“When you lead with inclusion, diversity will follow,” said Nneka Chiazor, Vice-Chair of Diversity for The Hampton Roads Chamber.
The Hampton Roads Chamber emphatically supports Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within the Hampton Roads Business Community. Implementing DE&I initiatives is imperative for businesses to succeed.
On February 17th, the Hampton Roads Chamber hosted “A Leader’s Lens”, a Virtual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Webinar. The Chamber welcomed Delceno Miles, Maurice Jones, and William Harrell who shared what they are doing to address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) within their own organizations.
Maurice Jones, President and CEO of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), spoke on how he ensures his organization reflects the community in both staff and leadership positions. “We want to make sure that we as a company look like the places where we are serving. We work now in 38 metropolitan areas and another 2,200 rural areas around the country. We serve a lot of underserved communities, that are mainly black and brown. Currently, we have 49% of our company employees people of color, and our leadership positions are 40% brown and black individuals,” stated Jones.
Jones also emphasized the importance of being ready to have difficult conversations and then following up by supplying a variety of resources to all employees.
Delceno Miles, Founder and Owner of the Miles Agency, spoke on how DE&I conversations tend to often only focus on gender and race, yet DE&I really encompasses so many more groups. “Look around the table and see who is missing, most of the time I find it’s youth,” said Miles. Religion, sexual orientation, age, non-native English speakers, nationality, are all areas that are included in DE&I. Miles also stressed the importance of not looking at a group as monolithic. “Within black communities, there are so many subcategories, elderly, single-parent households, socioeconomic factors,” said Miles.
William Harrell, President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Transit, shared what he is doing as the leader to emphasize DE&I. When asked about how organizations can start implementing DE&I initiatives, Harrell stated it all starts at the top. “In order to have a successful DE&I you need to have a serious leader. The managers and first-line supervisors who actually execute, also need to fully support the program as well. As the leader you need to show you are fully committed to these initiatives,” said Harrell.
Nneka Chiazor facilitated the question-and-answer portion of the event, while also highlighting initiatives that the DE&I Committee will be implementing this year. Chiazor urged everyone in attendance or interested to stay engaged with the Hampton Roads Chamber. “We need you to be engaged and to be part of the evaluation. I am here to set the course, but we all have to be together,” said Chiazor.
Special thank you to Ronnie Parker, the Hampton Roads Chamber DE&I Officer, for bringing this panel together and for working year-round to move the business community forward.
Thank you to our sponsors for making this event possible.