Recently, some questions have arisen relative to the emails being shared by NAWBO National in the past couple of months. We believe some clarity is due to our NAWBO Chicago Members on what steps we are taking as a local organization.
The NAWBO Chicago Board of Directors feels compelled to explicitly reaffirm and share our position on diversity, equity and inclusion within our chapter. It is incredibly important to our chapter and each of its members that we are fostering a welcoming collective of all women business owners in the Chicagoland area!
We wholeheartedly support the national diversity statement:
In principle and in practice, NAWBO values and seeks a diverse and inclusive membership. NAWBO seeks full participation in the organization by all business owners who support our mission to empower women entrepreneurs, regardless of race, religion, age, sexual orientation, national origin or disability.
Our strength is in our diversity and our ability to lift up one another across all industries, all business types, all races and all ethnicities because we are truly better together! To support this principle, NAWBO Chicago has taken the following actions to firmly endorse and promote diversity, equity and inclusion at the local level.
We launched a Diversity Committee in 2020 to ensure and expand the diversity of our local chapter. The Committee is developing a calendar to appropriately highlight our diverse business owners and will continue to identify ways to expand the diversity of our programming and our chapter. This group will also work to foster a deeper understanding of what each member within our Chapter needs at this time.
If you would like to join this committee, please email the Committee Chair, Elizabeth Colón, at [email protected].
Celebration of Achievement Conference
The Celebration of Achievement Conference featured a panel discussion: “Diversity: A Conversation About Breaking Down Barriers” which is now available on our YouTube channel for general viewing.
We were also delighted to host Nina Vaca of Pinnacle Global as the keynote speaker for the 2021 conference. We want to continue featuring speakers and leaders who are breaking through boundaries and leading the way for other female entrepreneurs.
Special Education for Our Board
As part of the NAWBO Chicago Board retreat in 2020, Dr. Darren Pierre from Loyola’s School of Education presented to our leadership team about “Bridging the Diversity Divide.” At this year’s retreat the Board of Directors continued to discuss how we could expand our diversity efforts going forward. Many ideas were shared, and we look forward to future conversations and education to keep advancing these important initiatives.
We continue to invite women of all backgrounds and ethnicities to be part of the presentation rotations and the panel discussions that we offer. The Diversity Committee is also working to craft a calendar and other concepts to recognize diverse entrepreneurs throughout the year to pay tribute to events such as Pride Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month and Asian Pan American Heritage Month, to name a few. We will continue our efforts to be aware of and honor the various holidays outside those of the standard calendar to be more inclusive of all women in business.
We post a question each month in the newsletter around the current theme and invite Premier Members to respond. Through the efforts of Elizabeth Colon and Katherine Tipper, we have also been able to create “Meet Our Member” videos that we can share in our various outlets. While we may not always receive replies from our members about these offerings, we are cognizant to invite all demographics of our members to participate.
We know cost can sometimes prove to be a barrier to entry for women within our community. NAWBO Chicago solicits sponsors and members to provide scholarships to fellow women from underrepresented communities so that we can lift others up and invite them to our collective circle.
For the 2020 and 2021 Celebration of Achievement Conferences, we were able to work with the YWCA, the WBDC, the Minority Supplier Diversity Council, the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois to offer scholarships to women business owners to expand our circle of diversity and lift up our colleagues in underserved markets.
President Elizabeth Colón felt great momentum in NAWBO Chicago’s efforts through the last year despite all of the unexpected challenges, and she is excited to serve a second term with the organization to keep moving the women within Chicagoland forward. As the first Latina president, Elizabeth is being asked to represent our chapter on various governmental agencies where she is able to open more doors of opportunity for all female entrepreneurs.
Encourage Courageous Conversations
Overall, we want to continue having meaningful conversations that will allow all female entrepreneurs in our geographical area to feel invited to join and encouraged to participate as a proud member of NAWBO Chicago! The Board will continue to have the conversations necessary to lead this charge, and we invite any member with any concerns to reach out to our Executive Director, Melissa Lagowski, at [email protected] or 773.741.4955, or our President, Elizabeth Colón, at [email protected] or 312.823.6290.
We are not promising we will never make mistakes, but we are devoted to learning more and constantly elevating our efforts. We will continue to push for NAWBO National to resolve the work of their current Task Force in a timely manner. But in the meantime, please know we not only stand for diversity, equity and inclusion at NAWBO Chicago – we honor and celebrate these as pillars of our strength. We truly believe our organization is “better together,” and we want all female entrepreneurs to feel welcomed and supported!
NAWBO Chicago President
NAWBO Chicago Executive Director