Karriem Shakoor, UL’s chief information officer and senior vice president, was named a 2019 Chicago United Business Leader of Color, by Chicago United, a nonprofit aimed at helping people of color advance to leadership positions and increase organizations’ diversity.
Shakoor, who also serves as a board member for Chicago United, said he was deeply humbled by the recognition, adding that he received some help along the way.
“I am thankful [to UL] for embracing the intention to be a more inclusive and diverse company,” Shakoor said. “It’s not just me leading and saying these things. I see it in the workforce. While this award is being handed to me individually, it belongs to others here as much as it does to me: the IT team and the Diversity and Inclusion Council.”
A history of achievement
This is not the first time Shakoor has been recognized for his leadership. In 2009, he was honored as one of Crain’s Detroit 40 Under 40; in 2010, as one of the Michigan Chronicle’s Front Page 30 (FP30) emerging leaders in Detroit; in 2012 as a Top 100 Under 50 emerging leader by Diversity MBA.
To Shakoor, who brings more than 18 years of information technology management to UL, being a Business Leader of Color means making your mark.
“It means you’re having an impact in the community in which you live and in the community in which you work,” he said. “You’re doing things and you’re leading in ways that create positive change, and you’re creating impact.”
His statement embodies the goals of one of the charitable organizations where he volunteers his time as a board member: Chicago United. In addition, he’s on the board of directors for Techbridge Girls, a nonprofit that brings STEM education and access to economic opportunity to girls in low-income communities, and 100 Black Men of Chicago, a mentor organization for young African American men.
Shakoor is also a member of the National Black MBA Association, Information Technology Senior Management Forum (ITSMF), Black Data Processors of America and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.
At UL, he works on the board of the Black Business Resource Group, which is dedicated to driving inclusion through education and awareness to help make sure everyone has a home at UL and also has a seat on the Diversity and Inclusion Council.
What is diversity and inclusion?
To Shakoor, diversity means reflecting the local community the business is in. He offered the example that if a community has a 20% African American population, then the workforce should reflect that. Inclusivity takes that a step beyond by making sure that all employees feel they can succeed in the organization.
“Individuals are not just given a job, but they are given the opportunity to impact and shape the future of the company,” Shakoor said. “Their voices need to be heard, acknowledged and valued.”
The benefits flow down a two-way street as both employers and employees profit from diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. A more diverse workforce creates better results.
Shakoor explained that smart companies maximize their profits by engaging highly diverse teams in the ideation, design and marketing of their products to help ensure their unique needs and preferences are reflected in that product or service. This helps ensure that their products/services are tailored for the broadest set of customers possible.
He’s actively trying to cultivate diversity and inclusion, not just at UL, but in companies all around Chicago. In collaboration with the nonprofit organization Lumity, Shakoor brought more than 35 teens from Chicago Vocational Career Academy to spend a day in UL’s laboratories with its engineers. In addition to this, he goes out and talks to ninth and 10th graders about STEM careers.
“I believe UL is taking the right set of steps to become a more diverse and inclusive company,” Shakoor said. “We are on a journey; we have work to do. But I am confident in the work that we have done and our ability to continue the momentum. The goal is to create a fully diverse and inclusive culture within our company. I believe we can always do more, but I believe we are doing the right things.”
Image © 2019 Ana Miyares