Diversity, inclusion and empowerment are values that run deep at NAWBO. That’s why the NAWBO National Board’s Membership Committee has launched a Diversity and Inclusion Initiative to bolster empowerment and inclusion of women business owners across all backgrounds and industries. This month, we sat down with committee members Karen Bennetts and Cristina Heaney to learn how the initiative is shaping the future of NAWBO. Read on for more!
Why is diversity so critical for NAWBO and its member businesses?
Cristina: NAWBO has always valued a diverse and inclusive membership that is representative of all women business owners who believe and “live” our mission to empower women entrepreneurs no matter their race, religion, age or country of origin. NAWBO understands the effectiveness of a global community that consists of like-minded women. Our National Board and staff are ensuring we are providing such an environment through the efforts of our Membership Committee as we continue to reach out to our women of color and next generation members through virtual focus groups and face-to-face conversations.
Karen: NAWBO’s mission is to serve ALL women business owners, regardless of their location, size of their business, age or ethnicity. NAWBO continuously works to make the NAWBO experience more valuable, and more meaningful, for all our members and leaders. One of the ways we’re doing that this year is by talking to more of our members through surveys, 1:1 conversations and discussion groups.
What is NAWBO doing to create a more diverse membership?
Cristina: At the National level, we are focusing on our current women of color and next generation members by inviting these women from across the country to share their experiences, perceptions and expectations of NAWBO. We are identifying their “wish list” of programming, educational opportunities, advocacy participation and leadership opportunities at both the national and chapter levels.
Karen: We are reaching out to other organizations—where women of diverse age, ethnic and geographic diversity are—to ensure they know they’re welcome and represented by NAWBO at local, regional and national levels in many ways, from education and training to advocacy efforts. We’re doing more segmentation, to allow us to speak directly to the needs of our members as individuals, and reflect all our members, from social media to email to the selection of speakers and topics.
What can chapter leaders and members do to support this initiative?
Cristina: Many of our chapters are already successful in their membership diversity efforts. Our National Membership Committee is talking with these chapter leaders, learning from them and sharing what we’ve learned with them to ensure continued growth of a diverse membership. It is important that all chapter leaders and National leadership and staff work together in unity, drawing from each other’s strengths and knowledge to ensure we reflect our NAWBO Mission. As we continue working on this ongoing Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, our promise to our chapter leaders is to provide them with the tools and direction needed to be successful in their diversity efforts.
Karen: We’d love to see our chapter leaders follow these same activities, as they work best for their individual markets. In general, being mindful of the needs of all current and prospective members, and intentionally creating education, tools, events and support that serve a variety of needs is a great place to start. We are also suggesting chapters reach out to, and team up with, other organizations in their areas that serve our next generation and women of color WBOs, such as the Latin American Chamber of Commerce.
What do you hope NAWBO will look like in the future from a diversity perspective?
Cristina: We hope to see a more global representation of members regardless of their age, country of origin, ethnicity and business size. We hope that our programming, leadership, education and advocacy opportunities will reflect the wants and needs of all our members and that they know they are welcome and have a seat at the table.
Karen: NAWBO will continue to develop educational content, legislative support and meaningful, productive events to support all WBOs and represent their needs. We anticipate this focus and commitment to result in women from across all business segments, sizes, ages and ethnic backgrounds to join and engage with the organization as a result.
What can members expect to result from the dedicated diversity committee NAWBO now has?
- Continued open lines of communications
- Ongoing two-way conversations with members, staff and chapter leaders
- Follow through on the expectations of all our members
- A welcoming, meaningful and productive NAWBO experience representative of all our members’ expectations
Karen: More segmented content geared to the specific needs of different groups of members—for example, are there access to capital challenges some of our members experience that others do not, and if so, we’ll create ways to address those challenges. We’ll continue to reach out to members to ask how NAWBO can do better to bring more value to them as individuals and help their businesses succeed. NAWBO exists to support our membership, and this is just one way we’re working to continuously improve.
The NAWBO National Board’s Membership Committee, including (L-R) Deborah Snyder, Lisa Coppola, Karen Bennetts, Cristina Morales Heaney, Lydia Chicles, Molly Gimmel and Bill Sorenson (not pictured).