By Bryan Boggiano
The Coral Springs Coconut Creek Regional Chamber hosted its third annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Summit Tuesday, bringing together community business leaders to hear from a panel of distinguished guests about diversity in the workplace, among other topics.
Panelists included Fiserv Vice President Dr. Simone Dienna Arnold, Equality Florida Press Secretary Brandon Wolf, Rabbi Yossie Denburg of Coral Springs Chabad, and Sgt. Barbara Hendrickx of the Broward Multi-Agency Pride Coalition. Local 10 Chief Certified Meteorologist Betty Davis moderated.
They addressed topics including the importance of DEI for businesses, employees, and customers, unintentional discrimination and productivity, and state DEI restrictions.
Davis, one of the few black women chief meteorologists in the country, said it is important for women of color to be in broadcast positions, especially in leadership.
With DEI programs, there would be more opportunities for everybody to be seen.
“DEI is not about preferential treatment that puts one group above another, but it can bring more qualified people into the job market,” she said.
Arnold, who was born in Guyana and is of Black and Asian descent, grew up on what she calls “Diversity Avenue,” with people of various backgrounds, races, skills, and cultures.
In her personal and professional experience, the road to success is difficult for those who are different. “Let’s denounce hate by walk, talk, check and chalk,” she said. “DEI is good business and good for businesses everywhere.”
Arnold shared how Fiserv promotes diversity for small businesses, nonprofits, and historically underrepresented communities. Fiserv rallied with management to invest $50 million in their Back2Business program to help small minority-owned businesses following the pandemic.
“I want us to be remembered as the group that really embarked on making a difference,” she said.
For the LGBTQ+ community, representation matters when it comes to law enforcement said Hendrickx. Community members must trust law enforcement to accept them, regardless. One important task Hendrickx undertakes with various agencies, she said, is training officers to be sensitive when it comes to the pronouns people use and respecting gender identity.
“It’s making sure we know how to interact with our community to make them feel comfortable,” she said.
Rabbi Denburg addressed the community comfort aspect, too. He said for his members, a synagogue is a safe place, regardless of one’s differences.
“Since I was a child, I knew when God made our world, he was as diverse as diverse can be,” he said.
Denburg said people and businesses should embrace diversity and accept each other’s differences, and businesses should foster a culture of acceptance. If they have to convince employees that they are part of a team or family, he said it is the wrong company to work for.
Wolf, originally from rural Oregon, moved to Orlando in 2016, where he said he could be “very gay and very brown.”
Everything was normal until June 12, 2016, when that night, he went to Pulse Night Club in Orlando with his best friend, Christopher Andre Leinonen, and Leinonen’s boyfriend, Juan Ramon Guerrero. Both were among the 49 people killed.
In their honor, Wolf became active and began working to make a difference both of them could be proud of.
While people can inform themselves, ask questions, volunteer, donate, show up to school board or government meetings, and make themselves heard, change does not have to be big. He said Lionen changed the world just by being himself, and that challenged him to be unapologetically himself.
DEI is necessary, not optional, for good business, adding that although politicians write such laws vaguely in order for others to comply in an extreme fashion, people should not abandon their morals.
“It is not political for your values to mean something,” he said. “It is not political for you to go to bat for your employees or your customers.”
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- A University of Florida journalism graduate, Bryan is pursuing his masters in geosciences at Florida International University. He has a strong interest in weather, entertainment, and journalism.
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