Guest Column: Diversity and Inclusion

Gary Stewart, Director, Community Relations, Cornell University

Gary Stewart, Director, Community Relations, Cornell University

Earlier this month, I asked fellow Chamber Board members to send me their affiliations’ and volunteer work that touched on diversity and inclusion.

Their answers gave me a sense of pride about the contacts and commitment Chamber leadership has on the challenges and opportunities tied to equity in Tompkins County.

A very small slice of representative answers:

* Ithaca Youth Bureau – College Discovery Program

* Diversity Consortium of Tompkins County

* Workforce Development Board Individuals with Disabilities Committee

* Collective Impact Cradle to Career Leadership Team

* Rev: Passenger to Pilot Women Entrepreneurs

* TST BOCES Computer Consulting Committee

* Challenge Workforce Solutions Board

* Franziska Racker Centers committee work

Symbolically, the Chamber of Commerce has a lead role with an item on my list: Cayuga Radio Group’s weekly show, “All Things Equal,” which airs on Tuesday mornings on WHCU. (Find the show at The concept for the show emerged several years ago from a series of Chamber led community conversations on race relations and related issues that pointed to the need for steady and productive dialogues on a year-round basis. The Chamber’s work on these important societal issues is often overlooked, but remains essential to its core mission and future growth.

Yet, there is still more work to be done, and this past Monday, Ithaca College President Tom Rochon visited with the Chamber’s Government and Community Affairs Committee to discuss the value of an active and consciously collaborative approach to inclusiveness. President Rochon recently addressed the Ithaca Rotary Club on this topic, and his remarks – which included an ask for Chamber leadership with this work – were well received by dozens of community members.

Part of the Chamber’s mission statement touches the importance of a high quality of life for all Tompkins County residents. An essential ingredient in that mix is a steady focus and progressive commitment on issues tied to diversity, equity and inclusion.

May 2016