Greater Cincinnati has made big strides in embracing diversity and inclusion, but there is more to do.

That was the consensus of the panelists at the annual Power 100 Leadership Forum Feb. 16 at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza. The annual event featuring the city’s most influential leaders is presented by Cincy Magazine and the University of Cincinnati’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business.

Led by moderator David M. Szymanski, dean of the Lindner College, the panel included City Councilmember Chris Seelbach, the first openly gay member of council; Reuben Shaffer, vice president and chief diversity officer at The Kroger Co.; Mary Stagaman, senior inclusion advisor for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber; and Dan Knowles, president and CEO of the Tristate Veterans Community Alliance.

Diversity is a broad term encompassing respect and appreciation for all types of differences from ethnicity, gender, national origin, disability, education and religion, while inclusion is about making that mix work.

“If you truly want to build an inclusive culture you need groups at all levels of your organization that not only understand but have experienced diverse cultures and workplaces,” says Knowles.

“You’d be hard pressed in today’s world to find a group that has that type of experience more than some of the people coming out of the military today,” he says, explaining why veterans are part of the diversity conversation.

In the face of changing demographics in the region and the world, the city’s largest corporations have incorporated diversity and inclusion as a business imperative. The chamber, community partner for the forum, has made diversity and inclusion part of its DNA to attract, develop and maintain the talent the region requires to continue to grow, says Stagaman.

“We are a country that’s moving to a multicultural majority,” she told nearly 300 at the breakfast forum. “Twenty-three of the 25 largest communities in the country are majority multicultural. Hamilton County is 33 percent multicultural and 28 percent of the kids under age of 9 in our region are multicultural. The change is happening whether we’re paying attention or not.’’

One of the region’s largest employers, Kroger, was recently named one of the top U.S. corporations for inclusion in a ranking of the top 50 corporate buyers of multicultural products and services.

Diversity and inclusion are core values at Kroger, Shaffer says, “We’re always working to be better and we want to know what that better is and incorporate that into our organization. We’re not perfect,” he says.

When he arrived in Cincinnati in 1989 to attend Xavier University, Seelbach says, the city was a very different place than it is today.

“People who were different, of color, and of different faiths didn’t feel very comfortable here,” he says. Young people couldn’t wait to leave the city after high school and college and the city had been losing population for years, he says.

But he says changes such as the historic Cincinnati Collaborative agreement on police-community relations, which came out of the 2001 riots, and the city’s efforts to encourage diversity and inclusion have turned that situation around.

Estimates indicate the city’s population is growing again.

“We are changed and this is a great place to live, but still 50 percent of our families live in poverty,” he says. “We have a real challenge we need to address.”

Seelbach urged the audience to reach out to people who they view as different. Knowles added it is important to not only engage people who you view as different but also listen to what they have to say.

“We all have limitations and biases,” Stagaman emphasized. The key is not to ignore them or deny them but understand what triggers them.

“The most powerful words in the language to start the conversation are not ‘I love you’ because that may not be true, but ‘tell me more,’” she says.

Sponsors

A Columbus-based accounting firm and consultancy with more than 165 associates in five offices in four states, GBQ expanded its presence in Cincinnati last year when it acquired the firm of Ernst & Rabe, one of the city’s top 25 accounting firms. GBQ says its size allows it to serve the most complex organizations while its independence allows it to keep decision making in one place. gbq.com.

The law firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP has a rich history dating to 1885. Its partners have included former U.S. Sen. Robert A. Taft and former Cincinnati Mayor Charles Taft II, both sons of former President William Howard Taft. Through a series of successful mergers, Taft has become a premier regional firm with more than 400 attorneys in eight Midwestern cities and Phoenix, Ariz. taftlaw.com.

Founded in 1883 in downtown Cincinnati by Barney Kroger, the Kroger Co., today is the world’s largest grocery retailer with more than $110 billion sales, 443,000 employees in nearly 2,800 stores in 35 states that serve 8.5 million customers daily. thekrogerco.com.

Founded in 1991 by Drew Horter, a certified financial planner, Horter has a fee-based asset management platform that provides clients with a low-risk, low-volatility investment approach. Based in Sycamore Township, Horter has a growing network of investment advisers and nearly $1.1 billion in assets under management. horterinvestment.com.

The German manufacturer of high-performance sports cars, SUVs and sedans was founded in 1931 by Ferry Porsche. Its Cincinnati dealerships are offering new and used vehicles and service as part of Porsche of Kings Auto Mall, part of the Joseph Auto Group, and Porsche of the Village, 4113 Plainville Road, owned by dealer principal William Woeste Jr. porsche.com.

Located in the heart of downtown Cincinnati, the hotel is a National Historic Landmark and one of the finest examples of French Art Deco. It offers more than 40,000 square feet of meeting and event space including three ballrooms and 28 flexible rooms. Orchids at Palm Court is the hotel’s AAA Four-Diamond and Forbes Four Star fine dining restaurant. cincinnatihilton.com.

Since 1982, ITA has been providing best-in-class audio-visual services and integrated technology to Fortune 1000 companies, universities, health care institutions, small businesses, hotels and meeting facilities. ita.com.

Community Partner

One of the nation’s largest chambers of commerce, the chamber provides services to members across 15 Tristate counties. Its mission is to leverage the potential of the business community to create regional economic prosperity. The chamber serves its members and the community through leadership and professional development programs, government advocacy, festivals and events, regional vision and collaboration, money-saving benefit programs, networking opportunities and educational programs. cincinnatichamber.com.

Nonprofit Beneficiary

DePaul Cristo Rey High School in Clifton is the 24th school in the national Cristo Rey Network that provides quality Catholic, college-preparatory education to young people who live in urban communities with limited educational options. All Cristo Rey Network schools use a rigorous academic model supported by effective instruction to prepare students with a broad range of academic abilities for college. depaulcristorey.org.



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