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2024 Inclusion Outlook: Aaron Schekorra

Executive Director, The GLO Center

Posted online

Schekorra’s 2024 Projection: An election year will mean a rough political environment for marginalized communities.

You start this month as executive director of The GLO Center, a Springfield-based nonprofit that serves the LGBTQ+ community. Can you talk about what The GLO Center does?
The GLO Center develops programs and advocacy, and provides training and education to folks in the community to make this community overall a more inclusive place. We have support groups for a variety of different identities and age groups, as well as providing spaces for queer individuals to build community and meet new people, especially if they’re new to the area or they’re recently out.

What’s the importance of representation among diverse people in the Springfield business community?
For those of us who are part of a marginalized community, part of a minority group, I think having that representation across businesses is really important because it shows us that, from a business standpoint, the organizations that we’re putting our money in actually support us and support the community. That representation when I’m looking for employment, it shows us beyond just a statement of nondiscrimination – because everybody has a statement of nondiscrimination – that these spaces are actually inclusive and safe for all people. We lose a lot of people to other areas because we lack diversity and inclusion here in Springfield.

Media reports have indicated hiring for diversity, equity and inclusion roles are on the downswing after increasing in the period after the pandemic. What would you attribute this to? What do you predict in 2024?
Whether or not it was intended to be appeasement at the time, it’s feeling a lot more like appeasement because the second the economic shift happened ... these roles were some of the first to get cut, because they’re not directly bringing in dollars into a business in a lot of cases. There’s a lot of arguments to be made that, indirectly, there are economic benefits to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in the long term. But if you’re looking at a spreadsheet, they’re going to cut the positions either because they never intended on really making the changes that they pledged to make when it was politically easier to do so or because they’re just looking at their bottom line. It does kind of separate businesses that meant what they said in 2020 and 2021 versus those who were just sort of following the movement. That separation could actually end up being good because we’ll see businesses benefit and thrive who do prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion, and that may bring some of those other businesses back around to taking another stab at this.

What steps can businesses take in the near term to be more inclusive?
Training and education are necessary so we can make sure we’re making the right changes. But at some point, we have to take that knowledge that we’re gaining from these conversations, from bringing in speakers, from reading books and whatever else people were doing over the last couple of years, to make that commitment to DEI. We need to start putting that into action. We have the Ozarks Inclusion Project, which started in 2018, and we’re wanting to really ramp back up here in the next year. We have the opportunity to do not only trainings but also help businesses implement best practices for employing and serving members of the LGBTQ+ community. Businesses can make change in their own spaces. They can make change in others. Serving on nonprofit boards, county and city commissions – these are places where we can use that influence and use that support for more inclusion in our community to try to make changes within all organizations.

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