So Teri approached me and asked if I would help develop a equity, diversity and leadership workshop series targeted at startups and small businesses that would offer practical knowledge on these topics at an affordable price? As the former principal research director for Microsoft, I focused on diversity and specifically bring more underrepresented groups into computing, so this was in my wheelhouse. I opened the Ranemaker Institute and began developing the TAO workshop series, researching, and working with the City of Bend and the Bend Chamber on how we could better support our City’s equity needs.
As a result, TAO launched the Diversity Leadership Series a few months ago. These workshops, which I lead, are for all industry sectors not just technology and provide hands on learning for our businesses, non-profits and government agencies at an affordable price. The workshops will help employees, managers and senior leaders determine how to deal with unconscious biases, harassment, recruitment, retention and advancement of a diverse workforce, managing across generations and a number of other topics to help businesses better serve their customers and increase employee satisfaction.
There’s been other progress as well. The City of Bend passed a unanimous resolution on March 7th to aspire to be the most inclusive city in Oregon and in America. Bend also wants to be proactive in supporting our growing community. Most of our population in Central Oregon works for businesses with less than 100 people. These businesses create goods and services that must meet the needs of a diverse population that either visits the region or is distributed globally. I launched the Inclusive Innovation Initiative to provide a committee to tackle difficult equity and inclusion issues facing our city, the workshop series and free advising.
I’ve also been offering advising hours to start-ups and small businesses via the SBDC at COCC. I’ll be advising businesses on issues such as diversity, inclusion and equity. I’ll also provide support for under-represented groups considering starting a new business. You can schedule a meeting today.
When we suggest we need to expand organizational diversity it doesn’t mean ‘affirmative action’ per se. Instead it often means looking at the broader definition. Asking ourselves, do we have members on our team that are adding value because of their different race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, veteran status, abilities, age, skill set, knowledge, culture, education, and training? Do these members push us to think, approach problems, and create solutions in different ways.
Bend is growing at an exceptionally fast rate, and our region’s diversity is growing. Inclusion helps us recognize that everyone’s voice and opinion matter and there are different strategies we should take to ensure each voice has the same level of importance. In speaking with organizations, I explain that, “Most people have good intentions and with a little education, such as utilizing strategies to better connect, we can work more effectively with each other and remove a lot of misunderstandings.