Editor's Note: This story is part of a month-long series that highlights 31 ideas included in the "Mansfield Rising" plan. The 67-page document was created by 15 local leaders after attending the South by Southwest Conference last March in Austin, Texas.
Idea 17: Create a leadership cohort to improve diversity and inclusion
By establishing Mansfield as a leader in diversity and inclusion among small Midwestern cities, it can become more attractive to potential businesses and individuals, the Mansfield Rising plan states.
We can dramatically improve the impact of diversity and inclusion efforts within the top levels of Mansfield’s business leadership in order to create objectively better business outcomes across Downtown Mansfield.
Two major studies in the past three years have shown companies that are more diverse in the boardroom make more money, attract better talent, and make superior customer-focused decisions.
Successful and diverse business climates are attractive to highly qualified candidates. The pipeline of talent is there; 30 percent of all STEM degrees are earned by people of color, yet they occupy just 17 percent of leadership roles in technology, media and telecom companies.
There are various ways to encourage diversity and inclusion which other cities are implementing. Create a leadership cohort focused on the improvement/formation of specific and measurable pathways to greater diversity, equity, and inclusion at the top level of Mansfield’s business community.
Members of the cohort should include those who have direct ability to influence policy, hiring, and membership decisions. Members will commit to a year-long cohort that establishes evidence-based strategies that point to better business outcomes.
This is an investment based upon the prevailing demographics of the country, and extensive research that shows tight correlation between leadership diversity and business success. Based upon this, it's reasonable to assume the makeup of leadership positions within the organizations led by the cohort will become more diverse and thus, more successful.
Secondarily, the message it sends to outside investors and the community at large cannot be understated.
A more grassroots, low-cost effort could create strategic partnerships to enhance diversity in the downtown environment. The more diverse communities are, the more they thrive. Diverse perspectives make communities livable and serve to ensure equitable opportunities.
Underrepresented populations of people need to feel integrated into the society in which they live. Strengthening partnerships with key individuals and organizations encourages an authentic relationship based on a sense of trust.
Some organizations that may already have diversity and inclusion efforts embedded in their work that can organize people around these ideas are North End Community Improvement Collaborative, The Ohio State University at Mansfield, North Central State College, and Richland Area Chamber of Commerce.
These activities could begin within one year and would be ongoing with little to no cost needed. Direct feedback from underrepresented populations of people offer honest feedback regarding their concerns and needs.
Guided, intentional conversations about difficult topics allow people to express their feelings in a safe space to reach a common goal. Diversity and Inclusion has expanded to address more than race and gender, and now also includes sexual orientation, religious preferences, ethnicity, disability, and other differences.
Connecting to current initiatives to learn how to break down barriers to equity, perceived or real, help to strengthen current efforts.
One example may be a focus group that provides feedback to Downtown Mansfield Inc. on brickyard programming and its potential to attract a diverse crowd. These groups would also be responsible for providing suggestions to any conflicts that may deter inclusion and expand the network of diverse individuals engaging in downtown activities.