Day after day, black professionals in the United States have complained about not having equal opportunities in their careers. There have been stories of how companies set goals to boost diversity in the workplace, but then fail to create a culture that would attract and retain black talent.
And when in 2018 Dorinda Walker, then a black executive at Prudential, decided to share her disparaging experiences at the largest financial institution in an email congratulating a new CEO, she was blatantly ignored.
“The state of division in this country, coupled with the existing prudential culture and blatant prejudices that I have witnessed and witnessed, has become an unfortunate and accepted cultural norm in some key areas of the business. “ she wrote in her letter to Charles Lowrey on the occasion of his appointment as CEO of Prudential in October 2018.
Walker, who spent 19 years at Prudential and described herself as a “consistent performer,” was then in multicultural marketing where she was essentially Prudential’s ambassador / spokesperson both internally and externally, communicating the company’s commitment to women and diverse consumers. She began traveling across the country in 2013, “cultivating relationships with trusted opinion leaders, community and faith-based organizations, and ethnic media groups,” she wrote.
Starting in 2016, she began to be nominated for numerous honors and awards, including being recognized by The Network Journal as one of the 25 Most Influential Black Women in Business in 2017 and mentioned in a Forbes article. as a leading black leader and speaker in the country. But those appointments came with backlash from senior Prudential management, who accused her of using Prudential to promote her own personal brand, Walker wrote.
Due to her elders’ perceptions of her, she was denied the higher grade she deserved in her performance review months later.
“My first reaction was anger, but I decided to let it go. If some leaders did not have the courage to speak to me directly and ask me questions about my work and my motives, their opinions did not deserve my attention. I didn’t need their acceptance to feel good about my accomplishments. And frankly, I think if I were a white woman the answer would be very different,” Walker wrote.
At the end of 2017, the multicultural department was disbanded and the team was realigned to Corporate Advertising, where Walker said she felt her “role had been reduced to the symbolic black woman on the team.”
The group’s only black vice president, Walker said she was not included in any management or business planning meetings.
“My current experience is so diminished that I no longer believe in the commitment of leadership to cultivate a culture of inclusion. I love that many black GMC employees are continually and systematically ignored, marginalized and discriminated against. It is not unconscious, it is downright a flagrant bias ”, Walker wrote in the email, hoping to receive a favorable response from the CEO as to what Prudential can do to improve conditions for its next generation of black leaders at Prudential.
But that was Lowrey’s response, according to Walker:
“… Thank you very much for the congratulations, but more importantly for sharing your feelings and your point of view. As I hope you know, we are committed to our I&D strategy and hope to achieve further results in the future. It’s always good to hear from you.
Walker is no longer with Prudential, but she had been reluctant to discuss her experience publicly due to her terms of a separation agreement.
Companies depend on certain exit deals that do not allow people to speak out about their alleged discrimination. In Walker’s case, the Prudential spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that Walker “signed a standard separation agreement with a no-denigration clause and a confidentiality clause that prevents him from discussing the terms of the contract. ‘agreement, such as the amount of compensation “.
The spokesperson added that the allegations in Walker’s email had been “investigated and not substantiated.”
Read Walker’s email exchange with CEO here.