Why write this OpEd?
Because we want to be held accountable for the intentional commitments we made last year to help build an economy that works for all in Colorado. It is because of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and too many others. It is also because we did not learn from Emmett Louis Till or Rodney King. We did not hold ourselves accountable then and hoped a few conversations, a couple of community marches, and electing a Black president would get the job done. Yet, there we were in the summer of 2020, watching George Floyd have his life slowly taken from him.
History has proven that it is all too easy to move on to some other issue, cause, or conversation that will divert our time and resources. However, this month we recognize Juneteenth, now a nationally recognized holiday, and watch the sentencing of Derek Chauvin. The intersection of these two events must be acknowledged.
The reality of our situation is that issues of race and social justice can no longer be ignored, and the fear of saying the wrong thing is not a solution.
Last year we co-founded, with 23 other leaders, the Colorado Inclusive Economy (CIE) movement to make a change — change in ourselves, change in the organizations we lead, change for others, and change for our great state of Colorado.
Through CIE, we have made a long-term commitment to learn from one another in large convenings, small groups, and individually leader to leader. Through this journey, we are able to bring an accountability partner with us from our organization, typically an HR or DEI leader from within, to ensure we bring the concepts and ideas gleaned from CIE and turn them into real action in our respective organizations.
Together, we take deep dives with DEI experts around topics such as micro-aggressions, unconscious bias, and inclusive leadership, with thoughtful dialogue throughout. We share what is working well, where things did not go well, and how our organizations are factoring diversity, inclusivity, equity, and belonging into the way in which we hire, promote, or let go of talent. Reaching and retaining nontraditional talent and applicants is an important component of the journey, and CIE members share new ways to recruit and compensate employees.
Most important, we are learning together how our employee base is responding and reacting to new initiatives. We have each made a long-term commitment to this work, and we are building a shared scorecard where we can aggregate our data to hold ourselves accountable for seeing change over time in the areas of staff and board composition, talent pipelines, equitable pay, and supply chains. We are committed to working together on issues that can have a positive impact on building an inclusive economy for nonprofits and private and public businesses across our state.
We do not have all the answers, but we are dialoguing, we are learning, we are experimenting, we are training with DEI leaders, and we are hearing from many voices. We are tackling recruitment, retention, promotion, supply chain, and procurement strategies because, in the end, we as leaders control these levers and they transform and build inclusive businesses.
The economic change needed in our country will require grit and courage. We are advocating for long-term systemic change. We believe Colorado can set an example for other states to follow and we know that a diverse workforce and inclusive cultures have a positive impact on missions and bottom lines.
We have heard from some leaders in our community that, “We only have so much time and resources to give.” However, we believe that no one is so busy that they cannot make time to address injustice, and certainly, we all have time to afford our fellow humans’ compassion and respect.
We are reminded of a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
Soon we will have over 70 CEOs, executive directors, and leaders who have joined the CIE movement to work together and make things better for all, while simultaneously making their organization stronger.
Now, we invite you to participate in the movement and help us make Colorado the most inclusive economy in the nation.
Change begins with the individual and Colorado Inclusive Economy provides the tools and resources for that change. Explore their curated content at https://inclusiveeconomy.us/toolkit/ and begin the process of unpacking and releasing the biases that have for too long prevented transformational change.
Rob Cohen is chairman and CEO of IMA Financial Group, Inc. Phil Kalin is president and CEO of Pinnacol Assurance. George Sparks is president and CEO of Denver Museum of Nature and Science.