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If any point in recent history has underscored the importance of embracing diversity and inclusivity in meetings, this is certainly that time. As the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBTQ+ workplace protection victory move to the forefront of the cultural discourse nationwide, planners must also rise to the occasion by wholeheartedly translating these themes into their meetings’ programming.
From breakout sessions to keynote speakers, meetings agendas are seeing an increase in diverse representation of identities, voices and content. But how can a destination contribute to these efforts? In Phoenix, the business community is answering that question and setting the bar quite high.
“Phoenix has been a leader when it comes to diversity and inclusion and has been so supportive [of chamber initiatives],” says Felicia Butts, board chair of the Greater Phoenix Equality Chamber of Commerce, and a Black small business owner herself, noting that the chamber partners with the city on a variety of efforts and events.
For seven consecutive years, Phoenix has received a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index—which ranks the inclusivity of municipal laws, policies, and services of the LGBTQ+ community living and working in each city.
According to Butts, the Equality Chamber is uniquely positioned to help meeting planners visiting the city make their events more inclusive. Butts, pictured above at a chamber event, explains that all the local chambers sit on a collaborative committee, formed “because we felt the chambers could be stronger as one collective voice, instead of single voices.”
The committee brings together a variety of locally based chambers—including the Black Chamber of Arizona, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Asian Chamber of Commerce, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Arizona, the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona, and the Associated Minority Contractors of Arizona—for collaborative efforts.
A total of 19 groups have signed on to the Community Collaborative.
When meeting planners visit the city, this unified group is prepared to “help in any way we can,” Butts says. “We have connections and we’re going to reach out to those connections to get you the speakers you need or resources that might enhance your meeting.”
Inclusion in meetings isn’t just important as a gratuitous gesture toward the news cycle’s top stories. It’s the new standard for creating content that is more practical, impactful, reflective of attendee experiences, and conducive to meaningful thought leadership and organizational innovation.
“When you bring in various backgrounds and various talents, [you] engage unique thinking, improve decision making, and facilitate the deeper understanding of the world through different lenses,” Butts adds.
Those are invaluable benefits to organizations and attendees, especially those committed to fostering environments where everyone has a seat at the table.
The Equality Chamber is now in its 40th year, an especially notable milestone because this chapter formed even before there was a national component to the organization. This year also marked a name change for the organization (formerly the Greater Phoenix Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce), a welcomed sign of the times.
The name change itself is significant, Butts says, noting that it’s reflective of the group’s evolution in outlook, priorities and membership, as well as the way it communicates messages of inclusivity and embodies representation throughout the broader business community.
“When you evolve, you evolve the language, the labels, you evolve your perspective,” she says. “It’s not just the good intention, but the communication.”
Similarly, the meetings landscape continues to evolve. And, community leaders—including Butts—welcome collaborative communication with planners who are setting new standards in these dynamic, historic times.
This story was written and published by Associations Now. For more meetings trends in Phoenix, visit AssociationsNow.com.