2012 Diversity Winners Embrace the Differences

Diversity probably has as many definitions as there are differences among people. The usual definitions in the corporate and public sectors tend to describe differences of race, ethnicity or gender. Some of the winners of Corp! 2012 Salute to Diversity Awards, challenge and stretch that definition to encompass diversity of thought, of skill sets and abilities, of experiences, even of domestic circumstance. The winners were highlighted in Corp! magazine’s Salute to Diversity ceremony Aug. 28 at MGM Grand Casino in Detroit.

It wasn’t too long ago that the term “diversity” started popping up in corporate mission statements as a core value. Perhaps in the beginning, industries and organizations found the drive toward diversity necessary for political correctness, but not necessarily beneficial to the bottom line.

A funny thing happened though. When you get a bunch of people of different backgrounds and experiences together to work toward a common goal, whether it’s market share or a philanthropic cause, things get shaken up, and in a good way.

Tel Ganesan, president of Kyyba Inc., describes how the increase of diversity in his company coincided with positive business results. “It was starting to trend that way and then I found as a result, the company was growing rapidly and I said, ‘Hey that’s the reason.'”

One simple reason why a diverse workplace benefits organizations is that people want to work and shop and frequent places that recognize them and make them feel welcome. Richard Bernstein, senior partner and head of the public sector litigation at Sam Bernstein Law Firm, said when University of Michigan put in handicapped seating at its football stadium, it found that section was consistently sold out.

Bing Goei of Eastern Floral points out that major stores like Meijer and Wal-Mart always

have an ethnic aisle today to address the changing marketplace and small companies had better follow suit or perish. He found that in his own floral industry, the marketplace has changed dramatically from the predominately white, upper middle class buyers of the 1950s.

“As demographics change, you make the adjustment,” said Goei. “We do recognize that understanding and managing (of) growing cultural changes is going to be critical, especially if you are a small business.”

As Bernstein puts it, “The key and beautiful thing about life is trying to appreciate and understand what everyone’s story is. What’s your story?”

Here are 33 stories of diversity from this year’s winners:

BAE Industries Inc.

Diversity Focused Companies

Auburn Hills
BAE Industries is registered with the MMBDC as a minority-owned business. It is an ISO certified supplier of metal stampings, assemblies and mechanisms. As a proven leader in the metal manufacturing industry, BAE Industries offers a wide range of manufacturing services, beginning with the prototype stage and progressing to full manufacturing, production, assembly and delivery of engineered products, according to its website.

Big Tent Jobs LLC

Diversity Focused Companies

Adam Kaplan, CEO of Big Tent Jobs, a recruiting firm for technical career opportunities, said his daughters’ disabilities inspired him to actively seek qualified people with disabilities, especially veterans, to place in job positions. Kaplan has been involved in the disabled community since his daughter’s birth in 2003. “We looked at the market for hiring people with disabilities, including veterans, and were dismayed at the statistics,” said Kaplan. The national job participation rate for people with disabilities is about 35 percent compared with 79 percent for those of working age without disabilities.

“In the talent business, it’s all about having access to individuals with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences,” said Kaplan. “What true diversity means to Big Tent is for companies to look beyond the traditional talent market and also include people with disabilities who bring many diverse and interesting backgrounds and experiences that can help make companies better.” Kaplan said Big Tent Jobs has successfully placed disabled veterans and other people with disabilities in jobs for his clients. “This helps companies grow the top and bottom line while achieving true diversity.”

Big Tent Jobs is a company that includes disabled people, but does not work exclusively with them. “We are committed to providing the best technical talent for companies,” said Kaplan. “We bring all the best talent, which includes people with disabilities. True diversity means giving qualified people job and career opportunities regardless of disability.”

Kaplan encourages inclusion for other businesses as it provides companies with access to a hidden talent pool they might not otherwise recruit from while it increases their access to a new market. The disabled community market is estimated to be as large as $1 trillion including discretionary spending.

CNI Inc.

Diversity Focused Companies

Madison Heights
CNI is a minority owned and controlled fabricator of automotive interior trim components. CNI is headquartered in Madison Heights with operations in the United States and Mexico CNI is ISO/TS 16949:2009 certified with plants in Mexico and in the U.S. and is considered a world class supplier of automotive interior trim parts. To support its customers, CNI can manufacture parts in geographically desirable locations both in the United States as well as in Mexico. CNI is certified by the Michigan Minority Business Development Council (MMBDC) as a minority-owned enterprise.

Delta Staffing

Diversity Focused Companies

Delta Staffing is a staffing agency providing IT, engineering, management and other staffing needs to high-tech industries such as automotive, IT, aerospace and military.

Delta has won many awards including Corp! “Best of Michigan” award (2008), Metro Detroit’s “101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work for” (2006); Crain’s Detroit Business “Cool Places to Work” (2005, 2007, 2009) and others.

The company is active in philanthropic and community activities, including Habitat for Humanity, Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, Special Olympics and the Salvation Army.

From engineers to designers, technicians to programmers, Delta helps a diverse mix of candidates find fulfilling careers within an array of technical disciplines including mechanical, electrical, IT, hybrid technology, manufacturing, construction management and more.

GraphiColor Exhibits

Diversity Focused Companies

For 14 years, the family-owned business GraphiColor Exhibits had a woman CEO and yet just certified itself as a minority-owned business a few months ago.

Anita Mitzel, CEO of the company that offers graphic solutions for companies exhibiting at trade shows, conferences and corporate events, said GraphiColor looked at certifying itself as a Women’s Business Enterprise by the National Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) years ago, but there didn’t seem to be a need for formal certification. GraphiColor has outlasted many other exhibit houses and large format printing companies in the area, despite difficult economic conditions.

Mitzel said clients encouraged GraphiColor to become officially certified. “As our business has grown and the size of the companies we have worked with have grown, there are more and more situations where we are getting contacted by buyers and clients … that they are indeed meeting their quota, that working with us is helping them meet their quota.”

Mitzel said she expects that the recent certification will bring the company further successes. While GraphiColor may have already done business with a company, supplying the WBENC certification alerts the buyers who don’t know that GraphiColor is in their vendor system and has a good track record with individuals in their organization. ” I’m very optimistic that there will be areas to work in that we may not have been able to,” said Mitzel.

GraphiColor has also recently become more diverse. The once male-dominated staff has been balanced with the two new hires of women. “Actively engaging in creating a diverse staff is just good business,” said Mitzel. “As an exhibit design company, a large part of what we do is to craft engaging messages for our clients’ exhibits and other events. In order to maximize their return on investment, it is imperative to reach a broad and diverse spectrum of decision-makers within their industry. Our clients from cultures other than ours have taught us much that we have been able to apply to other projects for companies within that culture. In addition, every staff member in our company brings different perspectives to our projects, which deepens our understanding about how to most effectively deliver the marketing messages.”

ISC Solutions

Diversity Focused Companies

ISC Solutions is a minority-owned and operated privately held small conglomerate of business divisions that consists of assembly/fulfillment, print management, courier/transportation, and office products.

ISC Solutions is certified as a Minority Business Enterprise in Michigan, Chicago, Toledo, South Central Ohio and recently received certification in Northern Ohio, Central and Northern Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana. ISC Solutions is also a member of the Michigan Hispanic Chamber, Asian Pacific Chamber and the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.

ISC Solutions lists supplier diversity as a primary objective and states that it strongly believes its supplier base should reflect the markets and customers it serves while maintaining high standards of service and quality. Its primary objectives include:

  • Providing a fair, level playing field for diverse, minority-owned and women-owned businesses to compete on the basis of superior service and pricing;

  • Increasing growth of contracts with diverse businesses and monitoring progress against established goals;

  • Communicating the value and business case for supplier diversity internally and externally; and

  • Partnering with other organizations, diversity groups and our prime supplier base to increase Direct Tier 2 opportunities.

ISC Solutions actively participates in a number of community activities with its primary philanthropic efforts focused toward seniors, youth and education and local communities.

Three Star Trucking Co.

Diversity Focused Companies

Three Star Trucking Co. is a minority owned and operated growing company that provides transportation solutions to companies with safe, reliable equipment and professional drivers. The company provides services throughout the continental United States, Canada and Mexico. Its day-to-day business operation is diversified, including Dry Van, LTL, Specialized, Expedited, Logistics, and Fabrication services.

Three Star Trucking’s President and CEO is Denise Rays-Pellosma and the company was selected as one the top 500 Hispanic Companies in the United States -“ and one of the top 15 in Michigan by Hispanic Business Magazine for the past six years. The company was founded by Cesar and Ilene Rays.

Ronald Hall Sr.

Diversity Focused Individuals

Bridgewater Interiors LLC
Ronald Hall Sr., president and CEO
President and CEO Ronald Hall Sr. is a 2012 individual winner.

Established in 1998, Bridgewater Interiors LLC is a joint venture between Detroit-based Epsilon Technologies, LLC and Johnson Controls Inc., a leading automotive seating, interiors and electronics supplier. Bridgewater Interiors employs more than 1,500 people at four locations in the United States, serving General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC and Honda.

Bridgewater Interiors is a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), certified by the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, under the auspices of the National Minority Supplier Development Council. Its leaders are actively involved in these organizations, and the company is fully committed to their respective missions.

As a premier Johnson Controls joint venture and certified MBE, Bridgewater Interiors is leading supplier diversity in the automotive industry with a focus on quality, service, technology, and price. They provide the highest quality manufacturing and assembly of complete automotive seating systems, overhead systems, and center consoles, and unmatched customer service, while also satisfying supplier diversity goals, according to its website.

GM has named Bridgewater Supplier of the Year four times and it was awarded the largest contracts ever to an MBE by GM (1998); Ford (2003) and DaimlerChrysler (2004). It was named one of Metro Detroit’s “101 Best and Brighest Companies to Work For” several times.

Bridgewater Interiors values and respects the opinions of all its employees and annually surveys the entire workforce.

Dale Kirk

Diversity Focused Individuals

Comcast Cable Communications Inc.
Dale Kirk, Vice president of Engineering
Comcast Cable Communications Inc. operates as a subsidiary of Comcast Corp., a publicly traded, national provider of cable, entertainment and communications products and services headquartered in Philadelphia. Comcast is principally involved in the development, management and operation of broadband cable systems and in the delivery of programming content.

Comcast’s commitment to diversity comes from the top, as CEO and Chairman Brian Roberts states on the corporate website that diversity has been an important part of the company’s structure since his father founded the company almost 50 years ago. This commitment is manifested in its increase and promotion of diversity in programming and within its workforce; leadership; purchasing decisions and community investment.

Comcast has an Internal Diversity Council comprised of senior leaders from across the business who spearhead the implementation and promotion of diversity. Also its Joint Diversity Council brings national leaders in business, politics, and civil rights together with senior executives of Comcast and NBCUniversal. Together, they work to promote diversity and inclusion both within Comcast and in their communities.

Comcast has been awarded yearly for its diversity initiatives. Some of these awards for 2011include:

  • Comcast’s Internal Diversity Council, for the third consecutive year, was listed among the Top 25 Diversity Councils by the Association of Diversity Councils.

  • NBCUniversal was selected as one of Work Life Matters magazine’s Top Companies for LGBT Equality (June)

  • Comcast was named among the 10 Best U.S. Corporations for Veteran-Owned Businesses by the National Veteran-Owned Business Association. (March).

  • For the second year in a row, Comcast was listed among DiversityInc’s 2 Noteworthy Companies, which recognized Comcast’s “excellent supplier-diversity program.” (March)

  • For the fifth consecutive year, Comcast made the Latina STYLE Magazine “Best Companies for Latinas” list. (August)

  • Comcast Corp. received the 2011 Asian Enterprise Award for “Best Companies for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”

  • Comcast ranks third among operators and NBCUniversal ranks first among programmers in the 2011 WICT PAR Best Companies for Women in Cable Survey.

  • Comcast-GRM Marketing’s La Academia de Comcast was honored with a 2011 NAMIC Excellence in Multicultural Marketing Awards (EMMA) in the marketing Tactics Category for Experimental Marketing (1st place).

  • The National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) recognized Comcast as its corporate Partner of the Year.

Caroline Chambers

Diversity Focused Individuals

Comerica Inc.
Caroline Chambers, vice president, national manager of Diversity Initiatives
Comerica Inc. is a financial services company headquartered in Dallas, but with significant operations in Michigan where its vice president of national Diversity Initiatives, Caroline Chambers, makes her office. The international bank is ranked third among Diversity Inc.’s Top 10 Regional Companies.

Comerica’s commitment comes from the top down, with its CEO and Chairman Ralph Babb naming it as one of its key business drivers. Further reinforcing this commitment is the fact that Comerica’s Chief Diversity Officer Linda Forte directly reports to the CEO. Diversity is considered a core value at Comerica.

“At Comerica, we are dedicated to supporting and promoting diversity and inclusion both internally, to our employees, and externally, to our customers and suppliers, and in the communities where we conduct business,” said Chambers.

Comerica has grown its diversity programs to include 13 Employee Resource Network Groups (ERNGs) across all markets that are funded and actively managed to support employee professional development, mentoring, networking and community outreach. These teams have held Executive Roundtable sessions that provide entry level managers with access to Comerica Executives and their perspectives on career pathing; teams have also contributed significantly to the success of programs like the UNCF Walk, Rainbow Run/Walk, Arab American Festival, Hispanic Heritage Month and India Day programming that support community outreach and colleague education and awareness.

In addition, Comerica has 17 Market Segmentation Initiative (MSI) teams that focus on programs and outreach to meet the interest of its diverse client base. A featured program of interest produced this year included the presentation of the documentary film “Black and Blue,” which chronicles the challenges of race relations in the 1930s and the friendship between one of Michigan’s first African American football players and late Michigan Supreme Court Judge, Willis Ward, and his best friend and team mate, the late President Gerald Ford.

Comerica offers diversity education and information programs year-round, and has reached thousands of colleagues covering subjects from race, gender, physical abilities and microenequities.

Comerica has been recognized before for its diversity outreach program efforts.

  • Black Enterprise Magazine – 2012 ranked Comerica on its 40 Best Companies for Diversity List. In the same magazine, Linda Forte was named in its “Top Diversity Executives” featured issue (2011).

  • BE also named Dennis Johnson, chief investment officer, among its “Top Blacks on Wall Street” featured issue (2011).

  • Hispanic Business listed Comerica #2 for Supplier Diversity in 2012, and Latina Style Magazine named Comerica #32 on 2011 Best U.S. companies for Latinas to Work For List.

  • Finally the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council (MMSDC) (formerly MMBDC) has awarded its 2011 Corporate ONE Award recipient to Comerica, which has received this award for the past consecutive 11 years.

Comerica requires Diversity training for all employees, and two additional levels of Diversity training for managers and executives. In addition, it is in the process of a nationwide rollout of a program called Master of Diversity Awareness (MDA).

“I credit Comerica’s longstanding commitment to helping people and communities be successful with our long term sustainability as a business leader,” said Chambers. “Our commitment to diversity and community is part of the fabric that makes Comerica successful.”

Bing Goei

Diversity Focused Individuals

Eastern Floral
Bing Goei, CEO
Grand Rapids
As an Asian American, Bing Goei, one of this year’s Diversity Focused Individual winners, is sensitive to cultural and ethnic barriers that present themselves in professional life and has committed to diversity as a core value of his company, Eastern Floral.

“I accepted this responsibility when I found out how my father was humiliated and made to feel like a lesser person because of his ethnicity,” said Goei, who is company CEO. “We impoverish ourselves when we ignore and deny the contributions of people who are not like us. Our society suffers and our economy suffers. For people of faith, our soul dies. I am committed to destroying any barrier so that my children and grandchildren and all future generations will not have to waste their energy and talent in overcoming these barriers.”

With seven locations in western Michigan, Eastern Floral is a top 50 Teleflora florist, the largest florist member organization, and its staff is diverse in gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Goei has also been actively involved in diversity programs in the community, especially addressing diversity as an economic asset. He started a program, the International Center for Entrepreneurship, to support and encourage women and minority entrepreneurs to start and grow their own businesses. He has won numerous awards including the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Diversity Visionary Award and Minority Business Person of the Year. He has also been awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for West Michigan in the Retail Division and has been inducted into the JA West Michigan Business Hall of Fame. As the first Asian American president of the board of the Grand Rapids Chamber, Goei played a significant role in convincing the Chamber to oppose the passage of the 2006 Proposal 2.

Goei’s approach to diversity is simple: a diverse workforce is synonymous with seeking the best and brightest individuals. “An inclusive workplace is the largest ‘Welcome’ sign available,” said Goei, who added that companies that manage the changing cultures created through the global economy will succeed because the buying power of minorities in the U.S. is growing significantly.

“When people shop, they want to shop where they feel welcome, where they feel safe. Where they feel this is no different than the circle of friends and family they have,” said Goei. “You have people looking like who they are comfortable with, working in the store. It’s important to value diversity, value inclusion as an economic engine.”

Jerome Harvey

Diversity Focused Individuals

Harvey Industries
Jerome Harvey, president and CEO
CEO Jerome Harvey is one of this year’s individual winners. Harvey Industries is a minority owned aluminum casting, machining, assembly, testing, polymer injection molding producer founded in 1982. The company is based in Livonia, with four plants strategically located in Wabash, Ind.; Westland, Mich.; Aiken, S.C.; and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

Rose M. Glenn

Diversity Focused Individuals

Henry Ford Health System
Rose M. Glenn, senior vice president, Communications and CMO
Rose Glenn, senior vice president of communications at HFHS, is one of this year’s individual winners. Founded in 1915 by auto pioneer Henry Ford and now one of the nation’s leading health care providers, Henry Ford Health System is a not-for-profit corporation managed by CEO Nancy M. Schlichting and governed by a 22-member Board of Trustees, with volunteer-led advisory and affiliate boards providing additional leadership.

It is comprised of hospitals, medical centers and one of the nation’s largest group practices, the Henry Ford Medical Group, which includes more than 1,200 physicians practicing in more than 40 specialties. With more than 23,000 employees, Henry Ford Health System is the fifth-largest employer in Metro Detroit, and among the most diverse.

Henry Ford states that diversity always will be the foundation on which its stands. While experiences differ, diversity is leveraged to directly or indirectly influence the equitable delivery of culturally appropriate care and treatment of patients, employees and community partners, which include its suppliers.

To ensure its employees provide care in a culturally supportive environment, Henry Ford has formed the Task Force on Identification of Patient Race, Ethnicity, and Primary Language. The goals of the initiative are to promote the cultural and linguistic competency of Henry Ford staff and create a culturally-supportive clinical health care environment. To increase knowledge, awareness, and opportunities to ensure health care equity is understood and practiced by Henry Ford Health System providers and other staff, the research community and the community-at-large, Henry Ford started the Health Care Equity Campaign.

In tandem with the campaign, Henry Ford’s Institute on Multicultural Health studies the disparities in health care among people from underrepresented racial and ethnic populations. Our programs involve developing culturally appropriate partnerships between researchers, patients, health care providers and the community.

Henry Ford Multicultural Dermatology Clinic is one of only a few in the United States specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of skin, tissue, and hair conditions unique to women and men of ethnic heritage, such as African, Asian, East Indian, Hispanic and Middle Eastern descent.

Henry Ford is an equal-opportunity employer and strives for diversity in its supplier base as well.

Belinda Jefferson

Diversity Focused Individuals

Hercules & Hercules Inc.
Belinda Jefferson, president
Hercules & Hercules Inc. (HHI) a distributor of janitorial and sanitation supplies and equipment in Michigan, Ohio, and North Carolina, started as a home-based family business in 1964. Now the wholly-owned diverse company represents major manufacturers and is one of the few minority distributors all three major health care Group Purchasing Organizations have approved. HHI also works with major municipalities, school districts and campuses, large industries and small businesses.

HHI has evolved along with the environmental services industry and now specializes in assisting its customers’ transition to sustainable products and processes by conducting comprehensive environmental services audits and customizing environmental packages and training to identify facility needs.

Belinda Jefferson, HHI president and one of this year’s winners, said the company values diversity because everything has a place and everyone has a contribution to make. “If everything looks the same or everyone thinks the same, something is off,” said Jefferson. “As a Minority Women Owned Business Enterprise, HHI has an inherent sense of diversity.”

Centered in the Detroit, HHI serves a diverse business segment including top-notch Michigan universities, which reflect our multi-cultured society. Diversity within the staff is a business advantage, said Jefferson. “In today’s business world it’s an advantage because diversity offers a basis to communicate with all people. You don’t have one opinion or resources. We are diverse so our resources are vast.”

Jefferson said important attributes in employees are not only a commitment to community, change and growth, but people who are comfortable with diversity themselves. “We need people who are as comfortable working with a CEO as they are working with a night shift custodian,” said Jefferson. “Our HHI reflects the values that are important to us and accurately represents the diversity of this area. We want our business to be a place in which people consider working. Our commitment to diversity is helpful for employment.”

Tel Ganesan

Diversity Focused Individuals

Kyyba Inc.
Tel Ganesan, president and CEO
Farmington Hills
For President and CEO Tel Ganesan, 2012 Diversity Focused Individual winner, embracing diversity in the workplace was a no-brainer. He saw that it was good for the bottom line and reflected the emerging population. Ganesan said as a first-time entrepreneur, he started to see a trend toward diversity in 2009 and adopted it in his hiring policy for Kyyba, an engineering and IT solutions company that focuses on

staffing solutions and software development. To Ganesan, diversity is more than different races -“ it is more about different ways of seeing and doing things. “When you have diverse opinion, thought, input, the concoction coming out of it is good. So the output is good and the result is good.”

That difference is essential to society and Kyyba, said Ganesan. “I embrace this concept at all times because you never know when it will make a difference. 12 different people addressing the same issue can always provide different solutions.”

Ganesan said Kyyba recruits the best talent to fit the needs of our clients. While unusual for this type of business, in Kyyba’s case that means there are more women employees than men. “It is in line with the emerging population of people graduating from school,” said Ganesan. “We mimic that. This is what the future is going to look like, so why not make that happen now?”

Ganesan said maintaining a diverse company has been a great experience. “It has provided a company culture like no other. It gives our employees a new outlook and allows them to communicate on different levels. This has been a tremendous asset for us.”

Kyyba approaches diversity holistically, both internally and externally. Its internal diversity programs allowed it to train employees from many different angles and ways of thinking, which makes for more well-rounded employees better prepared to communicate with individuals different than themselves. Kyyba is initiating an external supplier diversity program as well. “So not only are we trying to do it internally, but reach out to our partners, suppliers, to make sure we are diverse all the way around.”

Bala Rajaraman

Diversity Focused Individuals

Marvel Technologies Inc.
Bala Rajaraman, president and CEO
Marvel Technologies Inc., based in Novi, is a minority-owned technology company that develops and delivers professional services and SAP-certified solutions for customers.

As a minority-owned company, Marvel is eligible to apply for various certifications and most recently earned a Government Services Administration (GSA) certificate. This recognition has opened doors for government contracts.

President and CEO Bala Rajaraman, one of individual winners this year, said he believes in an open and inclusive workplace. “Talent, skills and hard work are rewarded, irrespective of the employee’s background. Our primary goal is to provide highest quality customer service,” said Rajaraman. “We rely on our consultants’ diverse background to address customers’ needs and issues in the most creative and effective way.”

One of the ways Marvel stays “fresh and new” is through a recently launched internship program and participation in job fairs to hire local talent.

As an immigrant entrepreneur, Rajaraman said he has first-hand experience of the importance of diversity. “If this country hadn’t embraced my diversity, I wouldn’t be a successful entrepreneur today,” said Rajaraman. “I don’t see diversity as related to race, nationality or gender. To me, diversity is the different qualities of human beings and their mindsets. Interactions with different types of human beings bring a variety and openness to our existence, and the same is true for organizations. A diverse and inclusive workplace will always have new ideas, new ways to solve problems and will bring new perspectives to any business situation.”

This perspective has been good for the business, which is showing outstanding results this year and is growing. “In short, diversity fosters innovation, which is a critical factor for success,” said Rajaraman. “I think it brings a lot of value to the business.”

As a growing technology company participating in a global economy, Rajaraman sees diversity as a provider of the flexibility and creativity needed to compete. “Without creative ideas there cannot be any innovation and without innovation there cannot be any growth and success. Differing voices and viewpoints are the drivers of innovation and collaboration,” said Rajaraman. “The world is becoming flat and we can’t survive and flourish if we aren’t embracing globalization.”

Molly MacDonald

Diversity Focused Individuals

The Pink Fund
Molly MacDonald, president and founder
Beverly Hills
When one of this year’s winners, Molly MacDonald, was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago, her financial stability crumbled. She was about to start a new job and the treatments and side effects made that impossible. As the primary breadwinner for her family, she faced hard economic decisions. Unfortunately, with women making up 50 percent of the workforce and increasingly the sole or primary providers for themselves and their families, MacDonald’s experience was not novel.

“I thought this is insane,” said MacDonald. “How many women are diagnosed annually? How many end up from the side effects unable to work? A lot of people don’t have savings. A lot report that they have enough cash for 30 days. That’s pretty scary. I started wondering if I couldn’t get any help for us, I could start an organization for others.”

MacDonald started a bridge fund that gives women 90 days of non-medical funding while they receive cancer treatments. The Pink Fund has operated with a small volunteer staff for six years and just recently began hiring contractors to act as grant processors and to run the operation. Diversity in the organization is expressed through the population of women and the families it serves. In the past three years, The Pink Fund has provided support to more than 100 women and families, primarily in Michigan.

“These women range in age from 24-64. They are White, Black, Asian, Indian, Hispanic; married, divorced, single, never married or living in a domestic partnership. They are gay or straight. They have children or are childless. Their education ranges from high school diploma to MBAs. They speak English or Spanish. They are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Atheists or Agnostics. Their annual household incomes range from $16,000 to $94,000,” said MacDonald. “But they have one thing in common. They are working women for whom breast cancer has taken a huge financial toll in the loss of their job or ability to work. When The Pink Fund reaches out to them it is with disregard to race, economic, social, religious, educational or married status. They are in desperate need and it is our desire to provide real help now when they need it most.”

Richard Bernstein

Diversity Focused Individuals

The Sam Bernstein Law Firm
Richard Bernstein, senior partner, public service litigator
Farmington Hills
When one of this year’s winner’s, Richard Bernstein, the son of well-known attorney Sam Bernstein, wanted to practice law and join the family business, it was not without obstacles. As a blind student, Bernstein knew it would be challenging to fulfill his dream.

“I desperately wanted to be a lawyer. I knew that if I could be a lawyer, I could make the world better and change it the most,” said Bernstein, who described law school as a struggle. He relied on his spiritual foundation to get through.

“I believe we are here for a reason. That we are not created happenstance and there is a mission and purpose why you are sent here. I have to believe there is a greater purpose why I was created this way.”

He made a pact with God that if he became a lawyer, he would dedicate his career to representing people with disabilities and special needs who otherwise don’t have access to the law profession. After he graduated and passed the bar, he followed through with his father’s blessing. As senior partner of public service litigation, Bernstein represents clients for free and the firm absorbs all the cost of litigation.

“It’s unbelievably costly. Our business model makes absolutely no sense whatsoever,” said Bernstein. “It is a spiritual mission.”

Bernstein’s focus is access. “We want to make sure that all people can enjoy facilities and be part of the community.”

Bernstein has handled cases such as against the Detroit Department of Transportation whose bus fleet was 60 percent inaccessible. Although still ongoing, the case established the guidelines for public transit across the nation.

Another case was against University of Michigan when it rebuilt its stadium without handicap accessibility, claiming the work was repairs, not renovation, so it didn’t need to be up to ADA (American with Disabilities Act) code. The case was brought to Bernstein from his work as the attorney for the Paralyzed Veterans of America association, which has a rehabilitation center in Ann Arbor. “We want to make sure veterans are able to integrate back into society and if they can’t go to a game and do things they did before, it has a devastating impact on their recovery.”

U-M eventually complied and the result underlined Bernstein’s philosophy that accessibility is good business.

“Guess what they found out? They realized it was one of the best business decisions they ever made because the disabled seating always sold out,” said Bernstein. “When you do something good for a disabled person, you do something that is good for everybody. When you do something for disabled people, you immediately increase your market share with senior citizens.”

Bernstein said there aren’t many blessings that come with blindness, but there is the necessity to connect with people. “I can’t live in the world by myself,” said Bernstein. “I have to always rely on people, not always just friends and family but sometimes total strangers. You develop deep connections with everyone. Having a true understanding of diversity means (you) have a true and realistic connection with people and appreciate and understand all people.”

Carol Goss

Diversity Focused Individuals

The Skillman Foundation
Carol Goss, president and CEO
The Skillman Foundation is a private, grant making foundation that works to improve the lives of children in Detroit and has been doing so for 50 years. Carol Goss, president and CEO, won an award for her work in expanding diversity within the philanthropic sector.

The goal of the foundation has always been to improve the schools and neighborhoods of the children of Detroit and be a voice for them through funding and change making. The Foundation will grant about $17 million this year to support that work and its strategic agenda has become laser-focused on six Detroit neighborhoods with large populations of children. That focus is centered on resident leadership so improvement can come from the inside out, led by the residents, parents and educators in those communities.

Diversity is important to the Skillman Foundations and so is the effort to reflect the populations it serves, which are largely made up of African Americans and Hispanic Americans. Skillman’s 12-member Board of Trustees includes five women and six people of color and its senior management team is 40 percent African American and 60 percent female. It also goes beyond the federal law to offer same-sex benefits to its employees.

“I think diversity is very important,” said Goss. “It’s important in business and it’s certainly important to the philanthropic sector. Skillman has been a part of a leading number of foundations in trying to think about how to make philanthropy itself more diverse. The reason we believe this is so important is we believe in having diverse opinions and philosophies and people coming together to address compelling problems lead to better solutions and more effectiveness.”

To underscore that commitment to diversity, it recently sent a team from the Foundation through training at the Council of Michigan Foundations called Transforming Michigan Philanthropy through Diversity and Inclusion. Goss chairs the Governance and Advisory Committees board which guides the CMF as they implement this TMP plan. The Foundation also ensures diversity is reflected in its grant making, and so it recently included a set of questions about staffing diversity as a part of a survey sent to grantees. Lastly, the Foundation is currently analyzing its vendor relationships, to ensure that the businesses it works with internally share its commitment to diversity.

The Skillman Foundation has committed to hiring talented people of many different backgrounds, including a number of fellows through the National Urban Fellows program who join the Foundation for one to three years early in their careers. Student interns are hired solely through the Detroit Public Schools and Detroit Cristo Rey. In 2008, the Skillman Foundation, under Goss’ leadership, helped found the Detroit Youth Employment Consortium, which is a public-private partnership with a mission to provide employment opportunities to inner city youth.

“Whenever we are changing our internal structures, our work in communities, or our sector, this work is hard,” said Goss. “But it’s worth it to factor in diversity and inclusion in the workplace because it fosters a sense of unity that is essential for true collaboration to take place and for all perspectives to be considered. Without that, it is impossible to move forward in a meaningful way. And finally, inclusive workplaces and companies can provide hope and inspiration to under-served communities, and that alone can be transformative.”

William Taubman

Diversity Focused Individuals

The Taubman Company LLC
William Taubman, chief operating officer
Bloomfield Hills
William Taubman, chief operating officer of The Taubman Company is a 2012 winner.

Taubman was founded by A. Alfred Taubman in 1950 and is known for its focus on dominant retail malls with the highest average sales productivity in the nation.

Taubman has been named one of the “101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For” (Metro Detroit 2010); “Cool Places in Tough Times” (2009, Crain’s); and “Top Work Places;” (Detroit Free Press 2010). Taubman highlights its work culture as strong and positive in a work environment that is nurturing and rewarding. “We truly value the ideas, experiences and skills of each and every employee,” according to its website. “By recognizing each individual as unique, and by embracing the differences that define us, we all benefit. We may differ by nature, culture, skills or beliefs -“ but each of us has a voice -“ and it’s what makes Taubman a dynamic company.”

Dr. Valerie Myers

Diversity Focused Individuals

University of Michigan Department of Health Management & Policy
Dr. Valerie Myers,
professor of management and organizations
Ann Arbor
Dr. Valerie Myers, professor of management and organizations, won the individual diversity award for her work at U-M’s Department of Health Management and Policy. HMP offers degree programs for gaining knowledge and skills in health services management and health policy. Its curricula is taught by a world-renowned faculty with active research agendas. The rigorous, multidisciplinary course of study prepares students to meet the changing demands of health care, public health, and health policy environments.

This program has been recognized as North America’s leading program and HMP alumni hold key leadership positions in local, state and federal government agencies, in health insurance plans, in special programs for the poor and disadvantaged, in health policy research and advocacy organizations, and in hospitals, clinics, HMOs, and health centers in the U.S. and abroad.

HMP lists diversity as one of its “ethical values” and states its belief that a diverse student body is critical to the education of all students in the School of Public Health. Since much of the burden of illness in the U.S. falls disproportionately on racial/ethnic minority populations, HMP deems it essential for minority students to be represented both in the classroom and as leaders in public health and health care institutions.

One of its major activities designed to increase the diversity of its student body is the Health Management and Policy Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). This is an eight-week paid internship program for undergraduate sophomores and juniors that places students in health care organizations throughout Southeast Michigan. The department also participates in a wide variety of recruitment activities, such as minority career days and visits to historically black colleges and universities, which focus on attracting students from underrepresented minorities.

David Segura

Diversity Focused Individuals

David Segura,
VisionIT is a global IT consulting, managed services, staffing, and vendor management firm providing world-class solutions for businesses and governments. VisionIt is also a pioneer in the concept of Urban Onshoring – utilizing urban U.S. locations for delivering lower cost IT centers of excellence across the country.

When its CEO David Segura, one of the 2012 individual winners, started the company 16 years ago, minority-owned businesses were few and the concept of diversity was new. “Today, 16 years later, we are one of the largest leveraging diversity within a company,” said Segura. “It’s been a great adventure as well as an opportunity to promote diversity to other major corporations.”

Earlier this year, VisionIT was named as the Hispanic Automotive Supplier of the Year at the Urban Wheels Awards. Additionally, the 2012 Hispanic Business Magazine’s Hispanic 500 recognized VisionIT as the 31st largest Hispanic-owned business in the United States.

As the company grew, Segura said there were many opportunities to promote diversity in the IT industry beyond its Hispanic roots. Some of the programs Segura supports promote women, African- American and youth in technology. “It is so woven into our company culture, diversity is not even an initiative, it is who we are.”

Segura said he firmly believes VisionIT’s leadership efforts in the area of diversity -“ locally, regionally and nationally -“ continue to set it apart. “We employ and absolutely continue to look for the best and brightest to add to our team, seeking, in particular, diversity of thought and experience,” said Segura.

An example of this is the hiring within the past year of Amy Courter as VisionIT’s chief information officer. Prior to joining VisionIT, Courter served as National Commander of the United States Air Force Auxiliary, the Civil Air Patrol. Serving as a Major General, she was the first female to gain this distinction in the nearly 70 years of the Civil Air Patrol’s history.

Alejandro Quiroz

Diversity Focused Individuals

Whirlpool Corp.
Alejandro Quiroz,
vice president for Global Advanced Manufacturing
Benton Harbor
Alejandro Quiroz wins the individual Diversity Business Leader Award for his work as vice president for Global Advanced Manufacturing at Whirlpool Corp. for applying expertise he developed in the auto industry to transform manufacturing practices of the appliance giant for the 21st century. Whirlpool is the world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances with annual sales over $19 billion and more than 65,000 employees worldwide.

Quiroz worked for many years with automotive companies in Germany but wanted to work for a manufacturing company that valued diversity. Quiroz said Whirlpool’s diversity programs made it a fertile ground for him to come in and exercise his passion for promoting diversity. “Not only for myself, but I would be able to support others, which I think is the best thing to do. Our organization, as part of the corporation, is one of the best examples of reaching the goal to increase women in leadership and improve talent diversity,” said Quiroz.

Last month, Quiroz promoted a woman to the highest position in his staff and his team includes professionals from Africa, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil and India working here in the U.S. “These efforts deeply impact our company culture while living the values of diversity and inclusion,” said Quiroz.

Quiroz said he thinks inclusion allows everyone to contribute to her or his fullest potential. “I take my role very seriously,” Quiroz says. “The responsibility that comes with being one of only a few senior leaders in business who are Hispanic is a tremendous opportunity. I hope the example I set can inspire and show others new opportunity as well. I’ve gotten to where I am because of the mentors who’ve helped me along the way. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. Paying that forward is important to me.”

Quiroz regularly serves in diversity recruitment and outreach programs to promote hiring of minority candidates. Whirlpool is known for its diversity. In 2011, it was named to DiversityInc.’s Top 50 list, and in 2012 Whirlpool was listed as one of its 25 Noteworthy Companies.

After attracting diverse talent, the key is employee retention of which mentoring plays a big part. “Ultimately, mentoring is about helping people be their best self. As a mentor, my role is to help individuals tap into what they love doing and what they’re best at, and then support them in putting confidence and skills into action.”

To succeed in global business, Quiroz is most interested in the opportunities that lie with supporting emerging leaders, who he says are at a critical inflection point in their career. “As you move up the career ladder, you reach certain points where you either become energized to move further or accept where you are,” he says. “As someone who progressed through the ranks without having other Hispanics to look up to, I know first hand what it feels like to look around, and particularly, look above you, and not see yourself.”

For companies operating or marketing globally, he believes in the importance of having leaders who can relate to the burgeoning Hispanic consumer market, who understand cross-cultural factors in global business, and who represent employees working throughout the ranks of the company.


Diversity Focused Organizations

ACCESS was founded 41 years ago in Dearborn by a group of volunteers committed to helping new immigrants adjust to life in the United States. Today, the organization has grown into the largest Arab American human services nonprofit organization in the United States, ACCESS serves southeast Michigan residents through comprehensive programs in health, employment and training, youth and education and social services. In 2011, more than 900,000 clients participated in its innovative model of wraparound services in partnership with government agencies, foundations, community groups and coalitions.

The ACCESS staff collectively speaks more than a dozen languages, enabling it to assist clients from all cultures and backgrounds. Its motto -“ assisting, improving, empowering -“ honors the spirit of those first volunteers whose mission was not only to lend newcomers a hand, but more important, to give them the tools they needed to succeed and, ultimately, to give back. Out of this grassroots model, over the past decade ACCESS has branched into three powerful national projects: the National Network for Arab American Communities, which links community-based organizations around the country for advocacy and grassroots development; Arab American National Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate on Michigan in Dearborn; and the Center for Arab American Philanthropy, which is bringing Arab American philanthropy to maturity through strategic giving.

“This organization is really a community-based organization,” said Hassan Jaber, executive director. “There is a very high spirit of being connected to a community. It started because of economic needs, social needs, help with cultural barriers and other barriers. It has grown since to being a national (organization)… that runs the gamut of services from economic to health …. grown from a small organization in a small neighborhood in Dearborn.”

Recent ACCESS milestones include its current strategic plan with its primary goal the comprehensive acculturation and integration of services to immigrants, refugees and community members. One goal is to expand its health services. Currently, ACCESS Community Health & Research Center primarily serves the Arab American community in southeast Michigan, but it plans to expand services to all minority, low income and at-risk populations.

ACCESS also plans on expanding its reach beyond southeast Michigan and getting involved in more national initiatives. Recently, it engaged a group of women to help organize the Michigan Women’s Power Assembly, which brought together 175 women diverse in race, ethnicity, age and profession.

One of ACCESS’s three national programs, the National Network for Arab American Communities, works with a diverse coalition of groups in New York to end intrusive, overreaching police practices such as “stop and frisk” and surveillance of the Muslim American community. As part of this effort, it partnered with the NAACP to co-chair the Immigrant Rights Table for the historic Silent March on Father’s Day to end racial profiling.

The Arab American National Museum is a point of pride for ACCESS as it is the only such museum that documents the history of Arab-American immigration to, and their impact on, the United States, said Jaber. For 20 years, the Museum sponsored the Concert of Colors, Metro Detroit’s free annual diversity music festival, in partnership with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Institute of Arts, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Midtown Detroit Inc. and ACCESS.

“I think we really need to think of diversity as an asset,” said Jaber. “This Detroit region, the misconception is that it’s not diverse but it really is contrary to the truth. There are 120 languages spoken in the region. It’s a very diverse region. We want to reflect this diversity and celebrate it.”

Ann Arbor Area Business Leadership Network

Diversity Focused Organizations

Ann Arbor
The Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living formed A3BLN two years ago to help change the landscape of business practices for hiring people with disabilities.

The A3BLN is a business-to-business networking and training initiative fostering positive dialogue about diversity and disability in the Ann Arbor business community.

Pioneered by Ann Arbor CIL Career Services and managed by Stephanie Stiles, Manager of Business and Benefactor Development, the A3BLN has grown to 100 members consisting of community leaders, CEOs, and HR directors.

In the past year, the A3BLN started to host a quarterly event at various local Michigan businesses to allow an opportunity to showcase other local organizations leading the way in promoting diversity and disability in employment. Topics at the event range from “Overcoming Limitations to Successful Employment” to “Tax Incentives for Hiring People with Disabilities.”

The Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living is a community enrichment, learning and advocacy center. Through individualized counseling, advocacy efforts, skill-building classes, recreation and arts programming, and more, it helps individuals with disabilities to build their skills, advocate for what they need, find friends and feel at home.

Every year, Ann Arbor CIL impacts the lives of more than 4,000 people throughout Southeast Michigan, including people with disabilities, their families and friends, and members of the business community.

Black Family Development Inc.

Diversity Focused Organizations

Black Family Development Inc. (BFDI) is a private, non-profit comprehensive family counseling agency that was created in 1978 by the Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW).

By establishing BFDI as a family counseling agency, NABSW sought to promote and provide quality social work services in Detroit that were culturally relevant and culturally sensitive. The original community project, which gave birth to BFDI, was based on the agreed upon needs of the community and resulted in programmatic focus by BFDI on child abuse and neglect.

Since that time, BFDI has grown to accommodate the increasing demand for a variety of specialized, family focused counseling and advocacy services in the community. It provides services to families, individuals, community groups and organizations residing and/or operating in the Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties.

BFDI’s mission is to strengthen and enhance the lives of children, youth and families through partnerships that support safe, nurturing, vibrant homes and communities.

BFDI’s vision is “To be the self-sufficient premier provider of comprehensive family counseling services to children, youth and families – the pacesetter for quality, innovative services and training with national recognition.”

BFDI uses a primary home-based approach to delivering programs and services, which reduces barriers to services and promotes service accessibility through strong outreach strategies.

BFDI is accredited by CARF-Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. BFDI is also licensed by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth (DLEG) for the provision of foster care, intensive outpatient, outpatient and prevention of substance abuse services. The DLEG also has licensed BFDI as a child placing agency.

Grand Rapids Bar Association

Diversity Focused Organizations

Grand Rapids
The Grand Rapids Bar Association has been actively involved in the issue of diversity since 1998 when it surveyed its members on the subject and developed its first strategic plan. “I think all of us have realized that we cannot work alone in silos and accomplish what we need to accomplish,” said Kimberly Coleman, GRBA executive director. “We need to work collectively and share best practices to engage -¦ and provide a real place for people to begin to market Grand Rapids and change perceptions. Also help people as they come in to make a better fit.”

The GRBA has been on the forefront in changing perceptions of Grand Rapids to attract and retain minority attorneys to the area. Its Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative is a collaboration of the 13 largest law offices in Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Bar Association for the purpose of increasing diversity in law firms and bar association. The Collaborative was formed in June 2011 after a series of discussions on how medium and large law firms can improve diversity and inclusion. The managing partners of West Michigan’s leading law firms realized that together they can accomplish much more than they can individually.

In March of this year, the members of the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative signed a five-year Action Plan to address three initial challenges: Increasing the number of attorneys of color; improving the retention of both female attorneys and attorneys of color; expanding the pipeline of persons of color entering law school and the profession.

The Action Plan includes more than 45 action steps that the member firms and the Grand Rapids Bar Association will implement over the next five years.

Signatories to the Collaborative share a belief that diversity encompasses, among other things, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion, nationality, language, age, disability, marital and parental status, geographic origin and socioeconomic background.

The Grand Rapids Bar Association and the member firms have worked to increase the diversity of its membership for many years. In 1991, for example, the Bar Association, along with the Floyd Skinner Bar Association, formed the Grand Rapids Minority Clerkship program and the Bar Association has had a committee devoted to diversity since 1994. More recently, in a series of discussions convened by the Bar Association in early 2011, the managing partners of the Collaborative

firms concluded that they can have more success working together than separately to accomplish a common goal of an inclusive legal community.

Marketing Grand Rapids as an inclusive community has also been a challenge and a priority.

“We recognized for many years that Grand Rapids was a very white male dominated professional community and continues to be,” said Coleman. “We have taken a lot of steps to make change. As other professional employers in the community, we struggle with the perception of Grand Rapids as a ‘white place.'”

The five-year action plan provides a structure through which recruitment, retention, training strategies and resources are shared, and in some cases combined, to increase opportunities and/or effectiveness. “All of our firms are looking for the best and the brightest; and, in our minds, the best and the brightest includes diversity,” said Coleman. “Our plan complements those efforts while enhancing the search process.”

Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit (JCRC)

Diversity Focused Organizations

Bloomfield Hills
The JCRC is the public affairs voice of the Detroit Jewish community. Its agenda is focused in three areas: media relations; Israel advocacy and community activism.

“The title of our agency is Jewish Community Relations Council and community relations is a big part of what we do,” said Robert Cohen, executive director and a 2012 winner. “We build bridges to the other ethnic and religious communities as well as connecting the Jewish communities to the community as a whole. We are a minority here and it’s important to foster conversations.”

As the news media’s key link to the Detroit Jewish community, JCRC ensures a Jewish perspective to events that occur or opinions expressed in the media. JCRC advocates, educates and mobilizes the local community to take action in support of a strong U.S.-“Israel relationship and the American government’s role in promoting a Middle East peace process.

“Community activism” embraces JCRC’s community relations activities connecting Detroit’s Jews to their non-Jewish neighbors, advocating in the halls of government on issues of concern to our Jewish community, providing meaningful volunteer opportunities to community members, and promoting a more cohesive Jewish community. JCRC carries the dual responsibility of reflecting the Jewish community’s consensus while providing leadership in pursuit of traditional and contemporary Jewish values.

One of JCRC’s milestones is its partnership with the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan (CIOM) to work together on projects that benefit Metro Detroit as a whole. Over the past three years, CIOM volunteers have participated in Mitzvah Day, joining several hundred Jews on Christmas Day to replace Christian workers so they could have the holiday with their families. JCRC and CIOM co-sponsored interfaith health fairs at which Jewish and Muslim doctors, nurses, medical students and others provided free health screenings for the uninsured working poor, primarily African American Christians. “These and other joint projects built important bridges between our two communities and convey a message that people who stand apart on some issues can stand together on others,” said Cohen.

Cohen said the JCRC, which was established in 1937, celebrates diversity and is guided by the traditional Jewish commands to “welcome the stranger” and to treat others as those “made in the image of God” should be treated. “These commandments have been a fundamental part of Judaism for thousands of years.”

Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce (MBCC)

Diversity Focused Organizations

The MBCC is the first statewide African American Black Chamber of Commerce in Michigan. The MBCC mission is to economically empower and sustain African American businesses as an economic enterprise, advocating for economic development through entrepreneurship, procurement, community reinvestment, programs, professional development and capitalistic activity within Michigan.

Northeast Guidance Center

Diversity Focused Organizations

Northeast Guidance Center (NEGC) is a community-based behavioral health agency founded by the Junior League of Detroit in 1963 to provide services to children on Detroit’s eastside. NEGC’s mission is to provide innovative, community-based services that promote total wellness with an emphasis on mental health to children and adults and their families. Annually, NEGC serves more than 1,000 children and 3,500 adults. Since its inception, NEGC has been a catalyst for change by working to build strong communities where people are mentally, emotionally and physically healthy.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce Michigan

Diversity Focused Organizations

Rochester Hills
One of the goals of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce Michigan (PCCM) is to take the lead in promoting and enhancing the economic growth of the Filipino-American professionals , entrepreneurs and businesses. Betsy Henry, president of PCCM, said this is done through monthly business networking, seminars and various activities to help the Filipino -American community.

The common link of the members is not their ethnicity however, said Henry. “We have extra small and small companies that join our chamber and it’s not limited to Filipinos, we have Americans and different nationalities,” said Henry, who said the main goal is to promote them to “live, grow and prosper in Michigan. We are all here to promote Michigan.”

To celebrate Michigan’s diversity, the PCCM is holding an Appreciation Dinner at Petruzellos in Troy this October. “It is at this event that we will showcase multicultural diversity through the cooperation of various chambers,” said Henry. “We will highlight how the blend of these cultures, such as the Asian, European, East Indies and American cultures, brings forth the best and make it one — a true Michigander.” True to the theme, local food, services and products will be showcased and proceeds will go to various Michigan projects.

The PCCM is also launching scholarship program for college students interested in business. Henry said the PCCM encourages young people to attend the PCCM meetings and learn about the diverse group of businesses involved. “Sometimes (young people) don’t see their future and being exposed to an array of different businesses can be a road map to success.”

True diversity encompasses acceptance and respect, she said. “It means understanding that each of us is unique and recognizing individual differences. It is the exploration of these differences in a positive, productive, nurturing environment. We are all here or coming to Michigan for different reasons. As a minority it’s important we see the strength of the little voices. From the little voices comes the big voice.”

Sisters Acquiring Financial Empowerment (SAFE)

Diversity Focused Organizations

Kalyn Risker knows first hand the devastation domestic violence visits upon a person’s physical, emotional and mental well being. An often overlooked aspect of this serious problem is the economic hardship it causes in its wake. The abused may be financially dependent on the abuser and finding and holding a job can have special challenges. As a survivor of abuse herself, Risker said she was “divinely inspired” to found SAFE, which dedicates itself to equip survivors of domestic violence with the appropriate financial tools and resources needed to leave or recover from the economic portion of domestic violence.

Risker, founder and executive director, knows too well the economic challenges someone escaping from an abusive situation may face. Risker’s abuser — who was also the primary breadwinner in her household — shattered her eye socket, which required reconstructive surgery. Medical bills and recovery time took its toll, as did trying to keep her personal life out of her professional one. “As you can imagine, it was trying emotionally, mentally, physically, but the part that people weren’t aware of is that it was challenging financially for me,” said Risker. Though still experiencing double vision, Risker found a job, but was called to the carpet for mistakes she was making due to her injuries. “I was too scared to let them know what was going on.” There were also doctor’s visits and court appointments that made holding a job difficult.

She got better, and so did her work. Interestingly, when she was in a management position, she had an employee who was a victim of domestic violence. The woman commented that Risker surely had never had a situation like her own. “Why did she think that? Because of my position? It really got me thinking about society’s stereotypes.”

Risker began SAFE based on the principal from www.peaceatwork.org : “With money in the bank, employability, belief that they have the right to work … a victim is more likely to refuse the abuse that endangers their well-being and even their life.”

SAFE prepares survivors of domestic violence to overcome barriers so that they can compete on a level playing field for employment, entrepreneurship opportunities and access to financial self-sufficiency.

SAFE community awareness initiatives and training sessions increase the awareness of how domestic violence affects women on an economic level that is often overlooked. SAFE’s training equips survivors of domestic violence with the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to end the cycle of economic abuse, while maintaining their personal safety.

SAFE has an accomplished background of actively providing economic empowerment and access to community resources to more than 560 survivors of domestic violence since May 2006. SAFE partners with other programs and grassroots organizations regarding diversity and inclusion to decrease domestic violence. SAFE has participated in several projects to reduce economic barriers for African-American, Latino and Asian, Pacific Islander women who are victims of domestic violence in Metro Detroit. These projects include culturally specific training curriculum, linguistic support and culturally relevant programming. More than 1250 community members have attended the three previous SAFE’s Health & Wealth Expos. SAFE actively participates in various community outreach initiatives and was a presenter regarding Economic Empowerment Advocacy in the U.S. at the 2nd Annual World Shelter conference February 2012 in Washington, D.C.

SAFE challenges the definition of diversity to include not only a person’s race, physical or mental challenges, or ethnic heritage, but also their domestic challenges. “Promoting diversity is important to our society to foster and promote innovative ideas and mutual respect while decreasing discrimination and intolerance,” said Risker. “It really is about removing economic barriers.

We Build Character

Diversity Focused Organizations

We Build Character is a not-for-profit organization focused on growing and strengthening the Michigan workforce through powerful executive mentoring programs. Its mentoring programs are designed to build a diverse network of leaders resulting in a powerful ripple effect of inclusion throughout the community.

We Build Character works with corporate partners who share in its mission and vision and in return help them meet their diversity, leadership development and succession planning objectives.