Jehu Chesson has traveled more than 5,000 miles to work for MasterCard Worldwide in O'Fallon, Mo.
Chesson is originally from Monrovia, Liberia, located on Africa's west coast. Because MasterCard does business in more than 210 countries and territories, it's not surprising that Chesson would be highly sought after by an international company.
“As a company, we believe diversity sits at the root of innovation. Diversity of culture, experience and thought all drive innovative thinking," said Ajay Banga, president and CEO of MasterCard Worldwide.
"That’s why we encourage employees to express their diverse opinions and ideas. We want them to feel empowered and to recognize that their contributions make a difference.”
Chesson has worked at MasterCard for 16 years. He is a Program Manager in the Business Continuity Group, which falls under the Law and Franchise Integrity Organization. Chesson is responsible for Emergency Management Planning for MasterCard offices globally. It's a position he's held for five years.
"My role is to make sure we're ready to handle any challenges that may come our way so that the business is prepared, ready to respond and able to continue to operate," he said.
Initially, he came to St. Louis in the early 1980s as a foreign exchange student. After he graduated from Ladue Horton Watkins High School, he returned to Liberia where he pursued a Bachelor in Science degree in Economics from Cuttington University.
During the early 1990s, he was working in the financial industry when a civil war broke out in his home country. Chesson joined the Lutheran World Service via the United Nations as a relief worker. He delivered relief supplies to war victims for three years.
Due to a desire to further his academic pursuits, Chesson accepted another opportunity to study abroad in the U.S. and returned to St. Louis. Chesson’s wife, Yvette Anderson-Chesson, and son, Jehu Chesson II, joined him later from Liberia. He earned a Master's in Business Administration from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Chesson thinks the cost of living makes “St. Louis a great place to raise a family.” In general, he remains optimistic on diversity and social inclusiveness in St. Louis. "Compared to the east or west coast, I think they're ahead of us now,” he said. “But, I think St. Louis is making some positive changes that will help us move forward. For example, I think we're getting more immigration, people moving here from other countries."
Chesson is Chair and Chapter Lead of "Lifting Employees of African Descent"(LEAD), which is a self-governed employee Business Resource Group (BRG) at MasterCard.
The company website states that there are more than 1,400 employees involved in BRGs. They consist of the "Women's Leadership Network"(WLN), "Empowering Asian Employees for Success and Thought Leadership"(EAST), "Lifting Employees of African Descent"(LEAD), "Employees of Latin Descent"(Latin Network),"Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender"(PRIDE) and "Young Professionals"(YoPros).
Chesson said LEAD has developed three committees based on Strategic Planning and Finance, Membership and Communications, Events and Education.
"We have some really strong committee members on our leadership team," Chesson said. "We try to focus our planning and efforts around what's called our Diversity Pillars. We look at Brand and Reputation, Business Impact and Talent Management."
In regards to Brand and Reputation, Chesson said the goal is to establish MasterCard as a diversity leader. He said this can be achieved "by participating in community outreach activities in which the company does business and promoting education as a measure tool for economic self-sufficiency."
Recently, LEAD adopted Confluence Academy as apart of its community outreach initiative. Students were immersed in a Junior Achievement curriculum in which they learned business economics, workforce readiness and entrepreneurism.
LEAD also hopes to increase MasterCard's Business Impact.
"We try to brainstorm and come up with innovative ideas to increase our global market share and to develop products and solutions that meet the needs of our diverse market segments," Chesson said.
Finally, LEAD devotes considerable time and effort on Talent Management "to support the development of the diverse talent pipeline."
Chesson credits his deceased grandparents, Henry and Rebecca Chesson, for his strong work ethic. They taught him to “strive for success, do the right thing, work hard with less focus on pay because that will come later, build your relationships and show what you can do,” Chesson said. These words of wisdom have guided him throughout his life. He tries to pass on this advice to his children.
Chesson is a sports fanatic who loves to "spend a lot of time doing stuff with my family." Sometimes he combines his two passions. He coaches his younger child's basketball team.
This year MasterCard Worldwide was rated number 15 on The 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity List. It's an increase from last year's number 31 rating. Chesson explains what he thinks the company did differently in terms of diversity within a year.
"Diversity efforts with these BRGs has had a lasting impact not only on the company but the community and organization as a whole," Chesson said.
In October, Chesson will represent MasterCard at a Diversity Leadership Conference in Baltimore, Md. He was personally asked by MasterCard Chief Diversity Officer Donna Johnson and admits he's "very humbled."