By Jim Giammarinaro
President & CEO of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce
FRAMINGHAM – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) continues to be a major focus at our Chamber. Under the lead of our Vice Chair of DEI Towma Rastad, we continue to expand our team working in this area.
Members of our team included community leaders from the city of Framingham, local universities, local non-profits, and our Board Of Directors. We formerly come together as a team every other month and continue to work on initiatives between meetings.
This column will summarize some of our recent efforts.
A few weeks ago, we met with leaders from the Massachusetts LGBT chamber. We had a good meeting and spoke of ways to collaborate moving forward. The concept of reciprocal memberships within each other’s chamber was discussed. Both chamber’s leadership teams were in favor of having a reciprocal membership. The concept was discussed at our May Executive Committee meeting and approved to initiate a Board of Directors vote. Our full Board voted unanimously to move forward with reciprocal membership.
This means that any member of our Chamber members would become a member in good standing in the LGBT chamber at no additional costs. The same would be true in reverse, where any member of the LGBT chamber would become members of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce at no additional cost.
We are in the process of finalizing this arrangement. This would expand offerings to members of both chambers when it comes to networking, training, marketing, and advocacy.
Our Chamber is at the beginnings of a collaborative working relationship with Maritsa Barros, Framingham’s Chief Diversity Officer. After initial meetings with the chamber staff and Barros, she presented her goals at both our chamber’s BOD meeting and DEI meeting. She has been able to connect with some of our larger members regarding her planned internship program in conjunction with Mass Hire as well as connecting with our members from the Autism Alliance and TLC Deaf focusing on inclusion of individuals with physical, developmental and cognitive disabilities within the city’s DEI objectives.
Our collaboration with the Latinx community and Anthony Lucivero from Downtown Framingham Inc. continues. Recently we led a chamber speed networking event with a video highlighting Panza Shoes and a Q&A for their leadership team after the video. We have additional videos planned for future lead-ins to our speed networking. Downtown Framingham Inc. has participated in our chamber’s Public Policy meetings and is a regular participant in our Business Growth in Framingham team. In addition, we are at the initial stages of planning a speed networking event for October which will be held at a Downtown Framingham restaurant and include businesses from our chamber as well as downtown Framingham businesses. This event is being led by two of our Board members from the Latinx community.
Recently we met with Frances West who is a global strategist and advisor focusing on technology inclusion. She worked at IBM for 36 years and is their former Chief Accessibility Officer. She is the first female technologist to speak on digital inclusion at the United Nations and testified to the US Senate
Foreign Relations Committee. She is the author of Authentic Inclusion and continues to work towards providing access to technology for individuals from underrepresented populations as well as individuals with disabilities. We will have the honor of Frances presenting at our upcoming June Board meeting. At that time, she will share concepts on what our area businesses can do to provide expanded access to technology as well as creating job opportunities for individuals who typically may have been left out of jobs in the area of technology.
Our Chamber has plans for multiple upcoming webinars on topics relating to Diversity Equity and Inclusion. In addition, we are at the early stages of developing our DEI page on our website. Under Towma’s leadership we will be reaching out to a variety of partners to keep our web page relevant and
inclusive of access to current articles and events relating to DEI.
Our belief at the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce is that being inclusive is not only the right thing to do but will be essential for organizational success moving forward. Our workforce is changing.
Moving forward it is estimated that up to 40% of our nation’s workforce will be non-white. Successful organizations will be those who can create a climate of inclusion where individuals form various backgrounds and abilities can come together in a healthy work environment to achieve that
organization’s goals. We are hopeful that as our chamber organizations adapt to their changing work environment to become more inclusive, that the same evolution will take hold outside of work so that we can all come together to “live, work, and play” in a community that is inclusive and respectful to all.
Editor’s Note: SOURCE and the MetroWest Chamber have formed a partnership. The Chamber’s column will run on Tuesdays on the digital news media outlet.