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A Company that Celebrates Diversity

February 04, 2014

By: Teresa Sebastian, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Darden Restaurants

A Company that Celebrates Diversity

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I joined Darden four years ago from a global company and a job that gave me great satisfaction as a business person and as a lawyer. I knew I would only leave that company for another that shared my core values and provided a cultural fit. Without having to do too much research, I could see right away that Darden stands for diversity, doing the right thing and helping our communities. After interviewing at Darden and getting to meet my future colleagues, I knew I had found the right match in a company.

Darden’s commitment to culture and inclusion is very important to me. Approximately 45 percent of our employees are minorities and about 52 percent are women, both of which are above restaurant industry average. Not only have we been recognized as one of FORTUNE’s “100 Best Companies to Work For,” now for the fourth time in a row, but our diversity has also been recognized by Black Enterprise MagazineLatina Style Magazine and the Human Rights Campaign. I’m very proud to work for a company with a history of being externally recognized for its great culture.

In coming to Darden, I was our first African-American General Counsel, so even though Darden was so committed to diversity, I still knew the importance of what this meant for the industry. At the time, only 18 percent of FORTUNE 500 General Counsels were women and only eight percent were African-American women. This was compared to the 46 percent of law school graduates who were women. I knew I would be in a unique role to build on the diversity already in place and to empower more minorities to follow their career goals.

Much of my passion for motivating others to believe in any desired career path comes from my upbringing. First, my grandparents paved the way by pursuing higher education in the early 1900s when African Americans were not embraced in higher academia. Then, my parents always made me feel like I could do anything by setting an example with their own careers. My father was one of the first black marines, and after World War II he continued his education and eventually got his Ph.D. My mother became a teacher and holds her master’s degree. I was always taught to celebrate education and achievements. It was engrained in me that no opportunity was hindered by the fact that I was a racial minority, woman or also raising a family.

In addition to my professional role, I’m proud to serve as an Executive Sponsor of Darden’s African-American Employee Resource Group. We have a lot of celebrations planned this month for our employees, featuring traditions, discussions about diversity, and guest speakers. I’m excited to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans with my Darden family.

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