Maintaining the emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion

Maintaining the emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion

2022-01-21T14:37:03-05:00January 20th, 2022|Economy, New Jersey|

Writer: Sara Suarez

2 min read January 2021 — What do higher education, professional services, healthcare and construction in New Jersey all have in common? They are all engaging with one megatrend: diversity, equity, and inclusion. Invest: spoke with key leaders in New Jersey’s most prominent industries about the importance that promoting DEI plays, and will continue to play, for their businesses and the economy. 

Gene Waddy, CEO, Alpha Business Solutions

New Jersey companies are increasingly focusing on diversity and inclusion because they recognize that the demographics in this country are changing.  Nationally, and within New Jersey, populations are becoming more ethnically and racially diverse.  Forward-thinking companies understand that to succeed, they will have to recognize the buying power and political clout of these newly-empowered and growing populations.  These strategic moves include developing and marketing products aimed at diverse populations as well as the hiring of people, at all levels, that are representative of the communities they’re seeking to serve.  For Fortune 500 firms, the emphasis on diversity and inclusion extends into the supply chain.  Larger companies are implementing supplier diversity programs, increasing contractual opportunities for certified MBEs.  

This focus on economic inclusion can help provide more and better opportunities and outcomes for everyone.  Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is more than a popular catchphrase; it encompasses a practical strategy for achieving economic growth at the state and national levels.  I’ve been doing business in New Jersey for 25 years and I’ve seen what the public and private sectors are now realizing- the importance of including everyone in the economy, so that we all may benefit.  

Margaret McMenamin, President, Union County College

Historically, minorities have not graduated from universities at the same rate as the majority of students have. Our route to social justice is through education and we have focused like a laser beam on ensuring that everyone who comes to Union County College has a very good opportunity to receive their diploma. However, getting people across the finish line is not the end of our work. We want to help them find that job or help them find a four-year college that has appropriate support as well as education. The system of education was built to exclude minority groups that are now the majority. We are trying to reverse that. We have done away with barriers to education to allow those without the finances to succeed equally.  

This is part of the national conversation about developmental education and how it impacts people of color disproportionately. Data from the community college research center at Columbia shows that developmental education doesn’t really help people to succeed, so we are just feeding a monster that only brings in revenue but no results. We’ve done a couple of pilot studies to get rid of developmental education and one showed that students who went to tutoring five times a semester passed at a higher rate than students who tested into the higher course. We implemented direct self-placement, where an adviser sits with a student to decide courses and determine what they can handle. 

Paul Marino, New Jersey Office Managing Partner, Day Pitney

We are making continual progress to both meet and exceed our goal of creating a welcoming and diverse firm for all. With this in mind, we created a Racial Justice & Equity Task Force whose mission is to serve as change agents in effecting measurable and sustained change within our communities and the legal profession. Our effort includes pro bono work with organizations and individuals that help fight against systemic racism. 

David Sussman, Managing Partner, Duane Morris

Diversity and inclusion are parts of an important and timely discussion. Our law firm is incredibly active and it has been incredibly active, not because everybody else is doing it but because it’s the right thing to do, and more importantly because diversity for people results in diversity of thought, which results in a more complete ability to counsel our clients. I’m in the business of counseling clients well and that matters to me. Having more diversity, equity and inclusion helps us be better at our jobs. We are very aware of that.

Steven Libutti, Director, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

The concept of healthcare as a right is a real one. We need to make sure that we’re lowering the barriers not only to access care but also to pay for it. It is not just the morbidity of the disease itself but there’s a financial morbidity associated with these complex diagnoses. We have to be committed to our communities that have historically had challenges to accessing healthcare. Ethnic and racial biases also exist, and we have to recognize that to correct that, we need to break through barriers. We take all of those things very seriously. We have a number of programs that reach out into our communities to better understand how we can lower those barriers. We have a Community Action Board that’s part of our Community Outreach and Engagement Program. These are members of and leaders within our communities, such as religious or business leaders, folks who reside in various areas of our community, who help to give us feedback and guidance on where we can do better and how we can better connect with our communities.  

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