Toward One Wisconsin

Statewide conference targets diversity, inclusion

Posted on Feb 27, 2020 :: New North
Sharon Verbeten
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Diversity and inclusion are buzzwords in today’s business world, but they need to be much more. Ideally, such goals should be actionable and measurable, resulting in more diverse populations represented on corporate staffs and boards, economic development leaders say.

To that end, the second statewide Toward One Wisconsin Conference will be held April 28-29 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Green Bay. Last year, the inaugural conference was held in Milwaukee and brought in more than 500 attendees. Attendance is expected to be at least 750 this year.

“It’s a national progressive issue,” says Kelly Armstrong, vice president of economic development for the Greater Green Bay Chamber and a co-chair of the regional steering committee for the conference.

New North Executive Director Barb LaMue, the committee’s other co-chair, was involved in last year’s event, and she’s excited the event is coming to Northeast Wisconsin.

“We obviously want to make sure we’re tapping into resources, and we really need to make sure the region understands the benefits of diversity and inclusion,” LaMue says.

New North has been involved with the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service, private industry and local partners in the planning of Toward One Wisconsin. It has also worked with the City of Appleton and the Green Bay chamber to develop a diversity resource for multicultural residents. 

“The New North’s goal as part of this event is to use the conference as a major leverage point with our committee to better market our region as a welcoming place, identify ways to propel best practices and scale these activities across our 18-county region,” LaMue says.

And the Greater Green Bay Chamber has been “leading the charge for our community” for some time, Armstrong says. For example, it started a diversity and inclusion task force more than a year ago.

“It’s a perfect time for us because we have these things in place and running,” she adds. “It’s a strategic initiative that we’re focused on.”

The conference will focus on attaining diversity in four tracks — workforce, community, education and health care. Panelists will include executives from, among others, Humana, United Way Worldwide, PwC, Associated Bank and Bellin Health.

The event also will include an invitation-only CEO Action reception. The chamber’s task force has been working on this push, which is part of a national effort that includes company leaders signing a pledge linked to diversity and inclusivity, Armstrong says.

“What we’re seeing is momentum by larger corporations that are adopting diversity and inclusivity strategies; we’re seeing that dialogue happening … (but there is) lots of room for opportunities,” she says.

Armstrong encourages CEOs to consider checking out to learn more about the pledge.

“One of the things we’d like to see is more conversation … certainly more companies implementing the pledge and the initiatives around that,” she says.

LaMue agrees. “I think we’re doing well with identifying how important it is. The companies in our region have really stepped up.”

And that’s good for attracting a future workforce of younger employees. “The millennial generation wants to come to a region that is diverse,” LaMue says.

Armstrong says she hopes the conference will not only shed more light on the theme of diversity but also create awareness of the topic from within.

“Do you have a growing population of people from diverse makeups? Does your board reflect that?” she says. “We know we’ve got room to grow, but we’re tackling it.”