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Embracing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Will Lead to a Rebuilt and Vibrant Southwest Louisiana

Posted by: Eric Cormier on Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Pandemic, hurricanes and winter storms have pushed many businesses to the brink.

All of us who serve in Chamber and economic development roles anxiously await information related to recovery, loan and grant programs that will benefit our communities. We will share that information and provide assistance to anyone in need.

Meanwhile we are participating in discussions about how the five-parish region (Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jefferson Davis)will rebuild and what it could look like in the future.

Several efforts have begun with local government, business and non-profit agencies taking the lead in defining long-range recovery in these areas:

  • Community planning and capacity building
  • Economic recovery
  • Health and Social Services
  • Housing
  • Infrastructure
  • Natural and Cultural resources

Business owners should pay attention to these meetings and participate when encouraged.

Why?

Rebuilding will be a tedious process. Rebuilding in a resilient manner will be even more complicated. When all of this is completed, the intention is to have an area that is prepared to better manage business/community disruptions in the future.

In order to build stronger, local, state and federal policy decision makers need to understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) our business owners and overall community members are considering.

Several concepts that need to be part of the recovery planning are – diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

A community is only as strong as its foundation. Communities are made up of people and families. Businesses survive by selling goods and services to these families. All people from different races, cultural groups and socio-economic groups are part of our overall regional family.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are concepts all businesses and governmental agencies should instill within their policies. Government agencies need to consider these issues as they contemplate daily, monthly, yearly and future plans and actions in order to make the region stronger in infrastructure, talent acquisition and spirit.

Why?

The Alliance/Chamber SWLA’s Diversity and Inclusion plan -- which has been in existence since 2018 -- highlights the reasons DEI policies are important for the business community:

  • Better understanding of your customers.
  • Diverse teams work better together.
  • Greater innovation and creativity.
  •  Boosts your employee brand.
  • Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have returns above the national median for their industry.
  • Diverse teams have been shown to generate more than 30% of their revenues from innovative products and services.

Lastly, “striving to be a more inclusive community creates a competitive advantage for business and supports attracting, developing and retaining skilled talent in the region,” according to our agency plan.

Getting additional customers and quality workers along with newer investment is contingent on an overall community DEI approach. It is incumbent on all of us to realize that the cultural and economic vitality of this region will be based on our ability to intentionally make decisions and create programs and policies in which all voices are heard and respected. That formula will generate equitable opportunities.

Recently, the Chamber SWLA helped sponsor a DEI training led by our colleagues at OneAcadiana in Lafayette. This program featured Dr. Nika White who is one of America’s foremost consultants and practitioners in the DEI sector.

White helped participants define the word inclusion, which is very important in our rebuilding phase. She defined inclusion as a process of “intentionality in bringing together and leveraging differences in a way that is beneficial to a process or group in pursuit of organizational objectives.”

For example, if we are involved in planning for business development in the city, we need representation from Latin, Middle Eastern, IndoPak, Asian, black, white, disabled citizens and veterans, etc., at the table to discuss the opportunities and challenges. We also need to admit the difficulties while celebrating wins. Or if we are addressing rural communities, farmers, service providers, etc., need to be at the table to provide insights into their concerns which lets them know their voices are cherished.

The meaning of DEI can be difficult to digest because we as a people can easily get caught up in age old racial pains and cultural distortions which are part of our history.

Today’s practitioners of DEI initiatives are learning that to help organizations and communities thrive everyone has to be viewed as human and respected.

Rebuilding our five parish house in a way that is comfortable for all family members will reap benefits for individuals and businesses today and in the future.

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