As a response to business partners who inquired about our cultural competency and dedicated team, we hosted the Power of We Workforce Diversity Conference in October.
Attendees and presenters from a variety of industries shared their experiences and ideas during discussions, panels, and breakout sessions. Here are some of the highlights, along with attendees’ feedback on the event.
A presenter’s perspective
One of the most valuable aspects of this conference was from the dialogue between presenters and attendees. Joann Massey, director of business diversity and compliance for the City of Memphis, considers herself both.
Joann led a breakout session at the conference about the importance of working with minority- and women-owned businesses. She took a few moments between sessions to discuss what she feels made the Power of We conference such a vital opportunity for Tennessee businesses and community leaders.
How would you describe your role as director of business diversity and compliance?
My role is to ensure access to opportunities both in the public and private sector, and to ensure inclusion in the overall economic development plan for the city of Memphis. I act as a navigator for both small minority- and women-owned businesses and large businesses like BlueCross that are looking to do business with Memphis.
How did you hear about the Power of We conference?
My engagement generated from the partnership we have with BlueCross. [BlueCross Memphis Market President] Kevin Woods called our office and asked us about participating.
I did my research about the Power of We and saw how very intentional BlueCross is about sharing information about the power of diversity in all elements of workforce.
How did you land upon supplier diversity as the focus of your presentation?
Knowing that BlueCross has a commitment to supplier diversity, and cultural competency as a whole both in your workforce and your procurement, we knew this topic would resonate with other attendees. The city of Memphis currently works with 575 minority-owned businesses, and we wanted to share our progress and the tools which made that progress happen.
Memphis is interested not just in diversifying city contracting, but in the overall economy across the state of Tennessee.
Why do you feel supplier diversity is an integral part of a successful diversity and inclusion program?
Equity is an economic imperative. Not just for Memphis, not just for Tennessee, but for our country.
Statistics show our country will be majority minority by 2040, which represents the current iGenners grown up. What world are we going to live in if everyone isn’t included?
What were your key takeaways from the conference?
I was inspired hearing from passionate speakers like Mary-Frances Winters, who discussed ways to have difficult but necessary inclusive conversations, and Jessica Stollings, who discussed the ways that different generations approach issues.
Jessica’s presentation about generational fluency in particular was meaningful because it’s something a lot of people don’t consider when they look at diversity. Those differences are real not just in our personal lives, but in business, too. Everything from email etiquette to just talking to people and engaging with them, all of those things are important. I look forward to taking their best practices back to Memphis and integrating them to further the progress we’ve had.
During my session, I said, “This is hard work, but it’s also heart work.” Those of us at the Power of We care, we’re here, and we’re engaged. And that’s energizing for me. I plan to attend this conference next year, even just as a participant.
Voices on stage
During the conference’s opening keynote, Jacky Akbari, director of government relations and workforce economic development at the Nashville Career Advancement Center, put the theme of the Power of We into action by inviting three Nashville leaders to the stage to offer advice.
- Councilman Fabian Bedne from the Hispanic Family Foundation: “The majority of Latinos in this country are not immigrants, and many immigrants who are here cannot work at what they were trained to do. A taxi driver could have been a skilled surgeon in Venezuela. So I would just say, don’t make assumptions.”
- Rabbi Shana Goldstein Mackler, The Temple, Congregation Ohabai Sholom: “Get your executive leadership involved in attending community and diversity events. Have them play an active role in civic duty and nonprofit life.”
- Sabina Mohyuddin of the American Muslim Advisory Council: “When your workforce represents the community you serve, you’re already at an advantage. Your community will say, ‘They understand me, they get my needs.’”
Voices of attendees
In the days following the conference, we sent a survey to all attendees seeking feedback about what they learned, what inspired them, and what improvements we could make. Here are a few of the responses:
- “The sessions on Generational Diversity and Unconscious Bias were most helpful for me. As a trainer in the diversity and inclusion arena, I found these messages reinforced those I have been presenting in my own line of work.”
- “It was a great event; it allowed for [continued education units] for my HR certifications and it gave insight on new opportunities, such as facilitator certification.”
- “For future events, consider addressing: Promoting People of Color, Pay Equity, Hiring and Recruiting Tactics for People of Color, Corporate Mentoring Programs.”
- “I am always grateful to learn how far diversity has come and what we can do to continue this journey.”