Promoting diversity within a corporation is nothing new.
But Ameren Corporation announced Thursday it will make its new "Discussion Across Differences" videos and materials available to other groups, free of charge.
Chairman and CEO Warner Baxter said they want to share more than their financial resources. Ameren pledged $2.5 million in October to support the Ferguson Commission's priorities to reduce poverty and improve education in the St. Louis region. With the free diversity materials, Baxter said they hope to spark more inclusion across the region.
"What will come from these videos and that first conversation will be more dialogue, more conversations, more opportunities for co-workers, organizations, communities to engage like they never had before," Baxter said.
The five videos feature conversations with St. Louis community leaders, including:
- Amy Hunter, director of racial justice for YWCA Metro St. Louis.
- Kira Hudson-Banks, assistant professor of psychology at Saint Louis University.
- Captain Ron Johnson, Missouri Highway Patrol.
- Samantha Lurie, Vashon High School teacher.
- Scott Bonner, director of the Ferguson Municipal Public Library.
Each video centers on a different topic and is accompanied with a facilitator guide and participant booklet.
In Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson’s portion, he focuses on respect. Johnson, who attended Ameren’s announcement on Thursday, said respect was important during interactions he had with protesters in the days and weeks following Michael Brown’s death.
"I was willing to listen to their voice, listen to their concerns, but in return they were listening to what I had to say, so we got to the point where there was common ground," Johnson said. "And like we’ve talked about in other meetings and conversations, when you talk about respect we’re really more alike than we are different."
When asked whether conversations around diversity and inclusion in the St. Louis region have been honest, Johnson said not all have been. But he said Ameren’s materials will have an impact.
"In this arena here today with Ameren and their corporate leaders, we’re having that real conversation," Johnson said.
Ameren has been doing similar diversity training for about six years, according to Sharon Harvey Davis, vice president and chief diversity officer. She said the idea for the video series came after a leadership retreat last year where company officials heard from a panel on Ferguson. Harvey Davis said the officials wanted to share the information they learned with all 8,500 employees.
"As we started to think about how to support our community and the Ferguson Commission report it just made sense to make this available to our community," Harvey Davis said. "It was a very easy thing to do."
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