How The FMWF Chamber Of Commerce Is Working To Create A Better Business Environment

Written by: Brady Drake

“Your Chamber stands firm in supporting diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces and communities. Differences should be celebrated. In addition, we believe that teams with diverse experiences and backgrounds will succeed. To make real progress, we must look at ourselves and work together to make our region a more inclusive place. Not only for business but all facets of our lives. The Chamber’s commitment to you is to create environments for meaningful discussions. We will offer education and information to all community members and employers. We will look for opportunities to listen, to learn, and continue to educate ourselves on these issues. We will look for partnerships to create sustainable strategies and solutions to drive growth and prosperity for all. As you and your organization continue down the path to becoming more diverse, inclusive, and equitable, we challenge you to share with us and our community the work you are doing. We want to hear your successes and support your efforts. The strength of our region is on all of us, and together we can create a better future.”

Sandi Piatz, chair of the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, opened the virtual series, The Business Case: Why a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Strategy is Important for Business Success, with the above remarks on September 10. The session was presented by Kira Kimball, Chief Innovation Officer & Certified Diversity Professional at Marsh & McLennan Agency, was the first segment of a new education series titled Building Inclusive and Equitable Workplaces, and is part of a larger push by The Chamber to create a more diverse and equitable business community.

Sign up for the remaining sessions or view past sessions at The series is open to everyone at no charge.

Planning for the virtual series started when Kimball approached leadership at The Chamber with the idea to present on diversity, equity and inclusion. She says they were very receptive.

“They jumped on board right away. There was no hesitancy, and that is just such an indicator of the type of leadership that is in Fargo Moorhead West Fargo right now,” said Kimball. “They really want to make a transformational change and empower business and industry with these skills.”

Kimball has spent the better part of her career working for diversity and inclusion. She did so during her decade spent teaching, advising and counseling students at Purdue and Ohio State and she does now as the first person in North Dakota and South Dakota to earn the National Diversity Council Certified Diversity Professional designation.

Q&A With Kira Kimball

Kira Kimball, Chief Innovation Officer and Certified Diversity Professional, Marsh & McLennan Agency
Kira Kimball, Chief Innovation Officer and Certified Diversity Professional, Marsh & McLennan Agency

Why are the transformational changes so important to you personally?

As a community member, I know our communities are changing. One of the things that I put in my presentation last week was the demographics of the Fargo school system, and that it has become much more diverse. 

I remember being a kid and looking up to the adults to see what’s out there for me. ‘Who’s doing something that I want to do?’ When I think of the diverse students, we need to as business leaders start changing the way that we look in terms of our leadership and our decision-makers and our board leaders so that the diverse students have someone to look up to. I’m really passionate about that because I believe we want our students and our families to stay in our communities and find meaningful work and opportunity for themselves and their families.

How do these presentations push that forward?

What this presentation series is crafted to do is to give employers an introduction to best practices for diversity, equity and inclusion. The purpose is really to provide them with insights into why this is important from a business perspective. Inclusive leadership is different from just being a good leader. Unconscious bias can get in the way of our organizations and their success. Developing cultural competencies, which is our fourth session, will help an employer engage in diversity and retain that talent and really, hopefully, differentiate themselves because of the diversity. Also, you can help your employer brand a lot when you recognize that diversity elevates you and puts you in a position to not only attract talent, but to build your business and to grow your business. 

Can you give us a synopsis of what you talked about in the first session?

We kicked it off with a business case, because we want to make sure employers understand that there is a real business opportunity here. So, I tried to set the tone for anybody who’s not so sure about this. We talked about the changes in demographics, in our communities we are seeing a greater number of minorities. When you think about the buying power of different communities, buying power for minorities is growing by leaps and bounds whether it’s new Americans, millennials, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Indigenous populations, individuals with disabilities or the LGBTQ+ community. As a business leader, you are trying to gain market share and thinking of diverse populations as a customer, a client, a consumer, and thinking about their buying power is important for businesses who want to develop new products or services or go into a different market. 

Thirdly, there’s a real return on investment. There’s really good data that shows executive teams, boards of directors, and even management teams that are more diverse based on race, ethnicity or gender will have a 25 to 30 percent increase in opportunities for revenue for the organization.

Are there any books that you would recommend to people?

How To Be An Inclusive Leader by Jennifer Brown
White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.