Embrace diversity: How NRBP is helping members understand inclusion

By Barbara E. Kauffman
New Jersey | Sep 16, 2019 at 1:25 pm
From our print edition

Last year, the Newark Regional Business Partnership surveyed its members to ascertain their thoughts and experiences with diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. The results were telling.

From the more than 300 respondents, NRBP learned that many people did not understand the difference between diversity and inclusion. While most respondents believe that diversity creates opportunities for their business to attract new customers and that achieving diversity within their business is a measure of success, respondents also indicated that their greatest challenges with diversity were due to bias about age, ability, gender and race. About half the respondents indicated that education, training or general D&I awareness are specific areas that their company needs to address and would allot time for some kind of D&I training or workshop. 

Using the survey results and subsequent discussions with D&I professionals from member companies, NRBP launched several efforts. The first, the Intercultural Lunch series, aimed to help members understand cultures that are different than their own and engage with members of that culture via a networking lunch. To date, NRBP has held programs on Islam, Portugal and, coming in October 2019, the LBGTQ+ community — all groups that are prominent in Newark. In the future, NRBP intends to continue to focus on cultures that are well-represented in the city and for which NRBP can help to deepen understanding and improve productive communications. 

Earlier this year, NRBP held a program on unconscious bias as well as overall diversity, equity and inclusion training. NRBP staff and representatives from 16 member organizations participated in the half-day program to deepen understanding of the issues. 

There is no doubt that diverse companies succeed — diversity of thought and experience is an asset that benefits corporations and employees. Some companies have progressed by becoming more diverse — well beyond race and gender — while others have not yet begun to tackle these issues.

The NRBP recognizes that, while Newark always has been a fairly diverse city, it has not always been as inclusive as is possible. NRBP believes that, as a business membership organization, it can provide members, and benefit the Newark community, with a valuable service by offering programs focused on diversity and inclusion. 

These programs and those that are to come are designed to help leaders and their employees understand the business imperative behind creating diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces. Consistently, data shows that companies that value diversity, equity and inclusion and that have policies and practices that reflect this have higher earnings, higher customer satisfaction and higher rates of employee retention. 

Business has the transformative ability to create a more open, diverse and inclusive society that sparks innovation and yields financial rewards. It is NRBP’s intention to create opportunities for these conversations as we engage our members on this important topic. 

Barbara E. Kauffman is the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Newark Regional Business Partnership. Kauffman also is president of Executive Women of New Jersey.

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