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Tammie Phillips Reflects on Her First Year as CEO Action for Racial Equity Fellow
August 2021

Just one year ago, we announced that CEO Gary C. Bhojwani was selected as a member of the Governing Committee of CEO Action for Racial Equity, a fellowship that provides the opportunity for CEO Action signatories to advance racial equity through public policy. As part of that work, CNO committed to providing one associate to participate in the two-year fellowship.

CNO associate Tammie Phillips was selected and is one of nearly 250 fellows coming together to identify, develop and promote scalable and sustainable public policies and corporate engagement strategies that will address systemic racism, social injustice and improve societal well-being.

We sat down with Tammie Phillips to hear about her first year in the fellowship and how she is making a positive difference:

CEO in Action Fellows focus on four key areas of societal well-being: education, healthcare, public safety and economic empowerment. What kind of projects have you worked on over the past year? 

“Over the past year, Fellows were initially divided into pods to brainstorm ideas in one of the key pillars.  I was in the healthcare pillar. We worked on projects surrounding removing stigmas in mental health for Black Americans and creating requirements for culturally appropriate healthcare. In January, we moved from pillar focus to selecting eight policy solutions that would be able to be impacted by public policy/legislation. I am currently working on the project that has to do with food equity and passing legislation to address resource and access gaps for Black Americans.”  

What’s been the most positive or exciting thing about your experience as a Fellow thus far? 

“It’s hard to pick one thing – it’s been transformational learning about the political process, learning how to analyze barriers to success and how to champion as an advocate. One of the most positive and exciting things has been my co-authored letter to the USDA CEOARE - USDA Letter. The letter indicated the need for SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to be increased permanently; and President Biden signed legislation to that effect on August 15!  Seeing our solutions and realizing that our voice helped to implement change is exciting, rewarding and humbling.”

What’s one lesson or takeaway that you’ve learned?  

“The biggest takeaway that I have learned is that there is no such thing as a “little” voice. Every person has the opportunity to effect change – it can be small or large, but all voices are important.”

Where do you see the opportunities for growth within DE&I at CNO?

“DE&I is not a trend – it is an impactful portion of corporate America that can help forge positive relationships across all company lines. At CNO, I see opportunities for us to be world leaders in DE&I – how does our industry respond to DE&I? We have the capacity to enact measures to improve the lives of our stakeholders and our customers. Unique opportunities exist for broadening our target population by increasing our partnership with external organizations that have a heavy DE&I presence and look at current practices through a racial equity lens.”

Learn more about the CEO Action for Racial Equity here.