New Jersey Companies are Fostering a Culture of Diversity

How businesses mirror the makeup of our state’s diverse populations.

New Jersey is a melting pot of sorts. As one of the most diverse states in the country, it’s ripe with a variety of vibrant cultures, showcased in its cities, food, music and arts. Its physical topography and geography is varied too, with beaches, farmlands, pinelands, mountain ranges, major urban areas, industrial sites and more, all of which can be seen in a single day traversing the state.

It should come as no surprise, then, that many New Jersey companies embrace a culture of diversity, and are thriving thanks to a melting pot of ideas and personalities representative of the state’s 9 million residents.

Hiring a diverse workforce will ultimately benefit a company, but it’s more than just hiring. Companies are also promoting these initiatives in order to spread their ideas on diversity and inclusion, and are also helping the communities where they are located by giving back and providing opportunities to local residents and youth.

In this article, New Jersey Business spoke with five companies that have been recognized and officially awarded for their diversity initiatives.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey

Given the current national political climate, it may seem as if a microscope is focused on the particular issue of diversity, but companies have been pushing diversity initiatives for years.

“It is not as though this is the ‘flavor of the month.’ This is something that is essential to the long-term success of companies,” says Alison Banks-Moore, chief diversity officer at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. “The overall goal is sustainability. This isn’t something that you do and eventually get to say ‘Your work is done.’ Your work is never done. This is a journey that will evolve and require tweaking and constant care in order to be successful.”

Horizon has received a number of awards and recognitions for its efforts, a few of which include the 2017 “Working Mother of the Year” Award; recognition in Diversity MBA magazine’s “Best Places for Women & Diverse Managers to Work”; the 2017 National Organization on Disability (NOD) Leading Disability Employer Seal; and LATINA Style magazine’s 50 best companies for Latinas to work.

Banks-Moore says that being officially recognized for the work that the company puts into diversity initiatives gives a feeling of validation, and is something in which the company collectively takes pride.

“These are significant because we are competing with national and global companies – and we are a regional company. The competition is very tough, yet we are still able to stand on our own merit and achieve what we do,” she says.

One of the many programs Horizon is involved with is the Cristo Rey internship program at Cristo Rey High School in Newark, which allows Cristo Rey network students to intern at Horizon. 

“[The students] work for us one day a week, and in return we subsidize their high school tuition. This affords them the opportunity to get a quality education for which they would not have otherwise had an opportunity,” says Banks-Moore. “We have seen the evolutionary process of how students grow, evolve and learn in the program. Many students are the first to graduate high school in their family and go on to college.”

Wells Fargo

“Diversity starts with the hiring process,” says Larisa Perry, northeast lead region president at Wells Fargo. “The first thing we do is ensure we have a diverse candidate pool for our job interviews. It’s important to have people with varying opinions and skill sets.

“We require all of our 280,000 team members to take online training courses to reinforce our mission around diversity, and to help them understand why it is so important,” she adds.

This training is part of a mission to get individuals of differing backgrounds and experiences to better understand one another. Another strategy that Wells Fargo has implemented to achieve this mission is the establishment of its Team Member Networks (TMN). These networks include: Asian Connection, Black/African American Connection, Diverse Abilities TMN, Latin Connection TMN, Middle East TMN, My Generation TMN, PRIDE TMN, Veterans TMN, and Women’s TMN.

“These networks provide forums for our employees to discuss current or global issues and their effect on our workforce,” Perry says. “You don’t have to identify with the TMNs in order to be a part of them [and participate in discussions]. These play a huge role in helping our team members understand and appreciate diversity.”

Wells Fargo has a number of recognitions, including being named on DiversityInc magazine’s top 50 companies for diversity list. DiversityInc also named the bank a top company for the LGBT community as well as for Latinas. The company is on Black Enterprise magazine’s top 50 list, and was also named one of the best places to work in 2017 by the Disability Equality Index. 

Today, 42 percent of Wells Fargo’s US team member population is racially and ethnically diverse, and 56 percent of all team members are women. Of note, Wells Fargo recently appointed Betsy Duke, who became the first woman to chair the board of a major financial institution.


As the national sponsor of the STEP Ahead initiative, BASF is involved in the grassroots movement of manufacturers dedicated to overcoming the shared challenges facing young women in manufacturing today. In June 2017, BASF launched a new learning and development program, called FLAME (Female Leaders Advancing Manufacturing Excellence), which is focused on the unique needs and opportunities of women in manufacturing at all stages of their careers. 

According to Patricia Rossman, chief diversity officer, BASF in North America, an estimated 3.5 million manufacturing jobs must be filled by 2025 to meet industry needs. But because of gaps in the critical skills needed for these jobs, 2 million will go unfilled. 

“We can’t meet our business needs by only drawing talent from the traditional talent sources that have met our needs in the past,” Rossman says. “We need to continue to draw from traditional talent sources and improve our ability to attract, develop and retain talent from non-traditional talent sources, including significantly expanding our ability to draw from top female and minority talent.”

A few of BASF’s recognitions include appearing in DiversityInc magazine’s top 50 companies for diversity and achieving a perfect score on the 2018 Corporate Equality Index. Minority Engineer magazine readers also selected BASF as a company that they would most like to work at.

“It is all about recognizing, valuing and leveraging the uniqueness of our people; drawing on the power of our differences to anticipate and meet market needs in new ways; and better reflecting the markets and customers we serve,” Rossman says.

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS)

“The key to maximize the benefits of diversity is through building a culture of inclusion – a work environment where individuals feel comfortable sharing their ideas and know that each person at the table is listening with an open mind,” says Ann Powell Judge, chief human resources officer, Bristol-Myers Squibb.

BMS also focuses on supplier diversity efforts, extending the company’s culture of diversity beyond its walls. 

“By cultivating and engaging diverse suppliers, we see higher-level value for stakeholders through new ideas, ideals and innovations. Our efforts are strategic rather than transactional, with multiple diverse suppliers working in every stage of bringing medicines to patients,” Judge says. “In 2015-16, the company invested more than $600 million in small and diverse businesses.” 

Some awards and recognitions for BMS include a 2018 National Association of Female Executives’ top company for executive women, a 2017 Working Mother Best Company, The Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association 2017 ACE Award, a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index, and recognition as a military friendly company. 

“Our mission to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines to help patients prevail over serious diseases takes us directly to diversity,” Judge says. “Disease doesn’t discriminate, and the patients BMS serves cross all cultures and dimensions of diversity. To truly serve our patients and communities, our workforce must reflect the marketplace we serve, leveraging personal and professional business experience to help us drive business results.”


Prudential’s Inclusive Markets Working Group encompasses a variety of considerations that touch on all aspects of business – from product development, strategic investments, marketing, technology, distribution, recruitment and community.

“In 2016, we held a financial security summit to better understand the challenges that face the Latino community,” Lata Reddy, senior vice president, Diversity, Inclusion and Impact at Prudential Financial, Inc. says. “In 2017, Prudential executives, along with external thought leaders, participated in an in-the-field workshop that provided participants with a deeper understanding of the complexity of consumers’ financial lives by going beyond classroom learning and becoming embedded in a real-life experience where they must make some of the same decisions struggling consumers face on a daily basis.”

Additionally, Prudential continues to grow its Business & Technology Solutions Center in El Paso, Texas, where nearly half of the employees are veterans or military spouses. 

“Our extensive focus on training and support facilitates their transition into the civilian workforce,” Reddy says. “Military spouses, an overlooked but valuable source of talent, have found employment through remote work arrangements – enabling them to keep their jobs despite frequent relocations that come with military service.”

Some of Prudential’s accolades include, LATINA Style 2017 “Company of the Year,” Human Rights Campaign 2017 “Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality,” 2020 Women on Boards “Winning ‘W’ Company,” and Ascend’s “Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion Award,” to name a few. 

Reddy adds that the key to overall success isn’t up to a few executives or certain teams, but is dependent upon every function around the company. Everyone must expand the company’s thinking when it comes to serving and meeting the needs of a diverse US marketplace.


The accolades and initiatives highlighted in this article are just a small amount of the work being done by these respective companies. Additionally, it is more than just the five companies in this article that are tirelessly working to provide their employees with a diverse and inclusive culture, as well as spread these positive ideas to their greater surrounding communities.

As the marketplace of ideas continues to thrive in today’s digital age, people will continue to be exposed to different cultures, thought processes and experiences. This dynamic seems to be pushing us towards a better understanding of our peers, and is ultimately laying the groundwork for a future where we understand that at the end of the day, we are all alike. We are all just humans.


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