Chattanooga's Unum Group names new head of diversity and inclusion

File photo / Valoria Armstrong

Valoria V. Armstrong, who has served as the chief inclusion officer for the nation's biggest privately owned water utility for the past 2 1/2 years, is joining the Unum Group in a similar role to lead the company's office of inclusion and diversity.

Armstrong most recently served as the chief inclusion officer for American Water Works Co., which serves more than 3.4 million customers with water and wastewater services across 14 states. She previously served as president of Tennessee American Water Co. in Chattanooga and became the first female Black chairwoman ever of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce in 2020.

In her new role at Unum's headquarters in Chattanooga, the veteran human resources manager will work to continue developing Unum's effort to foster a culture of belonging, according to Liz Ahmed, Unum's executive vice president of people and communications.

Armstrong will work with Kimberly Bowen, who leads talent and inclusion at Unum. Bowen was recently promoted to senior vice president in an expanded role leading Unum's global talent and inclusion efforts.

"We're proud of our representative workforce as well as the communities where we live and work," Bowen said in a statement Monday. "Valoria has strong operational and functional expertise to build on our data-informed inclusion and diversity strategy. She will also help us ensure customers benefit from the diverse talents and thoughts of our employees."

At American Water as a vice president of external affairs, Armstrong created an integrated focus on respect and inclusiveness. Prior to working in the water utility industry for 11 1/2 years, Armstrong held various roles in human resources with Food Lion over her 15-year career with that grocery company.

Armstrong earned her bachelor's degree in business administration from Georgia Southern University and her master's degree in human resource development from Villanova University. She is the chairwoman of the Hamilton County Partnership Advisory Board and a board trustee at the Tennessee Aquarium and Benwood Foundation.

Bowen joined Unum in 2019 as head of talent management. Prior to that, for two decades she served in roles focused on all facets of human resources, including talent acquisition and management, employee relations, inclusion and diversity, compensation, mergers and acquisitions, and employee learning and development. Her career has spanned multiple industries, including retail, health care, third party staffing, outsourcing and financial services.

"We are so fortunate to have these dynamic leaders on our team," Ahmed wrote in a news release.

Armstrong fills the job previously held by Ericka DeBruce, who left Unum last July and is now chief diversity and inclusion officer for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

-- Compiled by Dave Flessner