You’ve heard us talking a lot more about “DEI” or “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” lately. We’ve published case studies on companies in Utah with robust DEI programs, we’ve hosted town halls, we’re evaluating our internal operations as an employer, and we are building DEI into our core business. Why? Because like many of our partner organizations and clients, we believe that for Utah to achieve its full economic potential all aspiring Utahns need to feel welcomed, to belong, and to contribute at their highest level.
More specifically, we are engaged in this conversation because:
So, what are we doing?
For starters, we have formed a DEI Council of our stakeholders. This Council, chaired by Aabir Malik of Colmena Development, is comprised of 12 private and 8 public sector members. We named Stephanie Frohman as our Chief Diversity Officer and created a DEI Strategic Plan.
With the input of our Council and our Board of Trustees, this strategic plan will help us become a more inclusive workplace, will help us understand and tell Utah’s inclusion/belonging story better, will focus our targeted outreach through Global Strategies and Outreach and our Know the Customer Program on those companies who have demonstrated a commitment to DEI, and will help us connect with and amplify those who are doing the important work of DEI in our community.
On behalf of the DEI Council, we hosted a three-part DEI Townhall series for EDCUtah investors and had strong attendance at each of the three. Generously sponsored by Facebook, Fidelity Investments, and Comcast Business, these sponsorships will go to help fund EDCUtah’s DEI efforts, and to invest in the State’s Racial Equity and Inclusion Fund.
Here’s what we learned:
We kicked off the series with a conversation with Nubia Peña, Byron Russell and Ze Min Xiao from the State of Utah’s Department of Heritage and Arts and Multi-Cultural Committee. They explained why economic inclusion is imperative to Utah’s economic development success and some of the key areas of DEI focus for the state. We then used “Zoom rooms” to begin a peer-to-peer conversation with investors on where their companies were on DEI efforts, and what resources they might still need.
Based on feedback from the January conversation, investors wanted more time to learn and share, and tactical advice on how to level-up their DEI strategies. We invited Dr. Tamara Stevenson from Westminster College for an insightful keynote on the definition of diversity today and why it matters at work. We then dedicated a full hour to “Zoom room” discussions by level – Green Circle, Blue Square, Black Diamond – to help people connect and share with their peers. A dozen DEI experts from Utah community advocacy groups generously volunteered their time to help facilitate each session.
March was a very personal and powerful conversation – where EDCUtah investors heard directly from diverse executives about what’s working and what’s not working in our community for diverse talent. The conversation both affirmed our progress and provided a call to action on why we must continue to be intentional about making Utah the most welcoming state for talent of all backgrounds.
Following on the success of our Town Hall series, our DEI Council encouraged us to continue to be part of the community conversation. In June, we’ll kick off a Monthly Spotlight program to help EDCUtah investors learn more about the terrific DEI advocacy partners we have in our Utah community. Each month throughout FY22, we’ll highlight a different organization and their events/opportunities with an eye toward building connections, providing resources, and creating more allyship between all Utahns. We’ll also continue the “Black Diamond” conversations we started in February with a select group of DEI executives from Utah’s largest employers. We’ll help facilitate best-practice sharing between large companies with an eye toward sharing lessons learned with a broader audience.
We have a few more irons in the fire on DEI and look forward to sharing future updates as we have them.
We thank you for your willingness to learn along with us as we join the DEI conversation, and are always open to your feedback on this critically important piece of Utah’s economic future. As Dr. Stevenson remarked, “I can grow where I am planted.” Together let’s till the soil for a better future.
President & Chief Executive Officertfoxley@edcutah.org