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Steve Chaouki, ’98, president of US markets and consumer interactive at Chicago-based TransUnion, acknowledges that as a light-skinned man, he benefits from some of society’s entrenched biases. But as the son of Syrian immigrants, he also knows what it’s like to feel different.

“I grew up in a Muslim, Arabic-speaking household in Cleveland in the ’70s and ’80s,” he said at this year’s Chicago Booth DuSable Conference, where he was the plenary session speaker. “I understand what it’s like to not be included—the microaggressions, the ways you can be made to feel that you’re not quite part of whatever the moment is.”

Chaouki credits those experiences with building his understanding and empathy for what people from marginalized communities go through on a daily basis. And they remind him of the urgent need to create a welcoming work environment where diversity thrives.

“It’s my job to make everyone at our company feel included so that we can be as diverse as possible,” he said. “I’m very passionate about this. I think diversity is an imperative in today’s society, and I’m lucky enough to be able to do something about it.”

Diversity as an Outcome of Inclusion

One of the longest-running student-led conferences at Booth, the DuSable Conference brings together alumni, students, faculty, and community leaders for networking opportunities and discussions about racial equity, diversity, and inclusion.

In the wide-ranging plenary session conversation with Angela Pace-Moody, AB ’97, Booth’s director of global diversity and inclusion, Chaouki said that while many organizations express a desire for a diverse workforce, inclusion needs to come first.

“Diversity is not an end in and of itself,” he said. “You achieve diversity by creating an inclusive environment—a place where everyone can come to work as their authentic selves. Once people feel included, then you can build on that and have diversity.”

Noting that Chicago’s population is one-third Black and one-third Hispanic, Chaouki said achieving an inclusive workforce is both a moral imperative and a business imperative. “How can you run a successful company that’s missing two-thirds of the population? We need to get all the voices at the table to best serve all the markets where we operate around the world.”

“You achieve diversity by creating an inclusive environment—a place where everyone can come to work as their authentic selves.”

— Steve Chaouki

Sustaining Momentum

Hiring a diverse workforce is one thing. Ensuring that everyone has a voice at the top is quite another. As Pace-Moody put it, “How do we sustain the momentum and elevate folks to the highest levels of leadership?”

It starts with accountability, Chaouki responded. And accountability has to be measurable.

“At TransUnion, we set goals for ourselves and cascade those goals,” he said. “We look at our current diversity levels for underserved groups at the leadership levels and set targets to move those numbers up every year.”

Broadening the Scope of Diversity Efforts

Beyond improving diversity at all levels within the company, Chaouki said, companies like TransUnion have an important role to play in broader inclusion efforts.

“We can help banks reach more people and foster financial inclusion,” he said. “We can help insurance companies reach broader communities than in the past. We can help grow and build our customers’ businesses.”

To support these efforts, the company recently created a new role, Chaouki said. The head of financial inclusion is an externally facing role tasked with helping other organizations become more inclusive.

Supporting the Black Community

Asked about initiatives that specifically target the Black community, Chaouki pointed to TransUnion’s core mission of striving to provide accurate credit scores and decisions to 100 percent of adults in the markets it serves.

When Chaouki joined TransUnion 14 years ago, he said, the company was able to provide credit scores for just 88 percent of the population. Today, thanks to the company’s embrace of nontraditional data, that number is more than 95 percent.

“We’re very proud of that number, but we still have another 5 percent to go,” he noted. “And we’re going to continue down that path to get as much information as possible to accurately score those individuals.”


The annual DuSable Conference is organized by the African American MBA Association at Chicago Booth with support from administration at the University of Chicago. This year’s conference, the first to take place in person since 2019, featured discussions on lifting up Black leadership, creating inclusive environments, and empowering generational transformation.


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