Chevron Corp.’s new diversity chief inspired by retired Chevron Richmond chemist

Chevron Corp.’s new diversity chief inspired by retired Chevron Richmond chemist
Josetta Jones (Photo contributed)

The new Chief Diversity & Inclusion (CDIO) Officer at Chevron Corp. credits a legendary former chemist at Chevron Richmond for helping to inspire her career path.

Josetta Jones, an engineer and patent attorney who has worked for Chevron for nearly two decades, is succeeding Lee Jourdan as the energy company’s CDIO chief. Jones spent much of her career in Richmond and has long been active in the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts, from serving as chair of the Law Function Diversity Council to inspiring underrepresented girls to pursue STEM careers with the nonprofit Techbridge Girls.

Rather than crediting her own efforts, however, Jones pays homage to those who came before her for being named to an important role at a pivotal time in American history. That includes former distinguished chemist Dr. William F. King, whom she said helped guide her when she arrived in Richmond as a young patent attorney.

“He made sure to connect me with other young patent attorneys, especially those practicing patent law,” Jones said during her speech last week at the 2021 Chevron Richmond Black History Awareness Celebration. “He was selfless in influencing our careers.”

Dr. King retired in 2004 after more than 27 years at Chevron, during which he was responsible for over 40 patents. He also left behind a lasting legacy of mentoring and recruiting Black employees and youth in the community. A scholarship awarded by the Chevron Richmond Black Employee Network to four deserving West Contra Costa County students every year is named after Dr. King.

Recalling and celebrating his legacy, as well as the legacies of the brilliant Black inventors who came before him, such as Lewis Latimer (incandescent light bulb), Garrett Morgan (traffic signal technology) and Gladys West (GPS technology), is key to inspiring young Black inventors of the future, Jones said.

“What would our world be like without Mr. Latimer, without Mr. Morgan and without Ms. West, and that’s not to mention all the other Black creators, leaders and innovators that changed our course of history,” Jones said. “We honor those who came before, we celebrate how far we’ve come in society, and we learn from them, and how they reached the heights of achievement under the most difficult of circumstances.”

2020 made it clear that the challenges are far from resolved. The global pandemic, the killing of George Floyd, the economic downturn, have all “uncovered issues of equality and equity that can no longer be ignored in our society and community and in our lives,” Jones said. These challenges are “opportunities to reach our full potential and improve our world,” she added.

“I am only two weeks in the job and I have already met so many employees who are dedicated and passionate about diversity and inclusion values,” Jones said.

Last year, Chevron invested $15 million to specifically address barriers to equity for the Black community, including education, job creation, talent, leadership development and community and small business partnerships.

“We also have a long history of drawing talent from historically black college and universities, including me,” Jones said. “About $7 million will be devoted to increase funding to seven HBCUs over a five-year period, and we will also engage in more peer-to-peer leadership with our HBCUs.”

Chevron is also “turning inward and looking at ourselves as a company” with the aim of breaking down systems that enable racism, discrimination and exclusion and prevent Black employees from accessing opportunities.

It’s not just what is right, but also what is most beneficial for a company’s prosperity.

“We need innovation that only comes from diverse and inclusive workforces, where ideas and perspectives are valued,” Jones said, adding, “The growth and development of the Black community and our Black employees are critical to our future as a world, business and society.”