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Making a business imperative for diversity and inclusion
Making a business imperative for diversity and inclusion
The Hampton Roads Chamber is laser-focused on diversity for 2018. We’ve already hosted an inaugural diversity forum and had a successful start to the 2018 Glass series, which focuses on women in business.

The Hampton Roads Chamber is laser-focused on diversity for 2018. We’ve already hosted an inaugural diversity forum and had a successful start to the 2018 Glass series, which focuses on women in business.

The diversity forum featured remarks by three of the leading black politicians in Virginia. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is only the second African American elected to statewide office. Congressman Bobby Scott is the first African American elected to Congress since Reconstruction and Mayor Kenneth Alexander is the first  black mayor in Norfolk’s history.

The Glass brought together four driven and talented women who have achieved great success in breaking the glass ceilings within their fields.


Whether we are looking at ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religious preference, diversity and inclusion in hiring, selection and promotion practices must be a regional commitment.

We believe “leveling the playing field” in Hampton Roads, the commonwealth and the nation must be intentional. The Chamber is proudly leading by example.

As the Chamber has grown both in staff and board members, we have made tremendous strides to ensure diversity and inclusion in all areas. We understand and prescribe to the principle that people should be measured by their qualifications and afforded an equal opportunity to succeed based on their talent and abilities. We want everyone to have the same chance.

The strength of our region, the commonwealth and even our nation lies in the vibrant diversity of our people. We can’t have new innovative ideas if we are consistently looking at the same set of faces, backgrounds and experiences. Therefore, diversity must be supported at the management and senior leadership levels. It is only by seeing life through that varied lens we can achieve great successes.

Whether an organization is corporate or nonprofit, small, mid-size, or large, leadership must be comprised of different voices. It is incumbent upon executives to ensure their staffs, boards of directors and employees reflect the community. It is this different perspective that gives us strength.

A recent McKinsey and Company study shows there is a definitive business case to embrace diversity in hiring practices.

“Research finds that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns.” (Adapted from a Diversity Matters report.)

The study indicates not considering diversity is ultimately doing a disservice to your organization and community.

This is especially important here in Hampton Roads. During the diversity forum, Gilbert Bland, president and CEO of the Urban League of Hampton Roads, said, “Hampton Roads is the 13th largest African American community in America and by 2040, it’s going to be a minority majority area with 52 percent of the population, however we don’t mirror that in leadership.”

Seems we are limiting ourselves and the potential for our region.

Calandra Jarrell is the diversity and inclusion executive within Global Human Resources for Bank of America and sat on the panel for The Glass series.


“There are more CEOs named John than there are female CEOs in the whole nation. If there is a glass ceiling for all women, then multicultural women have a concrete ceiling, and you can’t be what you can’t see,” Jarrell said. These comments should be clarion calls to all leaders in Hampton Roads.

Relevancy and authenticity must also be factors in this discussion. Few other things mark an organization as obsolete more than a boardroom full of a singular demographic.

A business, a state, a nation succeeds on innovation and diversity. This is more than multiculturalism. If we are working in a global environment, a business needs to understand its global market.

We are at a unique time where the workforce consists of five generations working together and learning from each other. The role of chief diversity officer is quickly becoming part of the infrastructure of a business and a measure of a company’s success and vision for the future.

The bottom line is every organization and our community, as a region, needs to have a progressive strategy when it comes to diversity and inclusion management.

The Chamber means business and is unapologetically pro-business. That sentiment must also coincide with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion if we are to succeed individually as businesses and collectively as a region.

Bryan K. Stephens
President & CEO
Bryan K. Stephens is President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber.
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