Fulton Bank launches Diverse Business Program

Stating a commitment to making banking and financing products more accessible to groups that historically have been underserved, Lancaster-based Fulton Bank has launched its new Diverse Business Banking Program. 

The program is designed to meet the needs of minority, women, veteran, and LGBTQ business owners. 

“This program advances our purpose to change lives for the better,” Fulton Financial Chairman, President and CEO Curtis J. Myers said in a statement. 

Myers said on the company’s website that Fulton Bank is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

The basis of the program is Fulton Bank’s Diverse Business Advocates, bankers who have earned a special certification and can provide individualized mentorship, educational resources, and custom solutions to meet the needs of diverse business owners. 

The program’s products and services include the following: 

  • Business banking product bundles. 
  • Flexible approval criteria for loans and lines of credit. 
  • Merchant services. 
  • Payroll and cash management services. 
  • SBA (Small Business Administration) products. 

“We’re building on the work Fulton Bank has long done as a trusted advisor for our customers,” said Joel Barnett, director of Commercial Affinity Banking. “In addition to serving diverse businesses, we want to strength relationships with community organizations so we can connect diverse businesses with the network and resources they need to succeed.” 

The company’s website also promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion among its team members. Chief Diversity Officer Quianna Agent-Phillips said Fulton Bank’s inclusion efforts help forge connections throughout its workforce and foster collaboration among team members. 

Fulton Bank, which has offices in the Lehigh Valley, is a subsidiary of the Fulton Financial Corporation.

DEI Summit helps attendees become JEDIs

CPBJ and LVB Contributing Editor, Sloane Brown, speaks with Tyrone Russell, Joy Houck and Lynette Chappel-Williams during a panel titled Building Inclusive Work Environments during the 2023 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit.

Keynote speaker Todd Snovel brought a “Star Wars” theme to his talk Wednesday at the third annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit, hosted online by Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business.

Snovel, chief leadership and engagement officer for the County Commissioners Association, focused on how participants can become trained JEDI – promoting Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion – in their workplaces.

He was followed by two panel discussions, “Building Inclusive Work Environments” and “Power, Privilege and Allyship,” with representatives from health care, engineering and other fields giving their tips and expertise on DEI (or JEDI).

When he went off to college, Snovel said, his worldview was very limited.

“I had been pretty much only exposed to people who looked like me, who sounded like me, who had similar beliefs and values as I. And it was only through those expanded opportunities in education that I started to realize, one, how big the world was, but two, really … understand how inequity (wasn’t just something in history books but was affecting people today) and not just other places, but in our own communities.”

DEI work is a challenge, Snovel said. “It can bring up some difficult conversations, and so there is sometimes a feeling of discomfort right around these JEDI ideas.”

Often, he’ll get asked if an employee should feel guilty belonging to a group that has discriminated.

“Am I supposed to feel bad about myself, especially if I hold some majority identities in the space, and I would tell you, please do not feel bad about yourselves, but let’s also be committed to a real understanding of knowledge because it is from that knowledge that we can then put that energy into action.”

Snovel explained the difference between equality and equity.

“It is when we do things that we then get to the ability to look beyond equality, to look beyond just let’s treat everybody the same way and give them all the same things. But to look to equity, which is, how are we equipping people to be successful, based on what they need?”

When thinking about launching a DEI initiative, companies should ask questions. And employee feedback is crucial.

Are they able to be fully themselves in the workplace? he queried. “So when I open that office door, do I believe that my full ideas and personalities and backgrounds and opinions are going to be welcomed and embraced? Or are there parts of me that I’m sort of shelving, checking, holding at bay because I’m just not sure how I’m going to be welcomed into that space?”

In the first panel, Lynette Chappell-Williams, vice president and diversity officer at Penn State Health, talked about changing circumstances.

“I would have said five years ago how we approach DEI … was radically different from where it is now. We’re dealing with severe … staffing shortages that reduce people’s ability to focus on anything that isn’t getting them through the day-to-day work that they need.”

“We’re dealing with financial challenges,” she said. “Organizations weren’t where they are … in terms of having a lot of additional funds … so you have to be far more strategic … .”

Tyrone J. Russell, CEO of Faces International Marketing and Development LLC, told summit attendees, “I always say this is really therapy. … I say, I’m a DEI therapist before I’m a practitioner, because I know that even if people pretend like it’s never ever personal that there’s deep-rooted stuff that they’re dealing with that’s not allowing them to understand what it is we’re trying to create.”

Productivity also comes into play, said Joy Houck, vice president of organizational development and chief learning officer at WellSpan Health. “… So if I don’t feel included on a team, if I don’t feel like I belong, my team may not be productive, and so if we’re not productive, we’re probably not meeting the business’ goals.”

In the second panel, George Fernandez, president and CEO of Color & Culture, spoke about the Latino population, health care and DEI.

“We understand that Hispanic demographic, and the Hispanic community are typically the No. 1s leading (where) we don’t want to be No. 1 in, whether it’s diabetes and obesity and cancer … . So I’m helping them connect to the resources that they ultimately need in order to allow them to live healthier, more active, engaged lives.”

Aaysha Noor, head of diversity, equity and inclusion at The Giant Co., is a Muslim immigrant to the U.S.

“I’m a strong believer that your personal experiences bring in a strong passion to what you do …  But when you actually lived those experiences, and when you work with those communities, when you are on the street, when you have marched with them, and you have shed tears with them …it’s a very different feeling, and it gives you that deeper empathy and compassion and drive to do that work, and it also helps you … to bring other people along to tell that story … .”

Masai Lawson, senior manager of talent acquisition and inclusion, Gannett Fleming, had her definition of equity, too.

“… It’s not about quotas. It’s not about compliance; frankly, defining equity in terms of quantifiable results is again, in my opinion, too narrow, and ultimately counterproductive because it encourages a focus around outcomes only rather than how equitable environments are really built and sustained … So … I think equity is more of a state, and it’s hard to strictly define what it looks like, since it’ll show up differently in every organization.”

The summit was presented by Giant, with presenting sponsor WellSpan Health. Supporting sponsors were First National Bank, Reading Hospital/Tower Health and UPMC and patron sponsors were Capital BlueCross, Highmark, Members First Federal Credit Union, Penn State Harrisburg and Penn State Health.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Lehigh U. offering virtual COVID-19 executive leadership courses

Lehigh University will be offering a series of online courses this fall that are geared towards addressing current business issues, especially management during a time of pandemic.

The Vistex Institute for Executive Learning & Research at the Lehigh University College of Business has introduced six new online programs that are designed to give business leaders the tools they need to adapt to doing business in the midst of COVID-19.

Alison Peirce, executive director of the institute, said the non-credit, non-degree courses are being designed for middle managers to executive level leaders who are looking for help in managing virtual teams, whether remote or hybrid; managing changing supply chain costs, planning for future risks and diversity and inclusion.

“This is all new content that hasn’t been offered before that we think are specific to a manager’s needs because of the pandemic,” Peirce said.

Classes will include “Virtual Leadership: Essential Skills for Leading a Hybrid and Remote Workforce, Now and Post-COVID,” a class taught by Lehigh Alum, Sasha Conner, a former marketing executive who now runs a consulting business that helps professionals lead in a virtual environment.

There is also a course specific to virtual project management, Project Management Foundations: Managing in a Virtual World.

Strategic Decision-Making and Leadership in a Crisis and Managing Supply Chain Risk look at decision making and planning in an ever evolving situation like the COVID-19 pandemic and Managing Financial Challenges in the Supply Chain: Surviving Covid and Beyond looks specifically at the financial issues managers might face with these issues.

Because the Black Lives Matter movement became an important issue during the COVID-19 crisis after the death of George Floyd, Peirce said the school also decided to add a class that will help managers work on inclusion, diversity and equity issues, Creating the Environment for Courageous Inclusion.

“We are hearing from people about the challenges they were facing. There’s a real need here,” Peirce said.

The classes being offered online versus on campus isn’t the only change the school has made to its fall offerings.

“When our students would typically come to our campus it would be for classes over a day or two, but an 8 hour Zoom session is not helpful for classroom work,” she said. “Instead we chunked up the material.”

Now courses are run for two or three hours at a time over a number of weeks depending on the class.

She said that has an added benefit that those taking the course can get actionable ideas during each session that they can then apply at their companies immediately rather than being away from work for a few days at a time and implementing them in the future.

Peirce said a handful of students are already signed up for the courses, she hopes to have about 30 students per class.

More information can be found at business.lehigh.edu/executive-education.

Here’s the pronoun lowdown: ‘they’ is here

Once upon a time, English pronouns were simple: him/his, her/hers, it/its, they/their.

But even Shakespeare saw limitations with this scant number of options. As far back as 1594, he was bending grammar rules, especially the stricture that a singular noun takes a singular pronoun. From his Comedy of Errors comes this line: “There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me. As if I were their well-acquainted friend.”

This workaround still exists, as when an organization – a single entity – writes with a plural pronoun: “The SPCA is celebrating the pet adoptions they have facilitated.” The effect is certainly more intimate – warm and fuzzy – which fits the SPCA.

Once writers call into question pronouns’ singular/plural assignations, it’s not a huge leap to consider their gender binary as well. As far back as the 1970s, inclusiveness started to chip away at sentences such as “A nurse should always wash her hands” or “A plumber must remember his tools”.

In search of a gender-neutral substitute, writers gave a shot to his or her, but rejected it for wordiness. Again, they stepped to the fore as an answer.

With today’s increasing awareness of gender fluidity, there has been some support for new pronouns. Zie has been suggested to cover both he and she, with variants that include sie, xe, zee. The reflexive versions are hirself (pronounced “here-self”) and zirself.

Whether these substitutes catch on remains to be seen. Until a generic pronoun gains prominence, they seems to be winning by default. It is still occasionally awkward – “Alex is here to pick you up. They will meet you out front.” – but, with time, our ears and keyboards will adapt.

The inventiveness of language will continue to shift and shape the words we have available and the manner in which we use them. Democratic Presidential candidate Cory Booker, D-NJ, used a 2009 word niephew (“nee-few”) to describe his brother’s trans child, sidestepping the restraints of niece or nephew.

For the business communicator, it’s best to be as inclusive as possible when writing. In 1:1 settings, it’s acceptable – preferable, in fact – to simply but courteously ask: “How may I best address you? Is there a pronoun you prefer?”


Dan Weckerly is PR Director at Lehigh Mining & Navigation, an advertising agency in Allentown. He can be reached at [email protected] .