Ann Anaya knows how to influence people. In her two decades as a government trial attorney, she exercised that power to achieve just results. Now, as chief diversity officer (CDO) at innovative multinational corporation 3M, she applies the same skill set to influence company culture.
Anaya accepted the role as CDO in 2017, but the ease of that transition was a surprise even to her. “My legal background and experience advocating for the fair application of processes was much more conducive to the role than even I expected,” she admits.
Beyond her knowledge base, Anaya came to the role equipped with the emotional toolkit needed to make an impact. Throughout her life, she has believed in and strived for equity, often in the face of great adversity. As CDO, she has brought her passion to bear in a new way: by advancing 3M—and all the communities where they do business—toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive future.
A Lifelong Commitment
Anaya’s earliest encounters with inequality occurred within her own Mexican American household in Minnesota. The family’s machismo culture meant that her older brothers received freedoms that she, as a young girl, did not.
Motivated to make a difference, Anaya studied political science at the undergraduate level before enrolling in law school. But even as she gained a better footing on which to fight for fairness and civil rights, Anaya became aware of new disparities—including the underrepresentation of Latinos in both her law school class and the field of law as a whole. She decided to get involved in the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association and the Hispanic National Bar Association, organizations to which she still maintains strong ties.
“The Hispanic bar associations are spaces where I can find people with similar experiences who share my passion for equity,” Anaya explains. “Today, I’m working with the Hispanic bars to raise awareness and inspire a call to action that addresses disparities in representation inside law firms, corporations, and in leadership positions.”
Anaya started out as a defense attorney, providing representation to members of Minnesota’s Hispanic community who could not afford legal services. She later shifted to prosecution in order to hone her in-court discretion as an advocate for justice. That discretion served her well at the US Attorney’s Office, where her high-profile prosecutions of organized white-collar crime led to a bank regulations detail with the Inspector General for the US Department of the Treasury following the 2008 banking industry bust.
Back in Minnesota after her Treasury assignment, Anaya realized that it was the perfect time to move in-house. “3M was looking for an attorney with a federal prosecution background as part of an effort to strengthen their compliance and ethics department,” she says. She applied and got the job, joining the company’s legal affairs team.
From compliance and ethics, Anaya transitioned to litigation and preventive law before taking up her current role four years ago. It was Anaya’s first time stepping out of the practice of law—and 3M’s first time treating the CDO position as a full-time job.
A Promise Not Yet Realized
Since day one, Anaya has brought a fresh perspective to DEI initiatives at 3M. She pushed hard for transparency about workforce demographics and DEI progress. After four years of advocacy, the company released its inaugural DEI report in the first quarter of 2021.
In addition, Anaya opened new lines of communication to offer 3M’s “inclusion champions” and employee resource network leaders a chance to endorse company-wide DEI projects. “Their voices weren’t being heard at the top echelon of the company,” she elaborates. “We launched the CEO Inclusion Council as a platform to raise those voices directly to the CEO.”
Anaya saw the CEO Inclusion Council take on newfound significance as social justice movements rose up across the country in 2020. “Unaddressed police brutality, a rise in hate crimes, amplified disparities, and heightened societal divisiveness require targeted strategic change.” More than just talking about the importance of DEI, she feels that corporations must now heed an urgent call to action.
“We made a commitment from the CEO on down to address and dismantle disparities inside 3M and in our communities,” Anaya says. “We are pushing further and further toward a sense of belonging within the company, and I’m really proud of the fact that our inclusion index score has improved by six points in the past year.”
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By sharing metrics that evaluate DEI, expanding parameters for inclusivity, and introducing spaces for employees to talk about race and other critical topics, Anaya is achieving measurable change inside 3M. Externally, her recent advocacy has included pro bono work and intentional, equity-oriented board participation.
Anaya also fostered a relationship with minority-owned law firm Blackwell Burke and trial attorney Gerardo Alcazar, a member of 3M’s preferred outside counsel network. “Beyond partnering with Blackwell Burke on a number of legal matters, our general counsel and I worked with Jerry Blackwell and other legal changemakers to create a transparent representation of lawyer demographics at some of Minnesota’s largest companies and law firms,” she says. The project mirrors Anaya’s internal efforts at 3M to leverage transparency to achieve her goals.
Meanwhile, a second project with Blackwell—resurrecting an umbrella group of racial and ethnic affinity bar associations—speaks to Anaya’s community-driven leadership and the importance of working in solidarity toward a more equitable legal profession and, ultimately, a more equitable justice system.
“I love the idea that, in the face of adversity, great leaders set great examples,” she says. “The adversity that I have faced as a Latina has allowed me to develop the courage and resilience to meet and exceed the expectations I set for myself.” Anaya will need every ounce of that courage and resilience to follow through on 3M’s DEI commitments, but she understands why her advocacy as CDO must continue.
“I am very proud to live in a country where we are born equal, with the right to enjoy equal opportunities. Delivering on that promise—a promise not yet realized—is every citizen’s duty,” Anaya says. “At 3M, we’re very transparent and humble about all the progress that we still need to make, and I am honored to lead a team that welcomes the challenge.”
Blackwell Burke PA is a certified minority-owned litigation firm committed to the relentless pursuit of excellence on behalf of numerous Fortune 500 clients. We represent clients in complex litigation and have been named one of the top litigation defense firms in the country by BTI, Chambers, Best Lawyers, and others.