On Tuesday September 7, 2013, The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce held its Sixth Annual Diversity Summit at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Spa. With presenting sponsor Troy University, the Diversity Summit was a daylong event from 8 AM-6 PM. This year’s theme was “New Perspectives for Today’s Workplace”, which focused on helping organization develop new strategies to exploit opportunities as the marketplace continues to become more diverse.
There were about 700 people in attendance. Participants included young professionals, business owners, economic development leaders, and other working professionals. There were even students from St. Jude in attendance.
In the different sessions, participants learned about innovative strategies and practices centered on diversity. Participants also had the opportunity to network and prospect new business. The presenters covered a wide range of diversity topics. They discussed why diversity is important in the market place and how organizations can cause diversity to create inclusive and innovative working environments.
The presenters included Rusty O’Kelley, Dr. Marian Higgins, Dr. Nancy Sutton Bell, Trudy Bourgeois, Vincent Randolph Brown, Julius Pryor III, Kathy Pitts, Dr. Blair H. Hayes, Steve Bucherati, and Dr. Rhea Ingram. “There are economic opportunities in diverse markets. Focus your diversity strategy on customers or you will miss opportunities” said Rusty O’Kelley, Managing Partner of the Leadership Consulting Practice for the Americas, Heidrick & Struggles. O’Kelley also shared how Gap is a company that understands and capitalizes off diverse customers. Gap initially had no marketing efforts targeted towards Hispanics. Through market research Gap discovered that Hispanic men pay $40-$82 for jeans. This led Gap to develop a $250 million goal in new sales from diverse markets.
Tracy Bourgeois, CEO and Founder of the Center for Workforce Excellence, talked about blending the best of male and female leadership styles. Bourgeois shared how 70% of new entrants in the workforce are women, immigrants, and African-Americans. Bourgeois also explained how today’s soft skills are becoming hard skills. “Many skills needed today are natural to women, and men and women should recognize they can learn from each other to build a new style of leadership”.
The keynote speaker for the Diversity Luncheon was Steve Bucherati, Chief Diversity Officer at Coca-Cola. Bucherati shared Coca-Cola’s story of shifting to diversity. “Diversity is simply having difference. That difference isn’t enough. You have to be inclusive by leveling the playing field and give equal opportunities for everyone to participate” said Bucherati. With $5.2 billion is sales from multi-cultural groups, Coca-Cola is a company that reaps the benefits of implementing diversity strategies.
The Diversity Summit ended with a networking mixer. Participants got an opportunity to interact with each other and speak one-on-one with presenters. For more information about the Diversity Summit and upcoming events, visit the Montgomery Area Chamber online at www.montgomerychamber.com
By: Anthoney Lewis