2022 Projection: It’s going to be a rough ride. DEI is going to be used as a political tool. My hope is that good will continue to prevail in spite of it. We can choose to be better.
You’re about six months into your role at the Multicultural Business Association. What are your first impressions?
It’s exactly what I hoped it would be and nothing that I thought it would be, if that makes any sense. It’s completely out of the realm of what I’ve been used to in the financial sector. I’m working with multicultural business owners and leaders and trying to move forward. It’s rewarding because I can see how the work that we do directly affects people in real time because it affects their business.
Let’s talk about the organization’s recent name change. What was the philosophy behind that?
When I interviewed, I had conversations with each of the board members to see what each thought the organization was doing well, what we could improve on and what they wanted for the future. The common denominator was inclusivity, making sure we’re here to serve women and people of diverse backgrounds. After I was hired, I had a conversation with a friend who said, “Oh, is that for Black business owners?” I said, “No, it’s for anyone from a diverse background – women, veterans, disabled.” I went to the board and said, “We have to clarify this; everyone should feel welcome.” We decided the best plan of action was to change our name.
Are we where we need to be with diversity, equity and inclusion in our community?
We’re not where we used to be, but that’s the easy answer. There are good people in this community, but there are good people in every community. It doesn’t change until good people put their money where their mouth is. It doesn’t change until we actually prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion. We can’t pull back because the landscape is rougher now. It’s been rough for multicultural people for a long time. While we aren’t where we were, it’s more important today to intentionally make it a priority. We can’t shrink; we have to grow in this area. How? It’s in the decisions you make, the words you speak, the things you defend. Just watching the landscape of the critical race theory discussion, it’s disappointing that it’s happening because there have been so many inroads made in diversity, equity and inclusion.
What are the biggest barriers to increasing diversity in the marketplace?
We’re already operating at a deficit. Any time you’re operating in a deficit, we know resources, time and planning will be necessary. From what I understand, there has been lots of discussion with public entities about increasing contracts for minorities, but it stops with the argument they don’t have the capacity because they’re undercapitalized. Do we throw up our hands and say they’re just not big enough? No. It’s giving them enough small jobs so they can grow so they are big enough. We have to have all three of those things to make a real change in multicultural businesses.
CoxHealth and the city of Springfield recently made headlines for hiring DEI directors. What impact do you think that will have?
It’s a step in the right direction, absolutely. With the pandemic, we’ve learned how big of a gap there is in health care with multicultural backgrounds. My hope is that now we have good people in those roles, we are moving the needle.
Adrianna Norris became a first-time business owner with the opening of Finley River Chiropractic; PaPPo’s Pizzeria & Pub launched its newest location; and Huey Magoo’s opened its second store in the Ozarks.