Corridor Business Journal
January 17 – 23, 2011
Commentary Article Submitted by: Hazel Pegues, Executive Director, Diversity Focus
During our last SHIFT* Luncheon of 2010, I was reminded that five years ago when Diversity Focus was formed by some the area's leading employers, there was some skepticism about the commitment and ability of the all white, predominantly male governing body to coordinate and enhance efforts to increase diversity in this region. It is ironic that Bill Proudman, the luncheon speaker from White Men as Full Diversity Partners, compelled attendees to understand the importance of engaging white men in Diversity and Inclusion efforts if the efforts to be successful.
The journey has certainly had some fits and starts as every new organization does. We experienced changes in leadership, staff, board dynamics and of course, the flood of 2008. Each challenge created obstacles, but the core commitment of our sponsors, board and staff ensured that our organization grew and stayed focused on our mission: enhancing the diversity of the Cedar Rapids - Iowa City Corridor.
Today, Diversity Focus is the go-to organization for promoting awareness and inclusiveness. From our "FindIt" function on our website to our Diversity and Inclusion training, DF Ambassadors, Student Diversity Leadership Conference and most recently in 2010, Courageous Leaders Conference to the widely acclaimed and highly successful SHIFT* Speakers Series: Driving Diversity as a Vehicle for Success, and currently Diversity Focus Radio Moments . We have studied the climate of diversity and inclusion in the Corridor and have worked to understand the changing environment to put together a plan of work conducive to enhancing and embracing change.
Our founders did something revolutionary. They did not pass diversity and inclusion efforts to others as a small program in a larger organization. Rather, they decided to own the challenge and do something about it. They created a one-of a kind community resource.
A recent regional report highlights that diversity is one of the top five elements that must be integrated into the fabric of a growing, successful and economically viable community. Diversity Focus founders knew that. There are many clichéd expressions: The World is Flat; Act Locally, Think Globally and the like – but they all hold at their core the idea that innovation and creativity, success and growth come from valuing and including different people, ideas, experiences and cultures in the process. Franz Johannson, our first SHIFT* speaker said it best, "diversity is at the intersection of innovation."
The founders also knew that demographic change was happening swiftly in the Corridor, the state and the nation. These demographics are changing swiftly. Changing the hearts and minds of some who are uncomfortable with change takes time, resources and commitment. It takes a willingness to talk about things that aren’t always easy. It takes the ability to make the reality of the changing demographics relevant to everyone. It takes optimism to understand that the changes that are happening in our region are an opportunity, if only we seize it.
Five years after the all white, predominantly male governing body launched Diversity Focus , we are having those conversations. We are in the business of changing hearts and minds. We are charged with raising the level of awareness that diversity and inclusion is the cornerstone of our community success and economic growth. This is hard work, but we know that the Corridor is up for it. We hope you will partner with us in this work.
Attend the 2011 SHIFT* Speakers Series to hear how diversity and inclusion can make us global economic competitors. Learn how to become a courageous leaders by participating in our 2011 Courageous Leaders Conference. Request Diversity and Inclusion training to expand your company, organization and institutions awareness of and value for differences. Encourage high school students and educators to attend our Student Diversity Leadership Conference to enhance their diversity and inclusion skills . Listen for and give thought to the messages our "Radio Moments" ads currently on KHAK 98.1, KDAT 104.5, WMT-FM Mix 96.5, WMT-AM 600 and www.diversityfocus.org/radio.
We are inspired by you and look forward to your continued participation and support.