Skip to content

5 Key Takeaways from the DEI Symposium

Blog Categories

The Partnership

June 14, 2024

DEI Symposium Impact Chat

While there has been measurable progress in workplace diversity throughout Western New York, there are still ongoing challenges for organizations of all sizes and across all industries.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership brought nearly 300 executives, HR professionals, managers and staff members together at the seventh annual DEI Symposium for a half day full of engaging and informative sessions about how organizations can take the next step on their DEI journeys.

The event started with the unveiling of the 2024 Employing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in WNY Assessment and an expert panel discussion about the results, which focused deeply on defining what success looks like in DEI efforts and evaluating the tools and metrics utilized by businesses to measure their progress.

"DEI is more than just a moral imperative," BNP Director, Community Engagement & Equity Initiatives Kenya Hobbs said at the event. "It's a business imperative."

> Click here to read the full 2024 Employing DEI in WNY Assessment.

Here are five key takeaways from the DEI Symposium:

  1. Measurable progress

Since the breakthrough assessment in 2020, local businesses have significantly advanced their commitment to DEI efforts in the workplace – and are doing so intentionally.

Some successes include:

  • 35% of survey respondents reported that their company has set concrete DEI goals (compared to 17% in 2020).
  • 77% of recruitment efforts included outreach to attract minority candidates (compared to 53% in 2020).
  • 62% agreed that their organization in 2024 deliberately initiates activities that foster inclusion (compared to 44% in 2020).
  1. Continued challenges

The assessment also shows that there is still substantial work to be done, since 44% of survey respondents cited hiring and retaining diverse staff as a significant barrier to beginning or advancing their DEI initiatives.

“Talent capability is equally distributed across our community. Opportunity is not,” says Rich’s Products Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer Ed Moore, one of the event panelists. “Companies that embrace this today are going to be better off in the future.”

Trends show larger organizations are leading in DEI initiatives when compared to their smaller counterparts, as well, sometimes due to budgetary resources.

  1. Differing perspectives

In the 2022 assessment, 63% of staff level surveyed completely agreed that their organization maintained a culture that promoted inclusion, while 73% of C-Suite completely agreed.

In this year’s assessment, 54% of staff level and 79% of C-suite completely agreed.

Factors contributing to the reemergence of this perception gap concerning DEI efforts could include:

  • Programming and tools being innovated from the top of the organization down, as opposed to from the ground up
  • An organizational focus on compliance rather than commitment
  • A lack of understanding of the workforce
  1. Taking the next step

Keynote speaker Maggie Rivera, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Inclusion at Stearns Bank, says to focus on the highest-impact policies, practices and activities.

For some, that could be developing a diversity in leadership pipeline from direct managers to the C-suite and board level to help hold each other to a higher standard. For others, maybe it’s setting specific targets to hire, retain and promote a diverse workforce, leadership and board.

“Organizational problems require organizational solutions,” Rivera says.

  1. Real commitment

A DEI journey never ends. It’s a consistently moving target that should be treated with the same passion as other business operations.

Rivera says DEI leaders need to present a future-focused, outcome-based business case for DEI. Acknowledge the different experiences people have within an organization, frame it as a different way of problem solving and make sure policies truly work.

“DEI is not dead, but it is evolving,” Rivera says. “In the end, this work takes courage.”

Capture DEI Sponsors

Related Posts

Supporting Teammates in the Workplace and at Every Stage of Life

By growthzone | May 23, 2023

At Bank of America, investing in our teammates’ wellness and professional development is the first step toward building a better Buffalo for all. By actively seeking out and empowering a diverse pipeline of talent and the next generation of leaders, we can help drive responsible growth both internally and in our local communities. 

2023 DEI Symposium: Meet Beth Sullivan, Panelist

By growthzone | May 17, 2023

The BNP is pleased to welcome Beth Sullivan, MBA, PHR, SHRM-CP, Director of Human Resources at United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, as a panelist for the 2023 DEI Symposium. We will be helping you get to know each presenter, panelist, and moderator in the weeks ahead, leading up to the June 1st event.

2023 DEI Symposium: Meet Mauricio C. Diaz, Speaker

By growthzone | May 16, 2023

The BNP is pleased to welcome Mauricio C. Diaz, Program Director, Buffalo Procurement Initiative as a Speaker at our 2023 DEI Symposium. We will be helping you get to know each presenter, panelist, and moderator in the weeks ahead, leading up to the June 1st event.

2023 DEI Symposium: Meet Barbara Strother, Panelist

By growthzone | May 10, 2023

The BNP is pleased to welcome Barbara Strother, Corporate Recruiting Manager, Aleron, as a panelist at our 2023 DEI Symposium. We will be helping you get to know each presenter, panelist, and moderator in the weeks ahead, leading up to the June 1st event.