On Wednesday, May 19, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce hosted its inaugural Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summit to more than 250 attendees both in-person and virtual. The event consisted of two panel discussions involving business leaders in Gwinnett and Metro Atlanta. Vanessa Harrison, Georgia President of AT&T, opened as the event’s welcome speaker.
The first panel featured Sloan Drake, VP of Human Resources at Georgia Power, Sara Irvani, CEO of Okabashi, Kevin Greiner, President & CEO of Gas South, and moderator Aisha Deberry, Executive Director of Diversity and Community Partnership at PCOM Georgia.
In a discussion about fostering an inclusive climate in their business, Sloan highlighted Georgia Power’s years-long efforts to create an environment of inclusivity through company town halls between leadership and employees as it relates to DE&I. An organization is better when every employee is engaged and is a contributor, and she hopes to build on this momentum. Although Okabashi is referred to as a family owned and operated business, Sara also made note of the Obakashi family culture that exists in her workplace. By making intentional efforts to spend time with her employees on the manufacturing floor and being present, Sara fosters a spirit of togetherness and inclusion, and she encourages other business leaders to lead with humility. In wake of the challenges this past year, Gas South pivoted to new modes of work and dialogue. Kevin saw an opportunity to address equity and inclusion needs by accommodating different work conditions for employees based on needs while welcoming healthy conversations on issues like social injustice.
Titled Harnessing DE&I Data to Build Your Organization from Within, the second panel was moderated by the chamber’s 2021 Board Chair, Doug Jenkins, and featured Keyra Johnson, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Strategist at Delta, Sue Schmidlkofer, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Director at UPS, and Mundo Hispánico President & CEO, Rene Alegria. Keyra highlighted how Delta’s DE&I data brought about transparency and accountability in Delta’s recruiting and employee engagement practices, practices that correlate with customer satisfaction. Sue stated that last year, UPS launched pay equity audits to assess any pay disparities. UPS also utilized employee engagement surveys to improve work culture as well as hiring and recruitment efforts. Rene added that businesses should strive to be authentic with their DE&I data and embrace the notion that diversity is innovation.
Lastly, Gwinnett County Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson closed by sharing the county’s commitment to efforts surrounding equity and inclusion through the representation of its leadership and staff, recently passed non-discrimination ordinances, and the Request for Proposal from consultants for the county’s Equity Action Plan.
In addition to holding this summit, some of the Gwinnett Chamber’s own efforts include internal DE&I training for all staff, welcoming the chamber’s most diverse board of directors in Gwinnett Chamber history, supporting last year’s passage of Georgia’s hate crimes legislation, and initiating a series of partnerships with several bi-lateral chambers in the metro Atlanta area. Without the collective partnerships with our local governments, businesses, and community organizations, Gwinnett would not be in position as a regional leader that makes intentional efforts to create a place where anyone, no matter where they come from, can feel welcomed, heard and valued.
Photos by Gwinnett Event Photography.