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News & Blogs: 5 Questions

5 Questions with Erby Foster Jr.

Friday, March 30, 2012  
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Director, Diversity and Inclusion
The Clorox Company

"To succeed, our D&I efforts must be tightly integrated with our business activities.”

Network of Executive Women Board member Erby L. Foster Jr. serves as director, diversity and inclusion, for The Clorox Company. He is a certified public accountant with 15 years of experience creating and implementing business strategies that increase customer satisfaction, drive profitable growth and expand market share. Prior to Clorox, he served as the vice president and chief financial officer for AAA Chicago. His previous experience includes senior-level positions with McDonald's Corporation and KFC Corporation. Foster began his career with Arthur Andersen LLP after graduating from the University of Southern California. He serves on the board of directors of the Glide Foundation, INROADS, Jazz Heritage Center, Museum of the African Diaspora, Students in Free Enterprise and the United Negro College Fund.

What do you do as the director of diversity and inclusion at Clorox?

I advise senior management and the board of directors on our diversity strategy, employment-branding initiatives and external partnerships, as well as support our employee resource groups. A big part of my job is about building relationships with diversity organizations, encouraging ERG engagement and constantly looking for opportunities to make a business connection.

Why are ERGs so important to Clorox’s corporate culture and business strategy?

A large part of our growth will come from five communities: Asian, Black, Latino, women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. To succeed, our diversity and inclusion efforts must be tightly integrated with our business activities. In just a few years, our ERGs have quickly moved from promoting cultural awareness to developing talent to becoming trusted advisors and business advocates.

You recently received a "Commitment to the Community Award” for inspiring others to get involved. What inspires you to do this?

It’s just something I enjoy. In a recent self-discovery exercise, my top two strengths were identified as a connector and influencer. In other words, "Whom can I connect?” and "How can I move you to act?”There’s a rumor that if you walk into my office with a question, you will leave with an assignment. For the record, that’s not true. Actually, maybe it is.

How would you characterize "diversity and inclusion?”

Diversity without inclusion is like adding a few drops of vinegar to oil and calling it a great dressing. How can new people be expected to fit into old models and drive new value? The power of diversity shines in a culture of inclusion, where differences are valued and encouraged. Common values are the foundation, but different perspectives and behaviors lead to new understanding, ideas and growth.

How do you encourage diversity and inclusion throughout Clorox?

I encourage a simple goal: Attend two diversity events this year. That could be a Clorox ERG event or something hosted by a Clorox partner. By experiencing different cultures and practices, we create an opportunity to better understand each others’ hopes and motivations. And that can help each of us become more accepting and encouraging of those who are different.

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