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Connecting the head to the heart: Steven Brown’s racial equity, diversity and inclusion journey

  • The W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Expanding Equity program helps workplaces become more racially equitable places of opportunity. The program supports and inspires actions that advance racial equity, diversity and inclusion among leaders, within companies and within industries. This interview is part of the leadership series, highlighting individual leaders’ personal racial equity, diversity and inclusion journeys, and the impacts of those experiences on their careers.


    Steven Brown joined Molson Coors Beverage Company as the vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in March 2020 where he is responsible for ensuring the execution of the company’s DEI strategy across the U.S., Canada and Latin America. He works closely with the senior leadership team while partnering with the organization to ensure the right tools, resources, programs and processes for DEI advancements are aligned with recruitment, leadership, employee development, employee engagement and retention. Prior to re-joining Molson Coors in March 2020, he was the global inclusion & diversity leader and senior HR business partner for leadership programs for General Electric Healthcare. He also has previous industry experience with SC Johnson and BMO Harris (formerly known as M&I Bank).

    Q: What has the Molson Coors DEI journey looked like?

    “I think the Expanding Equity program and the Molson Coors journey has really allowed me to one, assess what we said we’re gonna do, and then frankly, even how to do it.”

    “I’m Steven Brown, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion here at Molson Coors Beverage Company.”

    “I think whenever you look at the measurable results, you always have to figure out that, again, this is a journey. For us, the first thing is, are we measuring the right things?

    “Are we looking to really make sure that we are holding each other accountable for what we said we’re going to do? And so what I learned through, again, either through the programming, through the material, through the conversations, it’s probably much more tied to making sure that you have measurable consideration for your journey and then checking that along the way.”

    “I think that the progress has been great in some areas and slow in others. And that’s why the work has to continue.”

    Q: When did your professional DEI journey begin?

    “My journey started in regards to ‘how can I help’? My DEI journey probably started – I’m not sure when  it was not a part of who I am to be frank with you. But I rejoined the organization [Molson Coors Beverage Company] in 2020, when the company, experienced a traumatic incident.”

    “I talk about it that if I can be part of this healing, [and] recovery for something that I hope no company ever has to go through – a mass shooting – and a healing associated with it, is pretty powerful.”

    “And then we fell into a pandemic. We fell into the summer of 2020, and so all of sudden, a role that was important became critical to, I believe, our sustainability and our commitment around this area.”

    “I recognize that there may be times that this isn’t something that you talk about at work. But the healing, the implementation, the solution, they don’t happen unless you have those active conversations.”

    Q: What does racial equity, diversity and inclusion mean to you?

    “So what does racial equity diversity mean to me? Professionally, this is the work that I do. This is the practitioner work that I’ve decided to step into. It is, in many ways, it’s how I connect my head to my heart. From a personal perspective, this has been part of my life. As a Black man and my professional life being in corporate America.”

    “There are many times that I have been the only one in the room. I have been misunderstood. I have not been seen. I’ve not been heard. And so when I recognize that the next generation – this generation – has the opportunity to have a different experience, hopefully, than what I had as a, you know, young professional growing up.”

    “So I have the opportunity to be part of this change both from a professional lens, but also from a human lens. And that’s been very powerful for me.”

    Q: What advice would you give to other DEI leaders? 

    “So what advice do I have for someone that wants to get into the diversity, equity and inclusion space? It is knowing why you want to do this work.”

    “Not because it feels good, but why it’s important to be part of this piece of it. So find yourself, find what makes sense for you. Do you wanna be more in the strategy side of it? You wanna be on the execution side of it? You wanna be an ally, you wanna be a champion – really decide what skill set, experience, passion you have, and find that.”

    “And also recognizing that you want to make sure that as things change, you are willing to change with it. I think it’s a worthy profession to go into, but you also have to again, just really assess, are you really kind of ready to be in this space when things are really, really hard.”

    “And not just because it’s the thing that everyone’s doing, but it’s the thing that everyone needs to be doing.”

    Q: How has the Expanding Equity program supported the Molson Coors journey? 

    “I think the Expanding Equity program and the Molson Coors journey has really allowed me to one, assess what we said we’re gonna do, and then frankly, even how to do it – thinking about the processes, the behaviors, the practices, the structure, how you hold yourself accountable, how you have the organization hold yourself accountable.”

    “They really just ask you a number of questions in regards to having you pause and take a look at where you are. One, do you have a journey in place? And then how do you put infrastructure around that?”

    “One of the examples of using what we learned and we bring it into our organization is every year we do our month of inclusion. And I asked Expanding Equity to be part of that experience. We thought it was really important, a real opportunity to bring racial healing into the conversation.”

    “And so we had over 400-500 employees that got to hear not only what racial healing could be, but how they can use it, how they can begin that conversation. So that’s been a real-time application of what we got, from what I got from the program and how I was able to bring it into the organization. And now holding ourself accountable on how we continue to the work around racial healing.”

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