BY T.J. DEGROAT / © 2006 DiversityInc
Assistant Vice President, Procurement Governance, Allstate
When he joined Allstate’s four-person
diversity-change team in the early 1990s,
Ray Celaya came up with a mantra:
“Manage our differences to gain competitive advantage.” That idea has pervaded
Celaya’s life for many years, including his
tenure at the Northbrook, Ill.–based insurance giant from which he retired in May.
Born in a Mexican-American household—his grandparents crossed the border
with their young children—Celaya, 58,
always has recognized the power that comes from
understanding more than one culture.
He used that multicultural fluency in the military,
where he served on active duty from 1967 to 1977. As a
military adviser traveling around the world, Celaya
recalls, “my job was to accomplish the mission of the
military in a very diverse environment. I needed to win
the hearts and minds of the host countries.”
How did he accomplish that? It goes back
to his mantra: “Leverage the strength of our
commonalities,” he says. Celaya brought
those lessons to Allstate in 1977, when he
joined the company’s Menlo Park, Calif.,
office. Starting as an operations supervisor,
Celaya transferred to Illinois and became
senior operations manager before ultimately
moving on to marketing and diversity.
“I’ve spent basically the last 10 years
dealing with the breadth of diversity,”
Celaya says. “That’s why I feel like I can step away.”
Celaya recentley retired from Allstate, No. 23 on
The 2006 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity
list, after nearly 30 years of service, but will continue to
devote himself to diversity.
“I know I want to continue the quest of helping corporations understand the power of leveraging differences to gain competitive advantage,” he says.
Chief Diversity Officer, Aon
When Corbette Doyle, Aon’s first global
chief diversity officer, speaks publicly about
women and leadership, she often cites a
Department of Labor projection that by
2010 there could be a shortage of 10 million skilled workers.
Statistics like that, coupled with the
realization that more of her female peers
were opting out of the corporate track,
prompted Doyle, who earned an MBA at
Vanderbilt University, to study diversity
issues, paying extra attention to why women don’t want
what corporate America is offering.
“One of the problems that survives today is the fact
that for women, and you just can’t get around this, if we
want to continue the population we have to have children,” says Doyle, a mother of two. “And it’s more likely
for lots of reasons that women will have to off-ramp or
down-shift for some period of life.”
Doyle has supported the Chicago-based
company’s diversity efforts since joining in
1993. She has backed women’s networking
and mentoring. A member of the Aon
Diversity Council, she has worked to recruit
and retain women and people of color.
Doyle, who will continue as chairman
of Aon’s National Healthcare Practice, was
appointed to her new role in March. Among
her goals is helping the company attract
diverse talent. Aon is focusing on recruit-
ment at universities rather than at other companies in
the insurance industry, which Doyle says is behind the
diversity curve. Five years ago, Aon recruited three people
from college; last year, 35; and this year, the company
recruited 65 in addition to 35 interns.
“We aren’t where we would like to be yet, not in
terms of minority or gender diversity,” Doyle says,
“but we’ll get there.”