DEI panel at Kent Chamber offered advice for small businesses

Nov 11, 2021
Written by Rose Gundersen, VP of Operations & Retail Services

Washington Retail’s JEDI Initiative led to a partnering opportunity with the Kent Chamber of Commerce at their DEI Panel luncheon last week. It was an honor to join three other panelists in sharing perspectives and ways to advance equity in the business community. Drawing upon my long career and professional experience as an entrepreneur and supporter of small businesses, I spoke on practical ways to advance equity by offering data and examples.

The NRF conducted a national survey at the peak of the call for justice in 2020 on shoppers’ expectations for retailers to act on racial reckoning. The survey revealed that 61% of shoppers expect retailers to take action. This percentage goes up to 83% for black shoppers.

Advancing equity is achievable by supporting employees, customers, and your local community, but the most effective way is to focus on employees. Practical ideas to support employees include offering livable wages with a benefits package, reimbursing tuition or providing upskilling opportunities, periodically shining a light on a new cause, encouraging employee volunteerism, and implementing a policy of employee expression and personality with the use of “clothing guidelines” instead of requiring uniforms.

When small businesses focus on advancing equity among employees, customers will notice, and their local communities reap the benefits.

The Kent Chamber’s luncheon program also included a segment addressing equity for people with disabilities. The audience was inspired and learned the importance of maintaining relationships with the disabled and creating job opportunities for them.

The Kent Chamber of Commerce’s DEI Committee has been doing good work and is a great partner with WR’s JEDI Initiative. Zenovia Harris, the chamber’s CEO, has interacted with WR on the intersections of equity within the business community. We look forward to more partnering opportunities to make a difference by leveraging knowledge with actions.