Embracing Diversity/Inclusion Involves Staff, Board, Members, Partners in Community

If you were to advise another chamber on being more diverse and inclusive, what would you share with them?

Robert Heidt, Jr.
Glendale (AZ) Chamber

My suggestion for any chamber looking to embrace diversity and inclusion is first to recognize we as chambers should never discriminate. Next, do you have a policy statement on this topic that is more than words and part of your culture?

At the same time, engage with other organizations within your community/region whose mission is specific to diversity. In my area it is One Community. Create dialogue and partnership, work to be a true partner and advocate for such policies on behalf of your chamber and community.

When you encounter a person or organization who does not embrace inclusivity and diversity, meet with them, begin dialogue, and change can and will happen.

Torrie Griggs
Executive Director
Boardman (OR) Chamber

The Boardman Chamber of Commerce has always strived to make all of our members—no matter their racial, cultural or economic backgrounds—feel welcome in the chamber and throughout our community. We are constantly working to bring in new members from all backgrounds and from all different industries.

The Boardman, Oregon community has a large Spanish-speaking population, so diversity and inclusivity has always been something that the Boardman Chamber of Commerce strives for.

We work with our Spanish-speaking chamber members and board members to do outreach in the community and ensure there is no language barrier to make anyone feel unwelcome.

Gary Plummer
President and CEO
Wichita (KS) Regional Chamber

The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce has made inclusion a strategic focus since 2017, when we launched D & I programs as part of a Centennial Initiative.

Even prior to that, we worked to make our staff, board of directors, leadership programs and other chamber groups more reflective of our community. We also took the initiative to establish or strengthen relationships with the Hispanic Chamber, Black Chamber, Urban League and other key partners.

It’s through partnerships we’ve had success on projects like a CEO Roundtable on Diversity and Inclusion and on supplier diversity involving small minority businesses and major corporations and local government.

We are now pivoting, due to recent events, toward a Business Initiative on Inclusion and Racial Justice, a collaboration with 20 other regional business organizations. It’s very important to share the credit with great partners.

Joshua Bonner, IOM
President and CEO
Greater Coachella Valley (CA) Chamber

A commitment to diversity starts with a board and staff that accurately reflects the diverse community you serve. Your board of directors and staff, including your executive staff, should reflect a commitment to equity and diversity at all levels, with a broad cross-section of cultural, ethnic, age and gender diversity represented in positions of power (decision making) within your organization.

This commitment should be evident in your approach to governance. Are you actively seeking out and mentoring under-represented portions of your community to be in future staff and board leadership positions within your organization?

Chambers across the country are stepping up with programs, initiatives and proclamations that champion diversity in the workplace, but it could all ring hollow if a commitment is not shown through internal action that reflects those words with deeds.