DRC’s State of DEI Event Helps Drive Lasting Change in Business Community

By Matthew Berger, Director of Communications

All diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts must start at the top of an organization, and businesses need data to properly measure growth. The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) discussed this and more in front of more than 200 people at its second annual State of DEI, presented by JPMorgan Chase, on Sept. 13 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

The DRC partnered with Kanarys to create a benchmarking assessment to help member organizations identify measurable DEI goals to track areas of opportunity. Mandy Price, CEO and co-founder of Kanarys, and Hattie Hill, President and CEO of the T.D. Jakes Foundation, unveiled the assessment’s results during the first panel discussion. The assessment was sent to 398 DRC members with an active DEI contact, with 101 submitting responses. The survey asked questions across the following categories: organizational agility and capacity, inclusion and belonging, talent acquisition, talent management, supplier diversity, and marketplace and community impact.

According to the assessment, 85% of surveyed companies listed DEI as a core value. Paid leave was also a strength with 84% of companies offering maternity leave, 70% offering paternity leave, and 66% offering adoption leave. The national average of companies offering paid leave is 25%. Ninety percent of businesses also offered mental health counseling or benefits, and 78% partnered with organizations serving the historically underserved communities.

“We are seeing in the assessment that 57% of businesses are requiring recruiters to present diverse candidates,” Price said. “This is critical because if you don’t have a diverse pool of candidates from the beginning, then you can’t increase representation within your organization. This is an area where the Dallas Region should be very proud.”

Opportunities for improvement include businesses being more intentional on appointing diverse leaders to their boards and having stronger connections between CEOs and DEI leaders. Less than a third of the surveyed companies’ chief diversity officers report directly to a CEO, according to the report.

The packed program continued with purposeful conversation with important calls-to-action. Businesses need to hire more diversity externally, conduct regular pay audits, review compensation practices, and establish formal supplier diversity programs with specific diverse spending goals.

“We can’t change what we can’t measure,” Hill said. “That’s why we’re all here today. We believe in Texas, and we believe in the Dallas Region. We know we can and will do better.”

Tim Dismond, Chief Responsibility Officer with CBRE, Fred Royall, Managing Director and National Head of Diverse Businesses with JPMorgan Chase, and Juan Suarez, Vice President of DEI with Southwest Airlines Co., led the second panel discussion on DEI in the workplace. All three DEI leaders discussed how their companies are moving the DEI needle.

Dismond said at CBRE, seven of the 11 board members are minorities and women. Royall said JPMorgan Chase is equally intentional in its efforts to be more diverse and inclusive. Suarez listed the DEI awards Southwest Airlines recently won and talked about its partnerships with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

“Hold leaders accountable in inclusion,” Suarez said. “DEI is a commitment that comes from the top. We see this as a journey, and we must be transparent in what we do. If you measure DEI, businesses need to be held accountable.”

The final panel focused on how to connect communities to opportunities. James Armstrong III, President and CEO, Builders of Hope, Peter Brodsky, owner and CEO, Reimagine RedBird, and Bridget Lopez, Managing Partner, Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, joined Dr. Lorin Carter, Founder and CEO of C-Suite Equity Consulting, to discuss equitable development in underserved communities in Dallas.

Brodsky and his company are currently redeveloping RedBird Mall, bringing in retail, offices, and housing to the underserved communities in Southern Dallas County. The first step in executing a redevelopment like Redbird’s is building trust in the community.

“There’s a very ugly history of bad development in communities of color, so there is a mistrust from the community when developers — particularly white developers who don’t know the community — come in,” Brodsky said. “The only way to build trust is to acknowledge the very obvious truth most people don’t want to talk about.”

The Linebarger law firm has provided almost $10 million in pro bono services since the inception of the Landbank program through the City of Dallas. The Landbank program has provided almost 674 homes to underserved communities.

“Black and Latino households earn about half as much as the average White household and possess only 15%-20% of net wealth,” Lopez said. “This wealth gap means the rate of homeownership among minorities is much lower than their White peers.”

Armstrong and his company are connecting Dallas’ blue-collar workforce to affordable housing.

“We see low homeownership levels in west and south Dallas,” Armstrong said. “We are really on a mission to change that.”

The event also included a taped conversation between DRC President and CEO Dale Petroskey and Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. Marshall makes sure her team is seen, heard, and comfortable every day at work.

“Everyone deserves the same access in life, and equity is fairness,” she said. “How do we meet people where they are and take them to the next level? And what does fairness mean to you? What makes you feel like you’re being treated fairly every day?”

The DRC also presented for the first time its DEI Innovator Award. The award was presented to a small company with less than 5,000 employees and a large company with more than 5,000 employees. Both companies were top scorers in the benchmarking assessment, representing best practices in advancing DEI in the workplace and in the community. The small company honoree was the Dallas Mavericks, and the large company honoree was Fidelity Investments.

“As the voice of the Dallas business community, the DRC has a responsibility and an opportunity to help companies become more diverse and guide our region to create more prosperous, equitable, and inclusive communities,” said Latosha Herron Bruff, the DRC’s Senior Vice President of Inclusion and Community Engagement. “I want to recognize the leaders who have the courage to do this work. To all DEI practitioners in the room, regardless of where you are in your journey, thank you.”

Click here to read more about the DRC’s first benchmarking assessment, and click here to learn more about the DRC’s Southern Dallas County Economic Development Guide. The event’s presenting sponsor was JPMorgan Chase; gold sponsors were Oncor and Wells Fargo; silver sponsors were Google, Law Offices of Erika N Salter, P.C., and PwC.