By staff writer

April 2019

Orlando has a diverse economy and demographics, and with this diversity comes the need to create opportunities for women and minorities. The city’s population has grown by 51 percent over the past 19 years — almost three times the national average  — so catering to the accompanying surge in minority and female residents has become a priority.

The Census Bureau’s 2016 survey showed that minorities now make up nearly 40 percent of Orlando’s 280,000 residents, and that Hispanics represent about 30 percent of that total. Florida boasts the fourth-highest percentage of jobs generated by immigrant-owned businesses, and the city of Orlando recently received the top score in the government leadership category in the New American Economy Cities Index, which measures municipalities’ effectiveness in integrating immigrants.

The city also received a near-perfect score in socio-economic livability, which measures immigrants’ quality of life fin areas such as housing, healthcare and education. “When the local government actively supports immigrant integration into economic and civic life, other local organizations follow. It starts with representation, and the city of Orlando employs many of our foreign-born residents,” Buddy Dyer, the mayor of Orlando, wrote recently in a column for the Orlando Sentinel.

Local universities and colleges also offer a variety of programs for minorities and foreign-born residents. For example, the University of Central Florida has a Diversity in Contracts program that aims to create an equitable purchasing environment for all businesses by working to remove opportunity barriers.

Entities such as the Minority Business Development Agency, the Office of Supplier Diversity, the Hispanic Office for Local Assistance and the Office of Multicultural Affairs are some of the organizations committed to helping minorities move up in the city.

In addition, public and private organizations have developed efforts to create opportunities for women throughout the area. For example, the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce recently launched a pilot program to identify talented professionals — mostly women with degrees who have stayed home to raise a family and wish to re-enter the workforce. The program aims to help chamber members meet the challenge of attracting and retaining talent, while giving support to women returning to the workplace.

“Through this pilot return-to-work program we placed 83 percent of the participating women within six months in local and global companies,” Betsy Gardner Eckbert, President and CEO of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce told Invest:. “We’re very excited to have the ability to furnish our members with a talent base of people who are reliable and have the skills and talents they’re looking for.”

Florida is doing better than most in fulfilling its mission to provide opportunities for women. Today, the state boasts 1.4 percent more self-employed females than the average state, according to the State of Small Business Report. Moreover, between 2002 and 2016, Florida was ranked No. 1 in the growth of women-owned businesses, reported the South Florida Business Journal.

To learn more about our interviewees, please visit:

Winter Park Chamber of Commerce: https://winterpark.org/