The push for increased diversity in the workplace must come from businesses and economic players across the board said speakers at the Comcast Center Monday morning.
“Diversity is a business,” said Varsovia Fernandez, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Diversity is no joke. Diversity is not about let’s hire someone because of how they look or where they’re from. Diversity is about markets. It is about the future of your company. It is about your vision.”
That morning, members of the city’s business community gathered to hear panels and discussions on different topics in what Comcast called a "Diversity and Inclusion Summit". According to David Cohen, senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer for Comcast, this was the first event of its kind Comcast has held.
“These diversity topics matter significantly to the advancement of our businesses,” said Cohen. “They directly influence Philadelphia’s evolution to a first-class and world-class city to visit, live, work, run a business and raise a family.”
A total of four panels made up the half-day event. Topics included age diversity, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiatives and supplier diversity. Panelists included members of different chambers of commerce, local business leaders and representatives from business-oriented nonprofits and startups.
“We fully understand, that when it comes to diversity inclusion, that we have a shared moral obligation and a constitutional responsibility,” said Rob Wonderling, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
Cohen called on business leaders in Philadelphia to think about workplace diversity as they look to advance their companies. He said the topic has historically been thought of as government program or involving government programs. He said he has resisted that characterization for many years.
“The real response to inclusion has to be with all of us as a business community,” said Cohen. “It should be with all of us because there is a business imperative for diversity inclusion. It makes businesses a better place to work and more successful.”
When Comcast reached out to local chambers of commerce for input on the summit, Cohen said there was “overwhelming support” to put a spotlight on diversity inclusion in Philadelphia. He said there has been a push from local chambers to drive change in make-up of the workforce in the city. Wonderling agreed.
“We fundamentally care about economic growth and prosperity for all,” said Wonderling. “Chambers of Commerce have historically been the vanguard of pretty much any economic change you can imagine and because we’re hearty business types, we are concerned with how it comes along.”
Cohen cited the newest Pew Charitable Trust study on the state of the city which said 48 percent of people polled believed the city was going in the right direction and that 67 percent believe the city will be a better place to live in five years.
“Like any other data, you can look at this and say anything that you want about it,” he said. “To be fair, I think the data is moderately ok and maybe slightly better than moderate. But for all of those who care deeply about Philadelphia, moderately is not good enough.”