Newell Brands is committed to fostering an inclusive workplace environment, and our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) play an important role in how we build community and celebrate diversity. BEACON, our ERG for Black employees and allies, works yearlong to provide a positive and impactful experience for its members, connect our employees across geographies, and provide engaging and educational programming like seminars, volunteering events, and external speaker panels. In recognition of Black History Month, we spoke with BEACON’s Co-Chairs: Valerie Longs, Vice President of Indirect Sourcing & Risk Management; Marian Elliott, Senior Director, PM & Chief of Staff, Learning & Development; and Helena Harrison, Senior Design Engineer, Learning & Development about their experience, what Black History Month means to them and what they are looking forward to in 2024.
What made you interested in pursuing the co-chair role?
Valerie (V): Mentoring is a passion of mine, and I want to share my years of industry success and challenges with the next generation of corporate giants.
Marian (M): I wanted to impact the business and my colleagues' lives. I believe in BEACON’s mission and what ERGs, in general, can accomplish in an organization. I wanted to be a part of making employees feel welcome, valued and excited about Newell Brands while supporting the unique experiences of our Black employees.
Helena (H): I didn’t actually seek out the role! I was “gifted” the local role because I was already active in organizing and leading activities within the ERG. I took it upon myself (with the help of the BEACON community) to continue to pursue having a welcoming space for our Black employees. That is important to me.
What do you hope to accomplish as co-chair?
V: I want to be the light to the next generation of up-and-coming brilliant contributors of color, drive confidence, help them create respectful tools to disagree, and identify and illuminate their strengths and contributions to the team.
M: One of the best parts about leading an ERG is giving other people the opportunity to advance their workplace skills and seeing our members get the chance to develop skills like planning, networking, budget management and communication skills. I hope our programming continues to support employees in making cross-functional connections that will serve them as they grow in their own professional careers. Overall, I hope to have a positive effect on as many people as I can and a positive impact through BEACON that will have a ripple effect throughout the Newell Brands organization.
H: I hope to continue to create a community where BEACON members feel they are heard and can grow their careers as their authentic selves at Newell.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
V: Living through the race riots, marching, and singing “We Shall Overcome,” waiting in anticipation that I could’ve been one selected to sacrifice for the right to just “be.” Black History Month, to me, is about sacrifice, challenging and not blinking, declaring the facts, and not accepting “be quiet.” When we suppress one, we suppress all. Standing up for what all have the right to do, say, share, work, prosper, and so much more.
M: While I embrace the celebration of Black History Month and the attention it brings to the contributions and struggles of Black people in this country, to me Black History is American History. It is a study of how events and people in the past impact the present. It is an opportunity to learn how we got to where we are, celebrate our triumphs, and acknowledge our failures so we do not repeat them.
H: Black History Month is an opportunity to spotlight how people of the African diaspora have always persevered to contribute to the world at large. It’s a doorway to learning a broader history 365 days a year!
Describe the impact BEACON has made on your employee experience at Newell.
V: I joined the company after being part of a BEACON event. I was so encouraged by leadership standing up for the BEACON community. I believe this company is trying to get “it” right. I wanted to be part of that effort.
M: BEACON has allowed me to contribute to the development of people that I would never have had an opportunity even to meet if [it] did not exist. I have been so blessed in my career to have people who have supported my growth over the years, and BEACON has given me the opportunity to pay it forward.
H: It has allowed me to grow my network and practice being a servant leader!
What are you looking forward to this year from BEACON?
V: Creating a landscape [that] enables an associate to see the path to their respective “next.” Asking clarifying questions about someone’s growth. See that “a-ha” moment illuminate their world. It provides resources that may not have been demonstrated in an associate's life before being part of BEACON.
M: Over the past three years, we have established a theme for each year, and this year’s theme is “Financial Literacy.” I am excited about the programs we are sponsoring that support this theme and about our “Wellness Wednesday” series. The series has offered education and support for occupational, spiritual, physical, and intellectual wellness. These types of wellness are so important to the overall quality of life, and our BEACON family benefits highly from this programming.
H: Being able to provide BEACON members with a platform to interact and learn personally and professionally.
We are excited to see all Valerie, Marian, Helena and BEACON accomplish this year! Please visit the Our People page for more information about our ERGs.