Strengthening Our Commitment to Equity
As a broad-based and statewide business association in Oregon, OBI has members in all four corners of our state, representing virtually every industry you can think of and employing individuals who are representative of the rich diversity of Oregon’s population.
It is important that our leadership – OBI’s board of directors and executive committee – reflect that diversity, and I am very pleased to report we have taken definitive steps to make sure we do.
At our Annual Meeting early this month, OBI’s members adopted a revised set of bylaws that state specifically that the board will seek to “achieve diverse representation … based on geographic distribution, industry representation, business size representation and diversity inclusion goals (including but not limited to gender, racial and ethnic diversity).”
More importantly, in my view, the OBI board moved forward immediately to implement those goals, with specific targets and timelines. I have been involved in a number of diversity and inclusion efforts in my career; I believe in them and I am committed to making them happen. And I know success comes only when you have defined goals and accountability metrics. OBI does.
I am very proud that the board adopted specific diversity goals, starting with an effort to achieve more ethnic diversity at our leadership table. Like most organizations, we had some internal reckoning to do in the face of last year’s incredible national movement for racial equity. We had started these discussions in 2019, recognizing that our board makeup needed to evolve to reflect the growing diversity of our members’ employee populations and customers, and the events of 2020 led to a tremendous conversation among our board members about what we should and could achieve. In our new diversity goals, OBI will consciously launch an effort to recruit more people of color to our board, and to make sure we also are including the voices of minority-owned businesses, which have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 economic downturn.
We also have adopted specific goals for increasing representation of women on the board. Like many business organizations, OBI’s board historically has consisted primarily of men, who, traditionally, occupied business C-suites. Well, that has changed, and women are playing a bigger leadership role both in business, and throughout our communities. Our board makeup needs to change to reflect the reality of business leadership today, and that means having more women at our table.
For an organization like OBI, there are other diversity objectives to consider. An important one is geography. Because Portland-metro is the business center of our state, we tend to draw a lot of board members from that region, so we need to ensure that we hear from business leaders who live and operate in other parts of our state, especially rural Oregon. Our new goals establish metrics for “non-Portland” board members, and they ensure that every region of Oregon (Portland-metro, the Willamette Valley, the Coast, Southern Oregon and Eastern Oregon) is represented when OBI sets priorities and makes decisions.
We are also consciously seeking to increase representations of small businesses on our board, and industry sectors that are growing in our state, like technology. In all, we want to make sure that our OBI board evolves as Oregon business evolves, and that we truly represent all of you, your employees, and your customers.
Change takes time. We don’t expect to accomplish these goals overnight, or even over a year. But we do hope to meet our goals over the next few years, as we recruit new board members.
This month we brought on seven new board members, who collectively help us move forward with our objectives. We are also bringing more partners to our tables, like local chambers representing different parts of our state. If you are interested in joining the OBI board, let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to hear from you.