Urban League launches executive leadership program to boost diversity at top corporate ranks

Urban League launches executive leadership program to boost diversity at top corporate ranks

March 29th, 2017 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

In this Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, staff file photo, Warren E. Logan Jr., President & CEO of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga speaks to attendees during The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga's annual Equal Opportunity Day breakfast at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Inaugural class for Inclusion by Design

› Eduardo Centurion, project manager for the Maclellan Foundation

› Tyna Hector, training and development coordinator for the city of Chattanooga

› Dr. Shewanee Howard-Baptiste, associate professor of exercise science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

› Ken Jones, manager of fiber design at the Electric Power Board

› Meghan Scanion-Roach, managing director for SunTrust

› April Lomax, workforce diversity consultant at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

› Chelsea Johnson, interim director of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee - Tennessee Health Foundation

› Travis Lytle, senior vice president of relationship management of SmartBank

› Jonathan Butler, manager of Neighborhood Services and Development

› Brooke Standefer, assisted vice president of corporate tax at Unum

Warren Logan

Warren Logan

Photo by Jay Bailey /Times Free Press.

In a city where 52.4 percent of the population are women and 42 percent are people of color, white men still dominate the top business leadership jobs with nearly 90 percent of the directors of the publicly traded companies in Chattanooga.

But the Urban League of Chattanooga hopes to help diversify the business leadership of Chattanooga through a new executive leadership program launched with a three-day retreat this week for the first class of women and minority participants.

The nine-month program, billed as "Inclusion by Design," will offer training and mentorship every year to 10 to 12 emerging leaders who are women or minorities at Chattanooga businesses and major nonprofit or government agencies.

Warren Logan, president of the Urban League of Chattanooga, said participating businesses pay $7,500 per participant and the program has gained outside foundation support to help raise up the next generation of corporate leaders with a more diverse background.

The goal is not just for an affirmative action plan to make corporate boardrooms and corner offices look different with their occupants.

"This is about making better businesses," Logan said Tuesday after wrapping up the initial retreat for the inaugural class of five business managers, three government leaders and two managers at local nonprofit groups. "This is a market-based approach to diversity and inclusion so we've asked CEOs at area companies and nonprofits to identify women and people of color within their organizations who have a promise and potential for senior management or executive-level responsibility. We want over the next three years to build a pipeline of people who can be in the upper ranks of the private sector and nonprofits of our city."

Soderquist Leadership is the curriculum partner for equipping senior leaders in the program. Turning Point Leadership Group will lead the diversity and inclusion curriculum and each participant will be assigned a CEO mentor from another company who he or she will meet with twice a month during the program to learn more about the challenges and methods of effective management.

Logan said the Urban League has been looking at developing the program for the past three years since a study showed there was a lack of diversity in gender and race at the senior levels of most Chattanooga companies.

"The demographic profile of our city is changing and I think consumers are paying more attention to how their dollars are spent and more businesses recognize the need to reflect and know about the diversity of the communities they serve," Logan said.

According to a 2015 study by the McKinsey consulting firm, companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above the national industry norms.

To learn more information about Inclusion by Design Leadership Executive Leadership Program, call (423) 756-1762.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.


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