Over the last few months, I have been moved by the tremendous courage and passion of our team members who work tirelessly in an ever changing and uncertain environment. And though we are focused on our continued efforts to implement health and safety precautions at our facilities, communicate authentically and with transparency, and strengthen important partnerships with our communities, our commitment to diversity and inclusion is unwavering. During this crisis, we have seen the positive power of a diverse workforce and inclusive environment, which are pillars of our core values tightly woven into the fabric of our culture. But we have also witnessed ugly hostilities toward our own team members in their communities. Hostilities created by incomplete or imperfect information and fueled by fear in a highly charged external environment.
Our strength as individuals and as a nation are being tested. During this important month when Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage is celebrated, I can’t help but reflect on what my own experiences have been during difficult times and where I found the foundational strength needed to carry on. Growing up, I remember an idyllic life with wonderful parents and a brother, a group of friends and a community that was open and inclusive. Yet, as I moved on, I realized that there were – at times – situations that really should never have happened. Whether it was a refusal to provide a home to my family, words that were spoken “in jest” at school, or glares from eyes that were clearly questioning my presence.
And yet, what did I do? I endured, I ignored and I buried the thoughts, the stares and the words. What more could I do in a world where an Asian American was misunderstood or mistrusted? I didn’t want to create an unharmonious environment or a difficult time for my family. Looking back, I wish I could have pushed back or could have asked questions or could have shared my reactions to those who questioned my presence or inclusion.
Unfortunately, I see many of the same things that I experienced over my lifetime continuing today. It is sad. It is disappointing. How can we unite again? We must come together and draw on the strength of diversity to forge on as individuals and as a nation.
Whether you are a first-, second-, or fifth-generation American, this month is an opportunity to remember that your heritage is not a relic of the past – but a source of strength and pride in the present and future. The world needs you, with your unique heritage, perspective and voice.
There are Tyson Foods team members residing and working in dozens of countries. Here in the US, so many cultures and over 54 languages are represented in our production facilities, corporate offices and other locations. We value the women, LGBTQ+ individuals, those with disabilities, and veterans we work alongside. I am proud of our company’s support for team members through our business resource groups – these groups offer team members a way to connect with each other over shared experiences, or shared interest in learning more about backgrounds different than their own.
We are in a global pandemic, yet we cannot forget the global challenges we continue to face. Natural resources depletion, political crosswinds, and an increasing demand for nutritious protein create a complex ecosystem that will be challenged as we look to feed the rapidly growing world population (expected to be more than 9 billion people) by 2050.
If we expect to successfully overcome today’s crisis and tomorrow’s challenges, we will need everyone at the table. Every voice. Every perspective. Every background. Today, a commitment to diversity and inclusion is not just the right thing to do – it is the right way to build a sustainable future. Through the lens of the pandemic, we have seen how interconnected and dependent countries are on one another and how understanding, learning and respecting opinions are fundamental to our success. We must embrace the commitment to diversity and inclusion every day.
Diversity and inclusion are not yet a given in this country; there is still work to do. But as I reflect on the commitments we have made, and the recognition we have received – from organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and 2020 Women on Boards – I am so proud to be part of our company and these efforts.
To all of our team members who are stepping up, every day, to feed the nation and the world: from the bottom of my heart, thank you. We support you. We are proud to work alongside you. And now, more than ever, we need you at the table.