue to press for change, we need to wind the threads of activism, advocacy and allyship together. Separately, they are essential to solving challenges; combined, their impact is profound.
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