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Tampa Leaders Hopeful at Time of Crisis

By DTCC Connection Staff | August 10, 2020

DTCC is committed to addressing diversity and inclusion in engaging stakeholder in conversations that will bring positive change. As part of this commitment, DTCC kicked off its first speaker series on July 14, titled The Role of Diversity and Inclusion in Tampa’s Economic Development.

You can watch the entire panel discussion here DTCC Speaker Series: Tampa July 14, 2020.

During the inaugural speaker series, Tampa civic leaders agreed that, while the problems of racial injustice and inequality are not new, the prospects for addressing them successfully are different now because of people’s willingness to listen to and learn from varied points of view and commit to working for positive change.

During the online event moderated by Marie Chinnici-Everitt, DTCC Managing Director and Chief Marketing Officer and Regional Head of DTCC Tampa, panelists focused on lessons for the development of underserved communities that we can learn from today’s unique crisis -- the convergence of pandemic and social unrest provoked by the police killing of George Floyd. Panel members included Tampa Mayor and former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, Feeding Tampa Bay President and CEO Thomas Mantz, Tampa Bay Economic Development Council President and CEO Craig Richard, and DTCC Managing Director and Head of Diverse Talent Management and Advancement Keisha Bell.

“DTCC is hosting this event,” Chinnici-Everitt explained, “because we believe it’s important as a company to partner with community leaders in fostering dialogue on issues that are important to all of us -- employees, people we’re looking to hire, people outside of DTCC -- and driving positive change.”

Lessons from the Crisis

Asked to share her perspective on the impact of current events, Mayor Castor said it has reinforced what her 30-year tenure in the local police department taught her: to listen to everyone’s point of view and how the crisis is affecting them. “Having that input and dialogue is critical to making informed decisions you believe are best for the community.”

For Richard, the crisis proves that “D&I is no longer a nice to have in economic development. It’s a must-have for communities to be competitive and companies to be profitable.” He said talent -- the quantity of available talent and of qualified diverse talent – is the number-one criterion companies are using when they decide whether to expand in or relocate to a particular city. “For Tampa, that means we must start with D&I to be successful,” he added.

With black and brown employees affected differently from others in the company by the double whammy of COVID-19 and the issues raised by Floyd’s killing, Bell shared how DTCC altered its D&I strategy in response. “At DTCC, D&I is a strategic business priority,” she said. “2020 was going to be all about recruiting, promoting and retaining women, and 2021 about race. But we’ve pivoted and accelerated what we had planned for next year, including small-group conversations among black and brown employees about injustices they experience within and outside of their communities.”

Easing the Crisis

Are there ways to mitigate the current crisis, Chinnici-Everitt asked. Yes, Richard said. “There have been protests before, but it seems different this time. There’s a different team on the field, a multicultural team, that’s willing to look at all the factors that have brought us to this point, from zoning to permitting to credit scores. That’s what it’s going to take to build an equitable system.”

Mantz said organizations like Feeding Tampa Bay are well positioned to contribute to this effort. “We help people move into a place of capability by investing in opportunities rather than just being a social-service giveaway. By creating opportunities, you create equality and a community that’s far more successful.”

“Corporations can invest in organizations like ‘Feeding’ and also in job training and the pipeline of future leaders in the workforce,” said Bell. “This is not philanthropy; it’s an investment. And it needs to be a lifetime commitment.”

Changing Conversations

Chinnici-Everitt asked Bell to relate how the pandemic and the renewed focus on racial inequality are influencing discussions at DTCC around D&I. Because incidents of police harassment may be familiar only to black and brown employees, “we decided to expand awareness through honest dialogue,” Bell said. “For instance, I wrote a blog post that described the duality of being a black person in corporate America and having to cover when you leave the office and the issues you confront, like dealings with police and income disparities.”

DTCC also initiated conversations with Black and Brown male employees, to surface problems and situations that uniquely confront them, followed by conversations with Black and Brown women at the company to learn how they talk to their children about inequality. The goal, Bell explained, was to give colleagues context and help allies understand where these employees are coming from before allies can begin the work of being an upstander for racial equality.

In city government, Mayor Castor said, “the Floyd killing has brought up uncomfortable conversations. But we have to have them if we’re going to understand the need for change. All the anger and energy that’s been stirred up can go into addressing systemic problems we have in the educational system and the access to affordable housing, for instance.”

Mantz said Feeding Tampa Bay had retained an outside company to help foster in-depth conversations among employees. “The deeper we listen, the more painful it is, and the more unified we are that these problems need to be solved,” he said. “There is a lot of angst and upset now because people who have been marginalized are saying things aren’t okay. Let’s harness it to be intentional and impactful.”

“After the Floyd killing, I felt compelled in my role and as a black man to talk about how this incident impacted me,” said Richard, “so I wrote a letter to my board, investors and other stakeholders.” The positive response he got made him feel that “this time is different. Finally, people are receptive to hearing this message.”

Richard added that a community development initiative the EDC had put on hold due to the pandemic has been reinstated. “At our first executive committee meeting after the protests had started, we said we can’t put this off, we need to assure prosperity is received in every corner of our community. This project will show investors the investment opportunities available in overlooked neighborhoods, which will lead to job opportunities there.”

An audience member asked how panel members can play a role in shifting entrenched attitudes away from ignorance.

“Hate comes from a lack of information, so you do what you can,” said Mayor Castor. “By diversifying your organization or social circle, you open yourself up to education and seeing the world from different points of view. It’s incumbent on each of us, in our personal and professional circles, to show others that they are valued members of those groups. That’s one opportunity we have to make positive change.”