In 1963, during the height of the civil rights movement, President John F. Kennedy summoned nearly 250 of the country's most prominent attorneys to the White House. He enlisted their leadership and resources to help combat racial discrimination and inequality of opportunity.

From this historic meeting, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was formed as a non-partisan, nonprofit organization committed to ensuring equal treatment under the law for all Americans.

In 2000, the Lawyers Committee established the A. Leon Higginbotham Corporate Leadership Award. It is named in honor of Judge Higginbotham, a pioneering civil rights advocate, author and federal appeals court judge whose accolades include a 1995 Presidential Medal of Honor. Each year, the organization presents the award to companies that demonstrate leadership in recruiting, retaining and promoting minorities in the workplace.

This year, they recognized PNC.

Bill Demchak, PNC’s chairman, president and CEO, accepted the Higginbotham Award in front of an audience of 850 lawyers, corporate executives and social justice advocates.

He said, "While this award is a wonderful recognition for everyone at PNC for their diversity and inclusion efforts, I always find it a bit strange when we are given an award for something we do because it is so clearly good for our shareholders, employees, customers and communities. We are basically being given an award for doing our job."

Perhaps the existence of this award is a statement of how far we still have to go as a society to reach a point where it's no longer thought of as extraordinary that an organization would make it a priority to treat all people with dignity and respect.

-Bill Demchak, Chairman, President and CEO

PNC's Journey

In his acceptance speech, Demchak shared PNC's diversity and inclusion journey — what's worked, what hasn't and the challenges yet to come.

“We started with a goal to have a workforce that looked like the communities we serve and to do the right thing for society,” he said. “Since then, we have evolved to a deeper focus on talent management, leadership and accountability for everyone across the company.”

The challenge ahead includes growing diverse talent into senior leadership roles. “There is nothing more valuable than a leader who recognizes, nurtures and promotes diverse talent,” he said. “We seek out employees who bring diversity of thought and experience to create innovative solutions that meet the needs of our increasingly diverse customer base. And we know the best and brightest talent is found across gender, race, age, sexual orientation, ability and other segments.”

"Our philosophy is simple: Design compensation for the outcomes you want, don't compromise on the choices you make, do it consistently throughout the organization, and be patient but purposeful. Then, eventually, we will have the high-caliber, diverse teams we want at all levels of our company."