As part of its celebration of Black History Month, Lowe’s hosted an event on Trailblazing: The Power of Inclusion and Belonging, featuring Lowe’s President & CEO Marvin Ellison and CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams, moderated by Don Frieson, executive vice president of supply chain. The audience included Lowe’s associates as well as students from West Mecklenburg High School, Winston-Salem State University and North Carolina A&T State University.
McWilliams is the first female to serve as Commissioner for the CIAA and first appointed African American Commissioner out of 100 Conferences representing NCAA Division I, II and III. She delivered a powerful keynote speech where she shared her experiences navigating her career as a woman of color and how she promotes inclusion as a leader.
“The power of people in leadership that understand inclusion is what’s real important,” McWilliams said, “Because the people who can make the decisions… we have the ability to break the barriers.”
The keynote was followed by a Q&A discussion with McWilliams and Ellison on their journeys to becoming ‘firsts’ in their fields. Ellison serves as the only African-American CEO of a Fortune 50 company and only one of three African-American CEOs of a Fortune 500 company.
When asked what he’d tell someone who wants to follow in his footsteps, Ellison’s response was straightforward.
“Have a mission that you’re trying to achieve,” he said. “Regardless of your gender or ethnicity, you have to be qualified, that’s number one. Number two, once you have the skillset and the talent, then you’ve got to be authentic.”
Following the event, the attending students were able to have lunch with Ellison, McWilliams and other Lowe’s leaders.
Lowe’s has been a partner of the CIAA tournament since 2006 and is an official 2019 sponsor of the CIAA events and Lowe’s CIAA Senior CLASS Award®, which recognizes men’s and women’s basketball players from the CIAA.