‘The work never ends’: DRC and Dallas business community celebrate DEI work

By Catie George, Manager, Communications and Storytelling

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) hosted the State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, presented by JPMorgan Chase and Accenture, at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum Tuesday, Sept. 12. The signature event brought together industry leaders and regional professionals to share insight into maintaining commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) despite changes and challenges to continue working to narrow opportunity gaps to improve quality of life for all people in the Dallas Region.

“At the Dallas Regional Chamber, our reason for being is prosperity for all. That means making sure that those who are here have the opportunity to grow and thrive even more,” said Dale Petroskey, DRC President and CEO. “We won’t be all we can be, or reach our full potential as a community, until we close the opportunity gaps. The work never ends. We will never stop working until those gaps are closed and everyone in this community has a shot at the prosperity going on here.”

In his welcome remarks, Petroskey announced the DRC is ending the year with $300,000 more for DEI than when it started, thanks to investments by member companies. Axxess got the ball rolling with a $100,000 challenge grant in May. Capital One, the Dallas Stars, the Law Offices of Erika N Salter, P.C., Frito Lay, and Texas Instruments each made contributions to match Axxess’ challenge, and the Dallas Mavericks chipped in an additional $100,000 to continue their resounding support of the DRC’s DEI program of work.

“We can’t thank you all who stepped forward to do this work enough,” said Petroskey.

The sold-out, third-annual event opened with a fireside chat between Forest T. Harper Jr., the President and CEO of INROADS, and Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks.

“No matter your ethnicity, no matter where you’re coming from, you just want access to equity… So that’s what INROADS has been focused on,” said Harper.

INROADS helps create pathways for ethnically diverse high school and college students to enter the workforce and start their careers by arranging internships and connecting students to mentors. In the discussion, Harper shared some metrics demonstrating the program’s success, namely that INROADS alumni are outpacing white counterparts by 40% in net worth and 12% in homeownership rates.

Even with the program’s success, Harper had a charge for companies.

“Widen the highway, corporate America,” said Harper, speaking to pathways for diverse individuals. “You own the pipeline.”

The second panel featured Nimesh Jhaveri, Executive Vice President and Chief Impact Officer of McKesson, Cece Cox, CEO of the Resource Center, and Joseph Hernandez, Senior Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at TIAA. The conversation was moderated by Dannetta Bland, North America Board Effectiveness and Sustainability Lead at Accenture, and led with talk about the progress that has been made and where DEI is going.

“We need to look at what others before us have accomplished. We have to look and appreciate the shoulders that we stand on. Those folks didn’t stop,” said Hernandez, speaking to the women’s rights movement. “They kept going because they knew that if they stopped, things would only get worse.”

“Our commitment to DEI stems from a deeply rooted tradition of doing well by doing good. We love this community, we live in this community, we work in this community,” Jhaveri added. “The past is really helping shape our future. We can’t rewrite history, but what we have learned is that we have the power to write the next chapter as we work to build a more equitable and just society.”

The panel also touched on DEI in education, and how it contributes to the workforce.

“Without the opportunities for a young person in university to be seen and heard, have their questions answered, explore their identity, however they identify, or have their identities affirmed, is really going to be detrimental to the ability to recruit and to acquire talent that has had a full college and academic experience,” said Cox. “In order to have the most educated, loyal, equipped, and talented workforce, they need to feel seen and heard and included.”

The panel also emphasized the importance of community for those who work in DEI.

“It’s important that we work with folks from other companies, from other organizations, folks like the DRC, that are willing to help us and get the right tools in place, the right practices in place,” said Jhaveri. “It’s important that we get into forums like this, and we share our experiences, we share what is working, what is not working, and how we can do it together in a better way.”

During an overview of the DRC’s progress and accomplishments in the DEI space since 2020, Latosha Herron Bruff, Senior Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion & Community Engagement, shared that a key focus of DEI for the DRC and the Dallas Region going forward should be disability inclusion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 million U.S. adults live with a disability, and the U.S. Census shows the unemployment rate for disabled individuals is double that of non-disabled individuals.

“That means we have work to do in this area, and the DRC wants to put energy and effort into the next year and developing partnerships with a lot of you to move the needle,” said Bruff before announcing the DRC will release a Disability Inclusion Toolkit in early 2024.

“Disability inclusion is not tolerating people with disabilities but creating a workplace where they feel welcome, comfortable, and appreciated,” said Bruff. “We want to bring businesses a step ahead and help find that diverse talent.”

“Today’s State of DEI program shows that the promise we made three years ago [with the creation of the DEI Council at the DRC] is being carried forward and that we’re committed to that work,” said John Olajide, President and CEO of Axxess and former DRC Board Chair. “I have no doubt that we will realize our goals to make the Dallas Region the most prosperous region in the country for all people.”

The State of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion was presented by JPMorgan Chase and Accenture. Gold sponsors included American Airlines, Axxess, KEIRUS BY KJE, Oncor, and Thompson Reuters. Silver sponsors included American National Bank of Texas, Kanarys, and the Law Offices of Erika N. Salter, P.C.

If you are interested in learning more about the DRC’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement work, visit the DRC website.

If you would like to help the DRC with its Disability Inclusion Survey, visit here.