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Community Leaders Gather to Learn about Diversity and Inclusion as a Business Driver

The College of Business and Economics (COBE) cohosted a summit on diversity and inclusion as a business driver with a focus on attracting and retaining top talent in the Treasure Valley. Held on November 17, the summit was a collaboration between COBE, Wells Fargo, the City of Boise, the Boise Valley Economic Partnership (BVEP) and the University of Idaho-Boise.

The morning started off with a powerful keynote address on business responsibility for human rights by Alejandro Hernandez, senior VP at Wells Fargo.

Two panel sessions followed. Panel one comprised Lisa Cooper, Figure 8 Investments; Marwan Sweedan, MD, CTBS; Matthew Burns, Idaho Bureau of Laboratories; Tawna Miles, St. Luke’s Health System and discussed “Our refugee community as a source of top talent.” Shannon Rush-Call, Micron Technology; Joanne Chu, EcoEthos Solutions; Thomas Kellogg, Mentor Artists Playwright Project; and Francisco Salinas, Boise State University, made up the second panel and covered the topic “How to build a workplace culture of inclusion.”

A compelling and eloquent closing keynote was given by Boise State mechanical engineering student, Camille Eddy, who presented both her research on bias in machine learning and shared her experience as an African-American women in tech.

The afternoon comprised hands-on workshops that sought to give attendees practical skills to create inclusion in their workplaces. They included:

  • Creating inclusive meetings using the Collaborative Operating System, led by Joanne Chu, EcoEthos Solutions and Shannon Rush-Call, Micron
  • Finding your voice: playwriting as a tool for workplace inclusion, led by Thomas Dean Kellogg, Mentor Artists Playwright Project (MAPP)
  • From campus to career: a student lunch conversation on inclusion, led by Alejandro Hernandez, senior VP, Wells Fargo

If you judge on the fullness of room, the Diversity and Inclusion Summit was a huge success at more than 130 attendees. But, event organizers are not judging by attendance. Success will only be claimed when attendees complete their action items. Attendees accepted the challenge to publicly post their commitments do doing one thing to make workplaces and our community more inclusive and to report on achievement at the next diversity and inclusion event. Some of those include:

  • Expand diversity on board of directors/leadership team/advisory group/membership.
  • Contact Global Talent Idaho / work with my company to create job placements/externships/internships for refugees.
  • Integrate two new tools in my company’s culture strategy work — Collaborative Operating System and Courageous Conversations.
  • Help create a community coalition for diversity and inclusion.
  • Start a diversity think tank.
  • Expand the ethical discussion in my class to include the role, benefits and importance of diversity and inclusion.

In closing, Angeli Weller, director of the Responsible Business Initiative, asked audience to “remember, this is the beginning, not the end, of an important conversation and there is no more important a time for each one of us to take responsibility for making our workplaces and our community more inclusive.”

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