Delta Dental of Iowa’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion
A message from Jeff Russell, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Iowa.
Last week I wrote a message to our Delta Dental of Iowa team members with my reaction to the horrific killing of George Floyd and the protests that have arisen in response. I included the April 1968 speech from Robert F. Kennedy in Indianapolis – the night Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I outlined that the values of our company do not support racism in any form and we must be a part of the solution. I noted that words are fine, but we must lead with action.
My original intention was not to make a public comment regarding this complicated issue. Our company has always believed in diversity, equity and inclusion, but I wasn’t sure that we could add to the dialogue.
Then in a recent discussion, one of our board members pointed out the irony that a speech given in 1968 could be so relevant in 2020. She was right. While I believe we have taken positive steps forward as a society in the 52 years since the assassination of MLK (and later RFK), there is obviously more to be done.
I believe that change must start at home. So, here is our commitment to further diversity, equity and inclusion in our own company and in the communities we serve.
We are undertaking a systematic review of our own policies and procedures to determine where we might have unintended bias. This includes our hiring and pay practices, as well as our operating policies. While we review many of these policies and procedures on a regular basis, this review will allow us to look at them through a different lens. We will continue building a safe space in our company for discussions on cultural competencies and provide education on how we can remove bias in our interactions.
We will seek out opportunities to expand our recruitment and develop programs to embrace a diverse workforce. We are committing to work with the DSM Fellowship Program. This is a program sponsored by the Greater Des Moines Partnership that creates a preeminent professional development initiative that attracts, develops and retains a diverse community of top-tier graduates. Companies enhance their workforce diversity and Fellows grow their life and career in Greater Des Moines.
The Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation introduced a new mission this year “To strengthen and transform the health and smiles of all Iowans.” Our 2025 Vision Statement states that we will make investments in oral health, integration of oral and overall health, and overall health through an equity lens.” As a leader in the field, it is our responsibility to step up. The Foundation Board has committed more than $2.7 million this year to focus on underserved Iowans to improve or eliminate health inequities.
RFK gave another speech on race relations in Capetown, South Africa in 1966 against the backdrop of government-backed Apartheid. This portion of the speech resonates with me on how we can all move forward:
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
At Delta Dental, we know that we do not have the answers, but we want to be a part of the solution. We will continue to listen, learn and take action in ways that bolster social justice in communities we serve.