Arlington Heights woman helps energy provider tackle issues about race, equity

  • Nicole Durham

    Nicole Durham

  • Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other county leaders talk about strides made toward vendor diversity and inclusion during a recent Equity Town Hall.

    Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other county leaders talk about strides made toward vendor diversity and inclusion during a recent Equity Town Hall. Facebook Video Screenshot

Updated 10/31/2020 6:46 PM

Growing up biracial in a predominantly Latino community, Nicole Durham learned the importance of appreciating others' differences and having tough conversations about race.

Those experiences now help inform her work as vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Exelon Corp., the parent company of ComEd and a Fortune 100 energy provider with nearly 34,000 employees. Women and people of color make up 43% of Exelon's employees.


Durham, of Arlington Heights, helps create more equitable practices from hiring and retention strategies to expanding workforce development programs for diverse communities and disability inclusion in the workplace. She now is helping employees grapple with the effects of COVID-19 and racial injustices.

"We need to be proactive," Durham said. "We need to make sure we're creating space for people to have dialogue. You have the angst of the pandemic and then you have this racial pandemic ... It doesn't just go away when you come into the virtual workplace."

The company has held town halls and panel discussions to engage workers in conversations about race.

"We started a racial equity task force in the past two months," Durham said. "We have a responsibility as a Fortune 100 company to do everything that we can within our walls and communities to dismantle systemic racism."

Bags for books

United Way of Lake County's Women United for the first time will host a virtual fundraiser, Power of the Purse, on Sunday, Nov. 8.

The event includes an auction of more than 50 designer bags and more than 20 silent auction purses, baskets, jewelry, sports paraphernalia and other items. Proceeds help send underserved children to a Summer BOOST Learning Program and donate books and toys to preschool learning centers in low-income Lake County communities -- North Chicago, Round Lake, Waukegan and Zion.

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Buying and bidding begins at 11:30 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m. For details, visit

Vendor diversity

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle spoke about strides made toward vendor diversity and inclusion during a recent Equity Town Hall.

In fiscal year 2019, the county spent $74 million -- the most ever -- on its Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise Program, awarding $25.6 million to African American contractors, $18 million to Latino contractors, $15 million to Asian contractors and $14 million to women contractors, according to the business diversity report. Since 2016, county payments to Black women-owned firms has increased by 75%, Asian women-owned firms increased by 150% and Hispanic-owned firms in professional services increased by 95%.

Watch the full town hall at

Racism talk

Elgin Community College will host its fifth Black Lives Matter Series virtual discussion about racism at 2 p.m. Thursday.

Panelists are ECC communications professor Eric Long, community leader Junaid Afeef, Marva Shand-McIntosh of the International Listening Association, ECC wellness professional Coresair Mack and Naja May-Pearson, president of ECC's Black Student Achievers. They will help participants acquire tools to have a more constructive conversation about race and racism.


Join on Zoom at or watch the livestream on ECC's Facebook event page.

Latino COVID-19 resource

Illinois Unidos, a statewide coalition of doctors, elected officials and community leaders, has released a series of fact sheets on common health questions related to COVID-19 in English and Spanish to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Latino communities.

The information, available at, has been curated and verified by medical professionals from the coalition. Booklets containing the English and Spanish versions of these fact sheets have been printed and distributed at local health centers, senior centers and food pantries.

More than 3% of Illinois' Latino population has contracted COVID-19 -- the highest among all racial/ethnic groups and roughly three times that of the state's white population (about 1%). Experts say lack of linguistically and culturally sensitive resources is among the reasons for this disparity, along with the Latino community's high representation in essential jobs, low capacity to work from home and living in multigenerational homes.

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