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Diversity Summit 2012: How Southwest is Joining the Conversation


A few weeks ago Southwest Airlines hosted its 3rd Annual Diversity Summit, a day dedicated to celebrating the unique perspectives that we all bring to our Company, our country, and our world. As Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, it gives me great pleasure to host an event that was attended by more than 200 participants from all across the country, as well as by many of our Southwest Leaders and Employees. I am grateful to our Diversity Council and the many volunteer Employees who helped make this our most successful and well-attended Diversity Summit to date.

The theme of this year’s Diversity Summit was “LUVing Employees, LUVing Communities” and after a brief introduction, all eyes were on SVP Culture & Communications, Ginger Hardage, who took the audience through our unique Southwest Culture. Next, Gary spoke about Southwest’s commitment to Diversity and Inclusion. The keynote address for the Summit was delivered by Veronica Biggins, a member of our Board of Directors. Veronica detailed her life’s journey and the lessons learned along the way from mentors and others about “including all” and fostering an environment of inclusion in the workplace.

Johnny Humphrey and Brandi Garcia from the Resource Center of Dallas spoke about greater LGBT inclusion in the workplace, and Deepa Iyer, Executive Director of SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together) spoke about connecting with our Asian-American Employees and Community. The afternoon session ended with Angeles Valenciano from the Texas Diversity Council who spoke about diversity, inclusion, and engagement as a winning formula for a Company’s success.

By this point, participants of the Summit were already engaged, inspired and motivated by what they had seen and heard and by the great networking that was already taking place. Little did they know the treat that lay ahead—hearing from President Emeritus Colleen Barrett on “living The Golden Rule” and making Southwest the best place to work. Colleen’s talk was followed by a panel discussion that included Director of Culture Services, Cheryl Hughey; Director Community Relations and Charitable Giving, Debra Benton, and Senior Manager Community Affairs and Grassroots Laura Nieto. The panelists spoke about the practical applications of the Summit’s theme and the panel was moderated by Vice President Communication & Strategic Outreach, Linda Rutherford. Closing remarks for the Summit were delivered by Executive Vice President and Chief People & Administrative Officer Jeff Lamb, as he challenged participants to apply what they had heard from the day’s sessions and create their own diversity and inclusion flight plan.

It goes without saying that the speakers we had for the Summit inspired and motivated participants in a profound way. I encourage you, in your own workgroups and circles of influence, to reach out and seek to understand perspectives different from your own and, in so doing, to make Southwest Airlines a more inclusive and welcoming environment for us all.