Diversity Summit helps Knoxville Start an Important Conversation

Scripps Networks is a market leader in demonstrating how diversity and inclusion make for a successful business. At last week’s Diversity Summit – hosted by Scripps in partnership with the Urban League and Knoxville Chamber – Scripps provided the opportunity to explore the dimension of diversity as an economic driver for community and business development.

The Summit was stimulating and challenging. I was honored to be part of it. However, my gnawing question is this – Now what?

Keynote Speaker Luke Visconti, partner and co-founder of DiversityInc Media, challenged our area’s lack of education, business and community alignment around diversity and encouraged us to: “Build a future that makes everybody’s children want to come here.”

In the late ’90s, I watched as my two daughters left Knoxville after finishing their education because they didn’t see our city as a welcoming place or one flush with career opportunities. When one daughter recently returned with her family after 13 years, she acknowledged that we’re improving.

We are a more culturally diverse community than ever before. Successful businesses understand how this fact creates opportunities for them to attract talent, fill jobs, and connect with new customers. As important as diversity is to the business environment, the community environment is equally important.

If your employees only see this region as a job and not a welcoming place to live, play and raise a family, they will not stay here. You lose. We all lose. Knoxville is changing, but it’s not going to be what we want it to be unless we all work together.

As I told the audience at the Summit:

I issue the Urban League’s Call to Action. Looking at the today’s audience is a little like singing to the choir – but that’s why we have choir practice!

The concept of diversity today has evolved. In my not-too-distant past, when we talked about diversity, the conversation was mainly a black and white issue. Today’s reference to diversity is far more encompassing. Dimensions of diversity include age, education, ethnicity, family status, gender, income, military experience, sexual orientation, and spiritual or religious practice.

. . .

Diversity and inclusion begins with the conversation, like what we’re having today, conversations that recognize differences – not just differences in color, or of gender, but all human differences – add real value to business.

It’s not about problems. It’s about solutions. It’s not about numbers. It’s about profits and smart growth.

It’s about business. The collective brainpower of talented people from different backgrounds coming together will help your company succeed in today’s market.

And the opportunities created will benefit people at all levels of society – by making the greater Knoxville area a destination of choice for investment, for talented individuals and their families, and for the leading businesses of tomorrow.

Society can only achieve its full economic potential when every member can achieve theirs.

If you’re ready to explore how to develop your company’s diversity strategy and participate in an inclusive community, I invite you to call the Urban League and let’s begin the conversation.