Embracing Diversity to Create Innovation
Alumna Amal Berry talks about why diversity matters in the workplace.
Amal Berry (’97 B.A.) has a message: Be unapologetically yourself.
And there’s something in the way Berry, DTE Energy’s diversity and inclusion manager, says those words that you know it’s not something she got from a memo. It’s coming from a raw, real place.
It’s a statement a 6-year-old Lebanese girl wished someone had said to her when they noticed she was the only dark, frizzy-haired child in her new American classroom. She could have used those words when she begged her mom to buy sandwich meat because her lunch’s usual grape leaves and hummus received stares.
“I quickly became aware of how different I was, which was unlike my previous experiences,” said Berry, whose family came to the U.S. in 1976 after the civil war began in Lebanon. “I remember begging my mom to buy bologna for lunch. When she finally did, I took one bite of the sandwich and it was just awful. I learned it was not only OK to be different, but that I preferred being unique.”
Berry believes those early experiences paved the way to where she is now — working with DTE’s nearly 11,000 employees to facilitate courageous conversations and create impactful and sustainable change toward a culture of inclusion.
“My goal is to create an atmosphere where people see themselves as active allies of diversity and inclusion. Our experiences make us who we are, and that provides a different perspective than someone else, not just based exclusively on our gender or race,” she said. “I want to enhance the dialogue to include all of us as we learn to appreciate and celebrate our differences.”
Berry said this type of work didn’t exist when she began her career in banking. It was a job in college as a clerk in a bank’s international department that led to opportunities down the road, where Berry’s unique perspective helped her create programs to better connect with minority populations in the community. And that led her to prominent roles in leading diversity and inclusion strategies at Comerica Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield and now DTE.
“We know that diverse teams create innovation and sustainable outcomes toward success. This is true of companies and communities,” she said. “When you have a group of people from different backgrounds and perspectives working together, that’s when the real magic happens. So just be unapologetically yourself — you have so much to add just by being who you are meant to be.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: At publication date Amal Berry has started a new role with Ford Motor Company as the Senior Manager, Global Diversity and Inclusion.