A note from Mike Vellano, CEO:
I wanted to personally introduce Candace Strother as our new Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Vortex. Admittedly this is new territory for us, and I believe that if we’re going to commit to promoting diversity and building a program designed to embrace this extremely important issue, then we need to make sure we’ve got the right person in place to help Vortex complete this vision. When I met Candace over a year ago, I was immediately impressed with her professionalism, inner drive and leadership skills, three very important qualities in my book. Upon hiring her shortly after, she quickly settled in and began to grind it out like so many of our people here. I know she had some tough days. We all do in a new job and especially in a new industry. But never once did she appear frustrated and was always eager to learn. When the issue of racism and inequality reared its ugly head, I knew it was time for our company to take a stand and do the right thing to help bring change. However, we needed a compassionate, intelligent and knowledgeable leader to do that. Candace is that person and we are excited to lead our industry and do our part in bringing an end to systemic discrimination.
Shaping Inclusion into Vortex from the Ground Up
Candace Strother, Director of Diversity & Inclusion
Amidst the global awakening of issues concerning racism, sexism and discrimination, many companies are working to address these topics internally. Soon after the disheartening death of George Floyd, Vortex Companies staff received a company-wide email from our CEO, Mike Vellano. He expressed his compassion over the current situation and his wish that things were different when it came to racism and injustice for both people of color and minority genders in America. He also explained that Vortex has no tolerance for racism and left the topic open for discussion – what could Vortex be doing better?
Mike’s email was timely, and my response was transparent. As an African American woman, I felt the heaviness of what was happening in our nation. At the same time, I questioned if Vortex Companies was a place where my talents would be recognized and a space where my voice would be heard. I responded to Mike expressing my sentiments about the injustices faced by African Americans along with recommendations on how we can do better by ensuring fair opportunities for those who are socially disadvantaged.
After an open and honest discussion, Mike and I both agreed that Vortex can lead by example in our industry by implementing diversity and inclusion in our culture and habits. My passion for equitable treatment for humanity and ability to implement initiatives that promote inclusion positioned me to lead Vortex in our diversity and inclusion journey. I’ve always been passionate about mental health advocacy, and building communities in which individuals can feel safe, respected and valued for who they are. The non-profit organization I founded before working for Vortex, QueenLyfe, Inc., promotes health and wellness, financial responsibility and mentorship for women of all ages through social-emotional programming. As a result of our work, thousands of young women have had an opportunity to find comfort in their identity and discover their true interests and talents. In my new role, I can’t think of a better way to build on my prior experiences than to lead Vortex’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Vortex’s Diversity Goals
Diversity and inclusion is not just another program or department, it is a way of being. Mike and I are working with internal and external teams to create the infrastructure and set benchmarks to leverage the potential of what diversity and inclusion looks like within Vortex.
Working hand-in-hand with our HR department, we’re developing a plan to incorporate diversity and inclusion initiatives into our recruiting habits and employee retention strategies. It’s important to have people within the company that reflect the communities in which we live, and consistently affirming the value and interconnectedness of every person at Vortex will continue to set us apart as we move forward with these initiatives.
We’ve also formed a diversity committee that will actively participate throughout the strategy-building process – they’re able to share ideas, provide feedback and give a different perspective as we define diversity and inclusion at Vortex.
Inclusivity at Vortex
Oppression has been built into our nation’s systems for years, and it will take a conscious and collective effort to foster change. Generating awareness of the systems that were created to divide us and having honest conversations about systemic racism should be our starting point.
We’ve started this work at Vortex, and we’ve also recognized that having a sense of belonging is essential to one’s confidence and can positively influence their success. Mike is very involved in day-to-day operations and helps create a respectful and inclusive workplace environment where we can build camaraderie among our teams.
This crucial work goes beyond Vortex Companies – the desire to create change starts with the individual. Our Vortex leadership team is committed to doing their part to dismantle oppression and pave a new road of opportunities for every person, no matter the color of their skin or their gender identity.
For more information on Vortex Companies’ Diversity & Inclusion initiatives, contact Candace Strother.