Diversify summit discusses how to promote more equity in the workforce

General Electric's first black female executive will be the keynote speaker at this year's Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce Diversify summit on June 19th at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

Deborah Elam, a former chief diversity officer at General Electric who now heads her own consulting and coaching firm known as Corporate Playbook, will be the luncheon speaker during the half-day program on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

"There are two areas in which any professional can help advance diversity and inclusion. Being knowledgeable, having intellectual curiosity about the subject and having courageous conversations," Elam says. "The ability to ask about and share stories of life experience with those who are different from you goes a long way towards deeper understanding and appreciation of a co-worker's life journey."

Elam began her 30-year career at General Electric as an intern, working her way up to president of the GE Foundation. As GE's first black female corporate officer, she has dedicated her career to diversity, philanthropy and inclusion.

In addition to Elam's keynote speech, Diversify will offer three breakout sessions led by industry professionals.

Ronald Harris, vice president of diversity at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, will lead a session on unconscious bias.

"We all have it whether we admit it or not," Harris said. "Failure to acknowledge bias adversely affects hiring practices, culture, recruitment, retention and attrition of existing employees."

Sabrina Moon, of Problem Solving Institute, will explore the role empathy plays in building an inclusive and diverse culture. She will discuss how to discuss defining empathy, how to build skills in empathy and how to measure empathy.

Luronda Jennings of the Hamilton County School System, will showcase an interactive stimulation for employers, community partners and volunteers of what life is like with a disability. Participants will engage in simulations to gain a new level of empathy and appreciation for those living with autism, language impairment or an intellectual disability.

Summer Kohlhorst of Center Centre will outline techniques and strategies it uses to attract and retain a talented and diverse workforce, including Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman's model for designing a better work experience for a range of accessibility needs.

Unum's Pipan Wilson will discuss mentoring veterans to help retain more workers with military experience. About 60-70% percent of veterans leave their first job in between their first and second years. Mentoring veterans during their first few years of employment can significantly reduce the turnover rate. This session explores how workplaces can support mental health.

Those speakers and other programs are available for $100 for the complete seminar, which will include a breakfast and luncheon Session-only registration ($50) includes breakfast and breakout sessions.

More information is available at www.chattanoogachamber.com/diversify