Georgia business leaders say DE&I efforts are making progress but there’s still a way to go

Chris Clark, the Chamber's President and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce delivering his opening remarks at the Summit. (Marlon Hyde/ WABE)

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit in Atlanta, featuring panel discussions on creating inclusive workplace environments for people with disabilities, advancing anti-racist policies and practices and strategies for creating a successful multigenerational workforce.

Chris Clark, the Chamber’s president and CEO, notes that people are more aware of the impact of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within the state’s business community.

“What we’re seeing is more and more companies are looking at DE&I as a part of the solution to deal with the workforce shortage,” said Clark.

Chris Clark, the Chamber’s President and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce delivering his opening remarks at the Summit. (Marlon Hyde/WABE)

Racial minorities made up almost 40% of workers and owned over 36% percent of businesses in the state, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“DEI means ensuring that the Hispanic community isn’t left behind in our conversations,” Verónica Maldonado-Torres, president and CEO of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber.

As Georgia grows more diverse, businesses must adjust to the changing labor market.

“That we are being inclusive in corporate America, that we are driving dollars and opportunities to build the capacity of this community, and that we are inviting the community to the table to be able to create a pathway of prosperity for everyone,” said Torres.

Verónica Maldonado-Torres is the President and CEO of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber. (Marlon Hyde/WABE)

However, she says there are still areas for improvement.

“It comes to ensuring that we’re bringing folks in from all diverse communities in our workforce and our supplier base.”

“We’ve got to find ways to continue to work with folks who may have a disability. We’ve got to find ways to embrace and engage diverse and women-owned and other firms that are looking to do business with corporations,” added Crystal Shahid, the Market President in Columbus, Georgia, for Truist Bank and a member of the Georgia Chamber board of directors.

David Gacsko of OUT Georgia Business Alliance says that increased support for the LGTBQ-plus community from the Chamber has helped grow the organization statewide.

“These affiliate partnerships that we have with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce are only allowing us to go and expand our reach even further,” said Gacsko.

As investments in EV manufacturing here continue to snowball, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce says it is focused on welcoming these businesses and helping these companies diversify their suppliers.