Speaker will share best practices in building a diverse workforce

Diversity Matters

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With Pittsburgh's decadeslong slide in population finally arrested, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the city is rebranding itself as destination for young professionals keen on the allure of urban living.

Crucial to the city's continued growth as a "work, play, life" locale is the ability of local businesses to attract and retain a diverse workforce, said Melanie Harrington, CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh, which will host a discussion on the subject next month for local employers, part of a series on best practices in diversity and inclusion.

"Our region needs to grow. We are still trying to rebound from decades of population decline," Ms. Harrington said. "It will directly contribute to our ability to be economically competitive."

The Nov. 13 event, "Inclusion, Innovation and the Bottom Line," will feature Shari Slate, chief inclusion and collaboration strategist at IT giant Cisco Systems Inc., headquartered in San Jose, Calif.

"She is embarking on some really visionary and forward-thinking efforts for her organization to create inclusion," Ms. Harrington said.

Ms. Slate could not be reached for an interview.

The series, launched last summer by the 3-year-old nonprofit, will feature speakers about once a quarter. In August, Anthony Carter, chief diversity officer for New Jersey health care company Johnson and Johnson, addressed representatives from the government and nonprofit sectors.

Ms. Harrington defines diversity as "the mixture of differences and similarities" in a given environment. Augmenting that mix means increasing the ability to "fully engage people who have various ideas, approaches, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and economic backgrounds," she said.

Pursuing diversity pays real dividends for businesses, said Susan Yohe, who heads the Pittsburgh office of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney and chairs the law firm's diversity committee.

"A diverse workforce comes up with better ideas," Ms. Yohe said, adding that increasing diversity is also "the right thing to do" to ensure that qualified people of all backgrounds have the opportunities they deserve.

A third reason is simpler.

"Our clients demand it," Ms. Yohe said. "Our clients want to see us look like they do."

Ms. Yohe, who attended the August workshop and helped moderate the discussion, called it an energizing experience.

With various departments and facets of any business or organization competing for attention and resources, Ms. Yohe said the Vibrant Pittsburgh event, including a lively question-and-answer session, gave her a new focus on the mission and its importance.

"You're reminded of why you care and why other people care, and you go out of there with a great sense of energy," she said.

The workshop will be from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Nov. 13 at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, 980 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh. Cost is $50 per person, though it is free for Vibrant Pittsburgh members. Pittsburgh Human Resources Association members and Human Resources Leadership Forum members can attend for $30.

For more information on the Inclusion Best Practices Series, go online to http://vibrantpittsburgh.org/inclusion-best-practices-series/ or call 412-281-8600.

Future sessions are:

• Feb. 12: Mentoring as a Diversity and Inclusion and Elevation Strategy

• April 9: Employee Resource Groups and Your Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

• June 11: Benchmarking, Tracking and Measuring your Diversity and Inclusion Strategies


Robert Zullo: rzullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3909. First Published October 12, 2013 8:00 PM


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