Leadership, sustained commitment called key to DEI success

Gina Gallucci-White//March 23, 2023

Leadership, sustained commitment called key to DEI success

By Special to The Daily Record

//Gina Gallucci-White

//March 23, 2023

How can Maryland business leaders make diversity, equity and inclusion efforts a priority in their organization? How do they attract and retain diverse talent and achieve overall success?

A panel of experts and the keynote speaker at The Daily Record’s fourth annual DEI Summit on Thursday said a variety of factors – strong support from top leadership; plenty of resources; and a plan that includes measurable results – is essential for building a diverse and equitable organization.

First row, Alexandra “Lexx” Mills and Diane Forbes Berthoud; Second row, Troy LeMaile-Stovall and M’balu “Lu” Bangura

The keynote speaker for the event, Alexandra “Lexx” Mills, Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System’s director of economic inclusion and impact, told the online audience that Hopkins’ efforts have been buoyed by having senior leaders show a clear and visible commitment to the program.

The centerpiece of Hopkins’ commitment to the community, she noted, is the HopkinsLocal program that was launched in 2015. Since that time, Mills said, under HopkinsLocal the two institutions have:

  • Hired 3,191 Baltimoreans in targeted neighborhoods and 1,533 returning citizens
  • Spent more than $888 million at local businesses
  • Committed $244.3 million to minority-owned, women-owned, or disadvantaged businesses and $281.5 million to local Baltimore City businesses for design and construction projects based in Baltimore.

During a panel discussion on “Building a Business Community That Creates Equity,” Diane Forbes Berthoud, the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s vice president and chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer, said the school has developed a data analytics platform to measure aspects of diversity around representation, hiring and retention. Officials are working with leaders at all the university’s units to assess their DEI performance.

UMB also has launched employee affinity groups, such as networks of faculty members of color and a Latina resource group, to build staff participation in DEI progams and to foster a greater sense of community, said Forbes Berthoud, who became the school’s first equity leader almost two years ago.

TEDCO CEO Troy Lemaile-Stovall, another panelist, said organizations often spend too much time focusing on closing the racial income gap and not enough time rethinking how wealth is created. During his time leading TEDCO, he noted, the organization has gone from providing roughly 2% of its funding to companies led by people of color to more than 50% in recent funding rounds.

Le-Maile Stovall said that without sustained organizational commitment, DEI will be less a movement than a moment.

“(DEI) has to be a part of who and what we are and it can’t be a project,” he said. “If it is a project, the minute things go tough … then it becomes something that gets dropped, but the minute it is foundationally part of the leadership, the board, and the executive team — they talk about it in a meaningful way, and it leads to performance — then I think it has the ability to become a movement.”

M’balu “Lu” Bangura, Enoch Pratt Free Library’s director of equity and fair practice, joined the library system after serving as Baltimore’s first equity specialist.

The third member of Thursday’s panel, Bangura said the Pratt system has made a clear commitment to having a leadership team that is more diverse than in past years.

Furthermore, she said, her office can provide a place where employees can share not only their view on DEI issues but also their ideas and experiences.

“The first step for me was making sure that employees knew that they had another avenue to go to to speak to someone who can hear their concerns regarding DEI and EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) issues outside of HR (Human Resources),” she said. “… HRs are not really trusted by most employees so my office gave employees another avenue. Someone else to come and talk to, someone else to come to about resource groups so we formed a DEI council.”

“We understand that if you want to create a community of value and as if they have a place where they belong, you have to create a place that they feel like they can come to and that they are heard and that they are seen and where they have people who are like them and people that can relate to them,” she said.


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