Following a 2019 study on workplace diversity and inclusion, the Northwest Arkansas Council has launched a business cohort to address these issues and provide training and actionable strategies for companies.
Partnering with five local chambers of commerce and the IDEALS Institute, the NWA Council is launching the NWA DEI Business Cohort. This project is designed to address the gaps in diversity and inclusion identified in the 2019 study.
Running from October 2020 through March 2021, the NWA DEI Business Cohort will provide small to mid-sized businesses with training and strategies focused on diversity and equity in business. Participants will receive resources on how to develop their own diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) plan and learn how to sustain it. The cohort will consist of five chambers and 15 Arkansas companies.
The following chambers and companies will be participating in the first cohort:
Greater Bentonville Chamber of Commerce
- Black Hills Energy
Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce
- Specialized Real Estate Group
- WER Architects/Planners
- Lewis Automotive Group
Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce
- Generations Bank
- Northwest Health
- First Security
Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce
- Lightning Bolt Advertising
- Alliance Ventures, LLC
Springdale Chamber of Commerce
- Ozark Electric Cooperative
- Wesche Company
- Truity Credit Union
The business cohort was prompted by the NWA Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Survey, which revealed that only 35 percent of small employers who responded had a group supervising their company’s diversity and inclusion efforts. There were only 18 percent of survey participants who had workplace demographic goals.
In addition, only 23 percent of the small business survey participants had an initiative to support historically underutilized businesses or businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans or LGBTQ individuals.
“The survey showed an overall gap in sourcing, contracting and accessing talent pools among businesses, which helps explain why the bulk of the workforce in Northwest Arkansas was white, as are the board of directors, top-level leadership and supervisors,” Mervin Jebaraj, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, said in a statement. “As the region continues to grow, businesses, including small and mid-sized, will need to address the type of environment they wish to foster for their workforce.”
The NWA DEI Business Cohort is supported by the Walmart Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.