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Inclusion and Diversity Does Not Have To Be Difficult

Posted by: Eric Cormier on Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Diversity in the workplace can be an uncomfortable discussion. It is a complicated topic because the word ‘diversity’ is defined by an individual’s cultural standards, values and perceptions.

     The Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance/Chamber SWLA has been strategically planning its diversity efforts for the past three years.

     During that time, the Business Development and Diversity Task Force has been formed, business development and diversity awards have been presented to Chamber SWLA companies that practice diversity in the work place, and an overall course of action for the task force and Alliance/Chamber SWLA team has been established.

     Our agency has taken to planning programs and activities based on a business development and diversity mission statement which states “The Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance will educate, lead, and influence regional businesses to foster diverse and inclusive practices to grow the area’s competitive advantage locally and globally.”

     The vision is to have an area where “Everyone Feels at Home in SWLA.”

     Several weeks ago, the Alliance along with Hunt, Guillot and Associates hosted a business development and diversity panel discussion. Participants were from Phillips 66, Northrop Grumman and SWLA Center for Health Services. All were past winners of the Chamber SWLA Business Development and Diversity Award.

     What made this event a success was the insights provided on actual programs and initiatives each of these companies practice.

     For instance, Northrop Grumman’s diversity and inclusion programs consist of employee resource groups (allow employees to develop and build leadership skills, raise awareness, educate others and contribute to the community), heritage events, conferences and supplier diversity programs.

     Phillips 66’s Lake Charles facility also utilizes employee resource groups which include: Culture, Change and Diversity Team, the Women’s Network, Black Employee Network and the New Hire Network.

     SWLA Health Services conducts orientations specifically designed to address servicing diverse communities.

     Each company believes in hiring diverse staffs in order to harness creativity and serve their clients.

     Michael Flatt, Lake Charles Site Director at Northrop Grumman, offered an insight about his company’s diversity and inclusion initiative that says a lot about the success or failure of such an effort.

     “Our CEO made this a key part of the company’s culture and environment. He basically said we are going to do this because it is right,” he said.

     Flatt explained that the company’s leadership drew the proverbial line in the sand and decided those managers and employees who did not want to support the effort could leave…to which some did.

     Diversity and inclusion is not easy, but the effort, within a company or agency, will only progress as far as leadership allows.

     With that, the Alliance/Chamber SWLA is accepting nominations for next year’s Business Development and Diversity Award. Our plan is to follow the mindset of the award’s first sponsor, Keiland Construction owner Keith DuRousseau.

     Three years ago, DuRousseau shared his vision with staff that the award would be sought after because it would provide Chamber member companies and agencies an opportunity to showcase their best practices.

     So far, when we look at the past winners, the Alliance/Chamber SWLA is thrilled with the results.

     What follows are is the criteria for nominations (awards will be given for both a small and a large company) for next year’s award:

  • Small company: less than 100
  • Large company: More than 100
  • Company demonstrates planning and policy that promotes diversity
  • Company shows record of completing contracts with veterans, women, disabled and minority operated businesses
  • Company enacts community outreach that targets diversity
  • Company demonstrates promotion of veterans, women, disabled and minority employees.

     Nominations should include a report with proof of business development and diversity efforts. The deadline is December 15, 2018. Nominations should be made to Eric Cormier at or call 337-433-3632.


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