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Cleveland’s Diversity Edge

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

Cleveland’s cultural and diversity combined with strategic location in the Northeast gives the city a unique edge if it can balance the delicacy of inclusion and growth in the corporate sector.

Executive Caterers at Landerhaven hosts monthly Corporate Club luncheons among community leaders to discuss big ideas at work in Northeast Ohio and on Aug. 13, 2009, presented a forum to highlight Cleveland’s diversity edge.

Deborah Plummer, Margaret W. Wong, Andrew Jackson
, and Veronica Dahlberg.

Photos by Arooj Ashraf,
La Prensa

Panelists included: Deborah Plummer, Ph.D., Psychologist & Diversity Expert, DL Plummer & Associates / Former Chief Diversity Officer, The Cleveland Clinic; Margaret Wong, President & Managing Partner, Margaret W. Wong & Associates Co, LPA; Andrew Jackson, Sr. VP & Executive Director, Commission on Economic Inclusion – GCP; and Veronica Dahlberg, Hispanas Organizadas de Lake y Ashtabula.

Peggy Zone Fisher, President and CEO, The Diversity Center for Northeast Ohio, moderated the discussion.

Panelists emphasized diversity is deeper than skin color—it reaches beyond race, gender, and sexuality, to social economics, politics, age, and family structure.

Plummer said the region’s greatest barrier to success is not realizing its strengths and the bounty of opportunities in health care, cultural enrichment, and education. “Ignorance needs to be enlightened,” she said, adding the city provides excellent venues of interaction if organizations and communities step beyond their comfort zones and make a conscious effort to know each other.

Dalhberg described Northeast Ohio as one of the most welcoming region in the United States, but said she is concerned with the rise in hate crimes targeting Latinos. She said the growing Latino community should not be viewed as a burden but as an asset that can rebuild Cleveland. 

She said the city needs some TLC [tender loving care] and encouraged guests to drive around areas hit hard by recession, rather than fearing the empty boarded buildings—“find something to love about them.”

The challenge for Clevelanders is to move beyond tolerance of each group to integration in economic growth. Dahlberg surmised that to be competitive in a global economy, Cleveland organizations must willingly foster an atmosphere of inclusion, respect, and provide opportunities for advancement.

“Look at the people in your community and bring different views to the table,” Dahlberg said. Citing HOLA as an example she said the organization benefits by having board members who hail from different backgrounds, represent a spectrum of age groups.

Dahlberg said the Latino leaders need to foster stronger relationships and can increase visibility by attending and raising their views at such events.

Jackson emphasized fair access to opportunities is what communities desire most. “People are just asking for an opportunity to be included,” he said.

Margaret Wong

Fisher agreed, saying the true measure of successful integration and access will be determined by retention of youth who are currently leaving the city in search of greener pastures.

Jackson added that Cleveland needs to raise its image and present itself as a vibrant destination that has great things to offer. He said businesses need to be opportunistic, give others a chance to advance, be emphatic, and go the extra mile to be extraordinary.

Wong said the city’s size is an asset itself, “It not a big town so you get to know each other well, and feel like part of the family.” She said this close network facilities in breaking down negative stereotypes and creates a unique camaraderie. 

Corporate Club events are supported by NCB and Time Warner Cable Business Class. A portion of the proceeds support Junior Achievement of Greater Cleveland.





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