By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
We explore the issue of diversity through the lens of three different people and perspectives. All look to the common goal of serving and including all in developing a better community.
Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce seeks input from all
“As we look at this region, we think it is really the place on earth that might be able to get it right.”
This is Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce CEO Maud Daudon’s affirmation that the region is capable of balancing a “triple bottom line” approach. “We want a strong economy for our health and wellbeing of our people. We want to be great stewards for where we live and we share a set of values for not leaving people behind in our region.” Daudon added, “It’s really about talent and employing all the talent, as much as we can grow to sustain that.”
One of the more important components of this is enhancing inclusiveness and diversity.
The Chamber operates as a nonprofit business association with 2,300 member companies that represent approximately 700,000 employees. It has a broad geography. Most of its work is done in the City of Seattle, although it works along broader geographical borders. The Chamber works on three specific areas: public policy, advocacy, and events.
“The events are intended to connect businesses with one another, businesses with elected officials, and businesses with training,” said Daudon.
The Chamber stresses inclusion in its purpose. “We need everybody to be welcome in our workforce, we need everyone to have an opportunity in our community,” explained Daudon.
Diversity is important to the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Representative of its inclusiveness, it was the first to endorse marriage equality in the nation. The Chamber has set up metrics to review the composite of the businesses. Its goal is to mirror the business community and its diverse make up. While they do not have all the information on the LGBT community, it has a data on gender and racial diversity within the business community. The Chamber is committed to ensuring that it has a board of directors that reflects the diversity of the business community, a staff that reflects our full community and events, and speakers and an audience that represent the diversity. “We are making progress, but we have a long way to go,” stated Daudon. “We are continually trying to learn how to get better at attracting people and making it a welcoming environment for people of all types and with different kinds of identifications.”
Daudon notes that it takes cultural work for the Chamber. The staff has initiated a monthly conversation about race to help the goal of the Chamber, as it makes the issues more top of mind for people. Alicia Teel of the Chamber notes that the discussion has touched on a variety of topics, including race and sports, and race and fiction.
In addition, the Chamber has reciprocal agreements with ethnic and minority chambers of commerce. Essentially, if a member joins an ethnic chamber of commerce, they are automatically a part of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. This has helped the Chamber engage and understand the needs of the ethnic and minority communities.
As an example, the Chamber worked with Taylor Hoang during the minimum wage debate and she now sits on the Chamber’s board. Hoang founded the Ethnic Business Coalition and is the owner of the Pho Cyclo Café restaurants.
The Chamber is an advocate of immigration reform, “but not in the sense of making it more restrictive, but making it more open and making it more accessible to stay and work here if it’s their choice,” explained Daudon. She notes there are many successful immigrant business owners who are Chamber members.
The Chamber has tried to recap the opinions of some of its members voicing the concerns of the Trump administration’s first travel ban (at the time of the interview, the Chamber had yet to release a statement on the administration’s second travel ban). Daudon noted that some have expressed concerns about national security in response to the opposition on the first travel ban issued by the president.
“The tech community is so dependent on being able to have a global workforce and we are a very trade dependent state as well. International trade requires you to be globally fluent.” Daudon added, “We economically need to have our tentacles everywhere and that requires having a lot of people who represent those constituents that you are trying to do business with.”
Longtime business professional says diversity helps business bottom line
Nate Miles has over 25 years of experience in private business. “I think that we’ve come quite a ways in understanding that diversity really can be good for the bottom line whereas before, it was something that was a nice thing to do and felt like they had to do it.”
Industry research and studies from various universities suggest that diversity aids businesses. “When you bring much more diversity, you bring more points of reference and many more people with differing points of view. It brings better solutions from more than just ‘one set of eyes.’”
In Miles’ view, he sees that the most successful instances of diversity in business occur when people are authentic. “You can’t just go out and buy an ad in a newspaper or a table at a banquet,” said Miles. He insists that companies must authentically and actively engage in communities.
Miles, who currently is Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Eli Lilly, stated that company outreach such as Habitat for Humanity and the United Way’s Day of Caring are good examples of companies allowing their employers to engage with communities. Despite the fact that it takes workers away from a day of work and is very expensive, it benefits the companies as it creates awareness and fosters brand loyalty within communities.
Miles states he would like to see more companies actively work with depressed communities and areas affected by unemployment. “I’d like to see companies make more of an effort to go directly to some of the hardest hit areas with their jobs, so they can use the jobs in a much more socially impactful way.” While this addresses the role of economic empowerment, it would also vicariously address issues of diversity.
Serving a diverse community, a part of Seattle Fire Chief’s role
“It’s more than a simple definition in my mind. Diversity is inclusion. It ties to the attitude of inclusion,” stated Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins.
“It’s having a positive attitude toward the inclusion for the betterment of the organization, city, and community.”
“We’re serving a diverse community and it’s important to us to treat the community with dignity and respect.” Scoggins added, “Internally, we’ve done a lot of things to better represent the community we serve.”
The Fire Department participates in a race and social justice initiative through the City of Seattle. The program strives to end institutionalized racism and race-based disparities in city government.
Roughly, there are approximately 70 females within the Seattle Fire Department. Scoggins also noted that 85-97 percent of the organization is Caucasian. He believes that there are challenges in messaging to address the disparities.
With respect to the small number of females within the department, Scoggins notes that there is a perception that it is a physically demanding job and while it does require physical fitness, he believes that the challenges are surmountable by both males and females of a variety of abilities.
The Seattle Fire Department is planning a recruitment campaign this summer and encourages all to apply.
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.