Paul Varga

Paul Varga
Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Brown-Forman Corporation

Headquarters: Louisville, Kentucky
Primary Business: Alcoholic beverages
Revenues: $3.4 billion
Employees: 3,900

The Day I Met Diversity

When our Chief Diversity Officer Ralph de Chabert told me that I would be included in this special issue discussing my personal commitment to diversity and inclusion, I had several reactions. First, it reminded me of the progress we’ve made over the past few years in the area of diversity, from creating our seven Employee Resource Groups to improving to our employee benefits to enhancing our diversity recruiting efforts. It is also reminded me that while I am heartened by our progress, we still have work to do, especially in the U.S.

Finally, as I thought about my personal commitment to diversity, I recalled something I wrote in 2010 paying tribute to Ralph and the company’s diversity journey. It’s an example of how I felt then and how I continue to feel today.

Right when I thought,
I knew this crazy game,
I met someone new,
Diversity was her name;

At first introduction,
I found her hard to hear,
I soon discovered that,
my ears were filled with fear;

Later as I listened,
her words now getting through,
She was trying to tell me,
what I was supposed to do;

Purposefully she spoke,
encouraging me to care,
Her words brought clarity,
they also brought de Chabert;

Her message so simple,
she asked me to empathize,
“Look at the world my friend,
through someone else’s eyes;”

doing as she said,
her words helped me to see,
That the road to success,
was somewhat easier for me;

enlightened by her wisdom,
and her message of respect,
I asked her to join our company,
as you might expect;

Candidly she told me,
just what she would do,
“I’ll only join your company,
if you include me too;”

Her conditions continued,
her words were plainly spoken,
“I’m only coming aboard,
when all glass ceilings are broken;”

Anxious to have amongst us,
this perspective so rare,
I assured her that at our company,
all would be treated fair;

Because of our new friendship,
it was clear for her to see,
Brown-Forman was a place,
where she could just be she;

Expect to see her now,
everywhere that you might be,
She’s working in the office,
right down the hall from me;

Reality is we’re different,
but our highest goal is the same,
To keep our wonderful company,
ahead in this endless game;

The future oh so bright,
and this I can assure,
With Diversity among us,
Brown-Forman will endure.

Education: BBA, University of Kentucky; MBA, Purdue University
First Job: Tennis Instructor
What I’m Reading: Grow, by Jim Stengel
My Philosophy: Keep the faith.
Best Advice: “To thine own self be true.”
Family: Wife, Melissa; three children, Ben, Abby, and Lauren
Interests: Golf, thoroughbred racing
Favorite Charity: Brain Injury Association of Kentucky