Cultivating Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Environments in Organizations
Updated: Feb 2
What does the phrase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) mean to you? What do you think DEI should look like in a workplace? This month, we want to weigh in on the importance of DEI, and why it should be the foundation you use to create and grow a team and organization. To begin, we should start with the definition of DEI.
“As a discipline, DEI is any policy or practice designed to make people of various backgrounds feel welcome and ensure they have support to perform to the fullest of their abilities in the workplace. Diversity refers to the presence of differences within a given setting; in the workplace, that may mean differences in race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and socioeconomic background. Equity is the act of ensuring that processes and programs are impartial, fair and provide equal possible outcomes for every individual. Inclusion is the practice of making people feel a sense of belonging at work.” - National Tech and Startups, Built In
Approaching a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment is perhaps easy to speak about, but not always a simple issue to tackle and accomplish, simply because ensuring equitable and fair treatment in the workplace may differ from individual to individual. However, the benefits are clear. Creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment can lead to:
increased opportunities to eliminate prejudice and foster growth in creativity, innovation, and more.
improved success surrounding profitability, company reputation, and influence in their communities.
In the words of author and self-proclaimed optimist Simon Sinek, “New ideas need audiences like flowers need bees. No matter how bright and colorful, they will die unless others work to spread them.”
Speaking of ideas, we sought out additional insight from a well-respected source here in the Central Valley. The Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce (FMBCC) is an organization that strives to educate and empower black businesses in the Central Valley. FMBCC envisions an open, thriving market without social, economic, or political barriers to the financial success of Black-owned businesses. They also see a Central Valley where sustainable Black-owned businesses thrive, quality jobs are created and millionaires are made. Considering the cultural diversity across just Fresno County alone, we wanted to evaluate the impacts of cultivating DEI-rich environments as well as examine what challenges underrepresented communities are facing, and ultimately, how we can continue to strengthen our DEI initiatives across the valley. The Chamber offered incredibly valuable insight in the Q&A below:
Q & A With The Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce
1. How does one cultivate an environment that is centered around DEI?
Communication and Training - Training our staff and partners on delivering equitable work is important and necessary. This helps everyone have a fair and equal understanding of the work that needs to be performed and the expectations aligned with that work.
Measure and Evaluate DEI efforts - Through our programs, such as Betting Big on Small Black Businesses and BTAC (Bonding, Technical Assistance (TA), and Contracting), we collect feedback from our program participants and TA partners in an effort to measure cultural competency. This provides us evidence for our DEI efforts, allows us to track progress, and establish goals to strive for in delivering quality services to our members. - Monita Porter, Deputy Director
2. What does DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) look like in action? How do you foster inclusivity in your organization both internally and externally?
Small businesses can foster inclusivity in a number of ways, both internally and externally.
Internally, small businesses can foster inclusivity by creating an open and welcoming environment where everyone feels safe to share their thoughts and ideas. Employees should be encouraged to speak up if they feel that someone is being excluded or marginalized.
Externally, small businesses can foster inclusivity by reaching out to diverse communities and partnering with organizations that promote diversity and inclusion. Small businesses can also make a commitment to hiring a diverse workforce, which will help to create a more inclusive environment for customers and clients.
The Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce echoes inclusivity in our vision and everyday values through communications and measuring our efforts internally and externally through feedback data from participants and TA partners.
-Shatera Sangster, Marketing & Communications Director
3. Have you seen more diverse teams produce profitable or more creative results within your business?
Inclusivity has always been a priority of the Chamber. Throughout my time here, we have been able to produce work that reflects the black experience as well as other cultural groups due to the diverse staff and partnerships that we maintain. Collectively, we have found that we share a host of similarities which makes the work insightful, relevant, and successful.
- Monita Porter, Deputy Director
4. What are some of the difficulties you face surrounding DEI and accomplishing your mission? Could partnering with organizations like the WET Center for resources and opportunities be helpful in overcoming challenges?
We're actively working to create equitable environments for our partners and communities - it's an ongoing effort, after all. To ensure real change is happening, we gain feedback from those around us with the intention of evaluating DEI initiatives. With partnered entities like the WET Center offering awareness and educational support, we continue pushing towards greater success in overcoming these challenges together!
-Shatera Sangster, Marketing & Communications Director
5. How can organizations value different lived experiences once diverse teams are implemented?
Having a leader that is open-minded, willing to listen, inclusive, and fair is the most important aspect an organization can have. It is up to the leader of the organization to set the tone in establishing an environment that translates the importance of different lived experiences, creates a safe space for communication and feedback, and is open to suggestions and alternative perspectives.
If the leader is modeling this work while having policies and procedures that echo an inclusive environment, then it could easily translate to its staff, establishing a healthy work culture and healthy habits.
- Monita Porter, Deputy Director
6. What are some components that larger organizations are missing in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion? Is there anything to add that you haven’t already stated?
A few key components larger organizations may be missing when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion include a safe space for communication, meaningful engagement with vulnerable communities, structured systems and processes to support cultural transformation, language sensitivity, and a grassroots approach to problem solving and programming.
-Shatera Sangster, Marketing & Communications Director
Building off the valuable insight shared by the Chamber’s leadership team, we want to dive even deeper. We found a few more relevant conversations surrounding DEI. Many find that investing in diversity matters as it provides for a more equitable economic foundation, helps make resources accessible to everyone, and prohibits groups from falling off the glass cliff. On a local level, organizations like the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, the Central Valley Community Foundation, and the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation (and many others), offer programs and services that are tailored to all of Fresno’s growing business owners/innovators. On a federal level, the White House signed Executive Order 13985 (Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government), which established that affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our Government. Organizations such as the ones we have listed here, along with the WET Center, continue to provide opportunities to further DEI efforts, help bridge current gaps and foster continuous and progressive growth.
“Much like the problems that many local and federal organizations may be experiencing, but are equally working to solve, the water, energy, and agtech sector faces similar issues,” said Helle Petersen, Director of the Water, Energy, and Technology (WET) Center. “Though it’s clear that the lack of equity in these areas are detrimental to innovation, our organization works to both search for, and offer, a plethora of avenues that amplify the diversification of the sector while implementing equity and inclusivity. One way we are changing the narrative is by developing programs of our own to support underserved communities here in the Central Valley, such as through our Central Valley iHUB,” she said.
The Central Valley iHUB accelerates technology and science-based firms in key industry areas with a strong outreach focus on diverse founders and ventures in underserved geographies and regions. Much like the connections that iHUB creates, Rural Rise works to increase opportunities for small and rural communities. The Kauffman Foundation helps unlock opportunities for all so that people can achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography.
Circling back to the San Joaquin Valley, Fresno State implements bold, focused strategies designed to maximize success for the student body. This bold ideology expands into Fresno State’s work with business owners in the greater Central Valley community as well. As an organization taking part in Fresno State’s ecosystem, the WET Center also aligns with its core values of Diversity, Discovery, and Distinction. However, there is always more work to be done as we strive for excellence. On December 9, 2022, Fresno State welcomed its first University Diversity Officer, Dr. Rashanda Booker, who hopes to start building relationships and connecting with people right away.
“I’m going to come in, be a team player, learn and work collaboratively across the campus on diversity education and policy review,” she said. “I’m excited to join a university culture so ready to move forward on diversity,” said Dr. Booker.
Moving forward takes time, effort, teamwork, and education. While Dr. Booker works on advancing the university as a whole regarding DEI, the WET Center team also has roles in our organization to do the same.
“Here at the WET Center, we have the unique opportunity to practice inclusion at the most foundational level. Water, energy, and agriculture are the core of human existence and the lifeblood of our society,” said Samuel Fairbanks, Community Engagement and Outreach Specialist for the WET Center. “By ensuring people from all walks of life are exposed to, and involved in, issues facing our climate and our food we are actively contributing to a healthier world. Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, famously explained, ‘The environment and the economy are really both two sides of the same coin. If we cannot sustain the environment, we cannot sustain ourselves.’ I am happy to work somewhere that is focused on creating a healthy community and economy for all people,” said Fairbanks.
So, here are our key takeaways:
We all have to work together if we want to cultivate diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments.
Cultivating DEI environments is beneficial to everyone, inside and outside the business world.
There are opportunities and programs in the Central Valley that are here to help.
Whether it is outreach, creating inclusive marketing content, tabling at events, or even speaking among peers and organizations, there are many ways we can take part in fostering DEI both internally and externally.
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This article is a collaborative effort made by the following individuals.
Macy Myers- Student Communications and Outreach Assistant WET Center
Alexis Ford- Public Relations and Communications Coordinator WET Center
Sam Fairbanks- Community Engagement and Outreach Specialist WET Center
Helle Petersen- Director of the WET Center
Shatera Sangster- Marketing and Communications Director Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce
Monita Porter- Deputy Director Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce
Funding & Other Opportunities
AgFunder's Fund IV for Next Gen Ag Tech
California Energy Commission Clean Energy & Technology Grants
NSF Small Business Innovation Research/ Small Business Technology Transfer Program Phase I (SBIR/STTR Phase I)
Deadline: March 1, 2023
CalSEED Applications Are Open!
Deadline: Through March 5
GFO-22-301 – Commercialization Industrial Decarbonization (2022 CID Program)
Deadline: March 6, 2023
Deadline: April 30, 2023
California Department of Water Resources-Small Community Drought Relief Program
Deadline: Until December 2023
Additional funding and other opportunities!
Members in the News
BioFiltro Reimagines Winery Process Water to Enhance Vineyards and Provide WDR Compliance
Re-Nuble featured on ASU Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance
Membrion announces $7M in Series B funding to continue expanding ceramic desalination membranes used for water recovery.
Verdi wins a Thrive Global Impact Challenge Award
Membrion announces its collaboration with W. L. Gore & Associates to develop ultra-thin ceramic ion exchange membranes for energy efficient desalination of harsh wastewater streams.
Have a great story to share with our team?
In the News
Relyion Works With Nissan to Retire Batteries From Leaf EV
China Raising Self Reliance in Ag Tech
Opportunities and Challenges Surrounding Water Electricity Generation
How Remote Work Can Increase Business Profits
US National Blueprint for Decarbonization
DOE Launches 50 Mill program for Clean Energy
WET Center and Partner Events
Feb 2nd - UC Berkley Haas-CleanTech2Market Informational Seminar
Feb 3rd-Startup Factory Monterey Bay
Feb 6th- Betting Big on Small Black Businesses
Feb 9th- Mária Telkes Fellowship Showcase
Feb 15th- Startup Grind Sacramento: Getting Grants for Your Startup
Feb 15th- Ideas into Action: Define Your Customer and Market Workshop
Feb 16th- WET Center Innovation Pitch Event at the World Ag Expo
Feb 21st- Community Education & Technology Center Commercial Workshops
See more events by going to our WET Center Calendar!
February 15th - CalSEED Concept Award Virtual Info Session #2
February 23-24th- USDA’s 99th annual Agricultural Outlook Forum (AOF), will be held in-person at the Crystal City Gateway Marriott
Feb 26th- Application due Ag Funder Grow Accelerator