Local CEOs help diverse businesses throughout Greater Philadelphia region
It's all about providing access.
The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia is making huge efforts in engaging minority-, LGBTQ-, and disability-owned businesses.
To strengthen that effort, the organization launched the CEO Access Network as part of the organization’s diversity and inclusion program.
Its purpose is to pair business leaders from large and prominent businesses throughout the region with underrepresented minority-, LGBTQ-, women-, and disability-owned enterprises.
“This program allows small business owners to learn from experienced executives able to share their relationships,” said Varsovia Fernandez, Senior Vice President & Philadelphia Market Executive at Customers Bank.
“In the end, business owners want to grow their business and to do so they need to meet potential clients,” she added.
Through this network, small business owners are afforded the opportunity to gain access and interact with Chamber members.
“The program also helps the business owner build capacity, because to grow, one needs to allocate resources to support such growth,” Fernandez said to this end.
Since its inception in 2010, CEO Access Network has made 97 match pairings across a variety of different industries, garnering 194 alumni.
The Chamber sees diversity and inclusion as critical components for business maturation and growth, and the CEO Access Network helps provide that.
“We try to advance our diversity and inclusion efforts from the workplace to the workforce and marketplace,” Shawnna Williams, Coordinator for Member Engagement and Diversity & Inclusion at the Chamber of Commerce for the Greater Philadelphia, said.
“With the mission of helping economic growth in the region, [the CEO Access Network] helped kind of build a pipeline of minority leaders that are well-connected in the large businesses in the region, which I think is very important,” she continued.
Fernandez shared similar sentiments when asked about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the business world.
“Diversity and inclusion are part of us all; the concept is based on who we are as a people,” Fernandez said. “Diversity allows us to look like the markets we serve… this is necessary to attract customers.”
“Inclusion allows employers and buyers to capitalize from what everyone has to offer… enables diversity of thought and gives us all an opportunity to allow others to participate and to contribute,” she continued.
While there are many large organizations with diversity and inclusion initiatives, it takes a collaborative effort to implement it to a point where it benefits many outside the confines of that organization. This network has allowed the Chamber to broaden its reach and benefit the several smaller businesses throughout the region.
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