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Wheaton Chamber launches lecture series to address diversity, equity and inclusion

The struggle to find and retain talent means that businesses need every advantage. This includes having the right message when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, which have become more than just buzzwords to add into a company description. It requires systematic changes to create a business or organization that truly welcomes everyone.

Taking a closer look at DEI and how businesses can incorporate its features is the focus of a three-part virtual series, “Diversity Matters: A New Mindset for Today’s Leaders,” hosted by the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce.

“I feel like there are a lot of people who understand diversity, equity and inclusion is important, but this is taking it to the next level and looking at how you can apply it,” said Joshua Lederman, chairperson of the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

The first lecture was Jan. 12 and looked at DuPage County’s changing demographics.

“Understanding the changing demographics is really important if businesses are going to adapt with their employees, their customers, their patients,” Lederman said. “If you don’t adapt as a business, you’re going to find what worked before might not be successful in the future.”

The first lecture panel included guest speaker Jacob Kniep, an active member of the LGBTQ+ community and founder of OUTspoken Leaders. Also included on the panel were Kate Beck from AbilityLinks and Carlos Johnson of DONKA Inc., organizations that connect people with disabilities to job opportunities. Both individuals discussed the need to be inclusive of those with disabilities in the workforce and in the community.

As businesses search for talent, it may require taking a fresh look at how it recruits, advertises and whom it employees, said Vickie Austin, president of the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce and a former job coach.

She added that diversity, equity and inclusion can help a business to attract and better retain employees who will feel a sense of belonging, a sense of service to the organization.

“This is what is happening. Things are changing,” Austin said.

The second lecture is scheduled for Feb. 16 and will have guest speakers Tracey Crawford and Oralethea Davenport from Northwest Special Recreation Association to address “DEI Terminology & Lexicon: Why Words Matter.” For the third and final part of the series March 9, the guest speakers will return to share how one can craft a diversity statement for their business or organization.

The third installment, “Getting Started: Crafting Your Diversity Statement,” will be March 9 and is designed for businesses that are ready to bring DEI into the structure of their organizations. Crawford and Davenport will participate in the discussion, which will be moderated by Katie Uram, manager of member experience at Innovation DuPage.

“This isn’t just the right thing to do as it relates to our current social climate, it’s the right thing for businesses, the right thing for community organizations to make sure they grow and adapt to the changing demographics. One needs to show they are a business open to a diverse array of customers,” Lederman said.

The program sponsor, Innovation DuPage, has provided financial support to enable the programming to be free to members of the Chamber as well as the greater community. Innovation DuPage is a nonprofit that unites startup founders and small business owners with the people, resources and programs that support their growth.

“Their partnership gave us the sponsorship to bring in these speakers,” Austin said.

The virtual lecture series is from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Registration is required through the Wheaton Chamber website. Austin said there is strong interest in the series.

Lederman said it has been a true collaborative effort to design and create the lecture series.

“This is definitely a steppingstone and not going to be the end, but rather a strong foundation for the future,” Lederman said.

Register for each program at WheatonChamber.com.

For information, visit the Chamber’s website, email events@wheatonchamber.com or call 630-668-6464.