Manufacturing Council Hosts: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Manufacturing

BNP’s first Manufacturing Council meeting of 2021 focused on the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) in the manufacturing sector.

Here is the summary with the most important takeaways and below you can watch the full event:

It’s no surprise that with the events of the past year – including an ongoing global pandemic – diversity, equity and inclusion efforts may have become less of a priority for area manufacturers.

The fact is, these efforts may now be more important than ever.

That is why the Partnership’s Manufacturing Council kicked off the new year with a virtual meeting focused on diversity, equity and inclusion in manufacturing and why it’s time to get back on track. Moderated by Seth Piccirillo, Senior Manager of Economic Development, the meeting underscores the Partnership’s aim to strengthen it’s commitment in helping members with DE&I even more in 2021.

With nearly 40 Partnership members joining in, the meeting offered three different perspectives on diversity, equity and inclusion that we will summarize in this post:

  1. What the data reveals
  2. What an industry and community leader is doing
  3. What area manufacturers can do not matter where they are now with DE&I


Research shows it matters in WNY and work must be done.

The Partnership developed and implemented the 2020 WNY D&I Community Assessment to evaluate the state of diversity, equity and inclusion in our local business community. Laura Smith, Vice President of Economic Development at the Partnership, spoke about some of the things the assessment revealed, pointing out that the survey measured the perceptions of over 265 companies on their DE&I activities. (Note that area manufacturers made up the second highest number of companies to respond.)

Among the findings of the assessment are:

  • 72% of area companies that responded say they are on their way and committed to DE&I but face some challenges
  • Still 27% of respondents say they have yet to start with many having no process in place or plans to get started.


Smith notes that this shows there is still more work to do in Buffalo Niagara. The assessment provides some valuable guidance on what comes next.

From the respondents who said they have not yet started, we learned:

  • Getting started is the most important thing. This begins to create a more positive perception among staff and gets the ball rolling.
  • Establishing an infrastructure for D&I efforts will help advance the work. This may include having a person or committee in charge of the process, and training at all levels from leadership down.
  • Setting concrete goals and establishing or revising policies is the next step


From the respondents who said they are well on their way, we learned:

  • Having a system to communicate DE&I activities with everyone in the organization is critical
  • Measuring perception at every level from leadership down is also important for hearing and understanding differences in opinion and keeping efforts on track.
  • Continuous training at all levels is a must to help promote a company-wide culture for diversity, equity and inclusion.


Strategies at work.

The Partnership was pleased to have been joined at the Manufacturing Council meeting by Ed Moore, Chief Human Resource Officer at Rich Products who shared some of the strategies the company utilizes among its more than 12,000 associates around the world.

Moore points out that Rich Products has the resources of a global business but many of its DE&I efforts are relevant and applicable for manufacturing companies of any size. These include:

  • Know your numbers – Understand what your workforce looks like in terms of diversity. Moore reiterated a point made in the Partnership’s presentation that 33% of K-12 students in our area are persons of color. That means DE&I efforts today will go a long way with a very diverse future workforce.
  • Support the culture – Moore says Rich Products has always established a culture that is about respecting the individual, being inclusive, accepting everyone for who they are, and creating a sense of belonging.
  • Make it your philosophy – At Rich Products, Moore says associates are not units of labor, they are people – “our people”, no matter what their role.
  • Communicate – According to Moore, it is important to enable associates to have feedback on ethics and compliance issues. His company has zero tolerance for anything that does not respect their DE&I culture and associates are encouraged to communicate any issues to their managers.


In speaking about inclusion at Rich Products, Moore notes that the company has supported the formation of no less than seven affinity or associate resource groups including women, working parents, millennials, race and ethnicity, and sexual identity that help enhance DE&I efforts. He points out that these groups are not company formed, but rather created by associates with the only rule being that they are inclusive and open to all, no matter the category. 

Tapping into expertise.

The Manufacturing Council meeting concluded with some guidance from Sesha Yalamanchili, founder and president of On The Mark Consulting. Yalamanchili specializes in creating inclusive cultures, diversity training, inclusive leadership coaching, building team effectiveness, developing leaders, and coaching emerging leaders.

Yalamanchili explains that area companies are now faced with working on diversity, equity and inclusion in a moment –  at an unprecedented time. An organization’s inside work on DE&I is being done in the context of what is happening on the outside. Many of the issues of DE&I would not have resonated a year ago, but today the pandemic, social unrest, the political climate and other factors have a huge impact.

She asks, “Is all of this helping DE&I efforts or is it making it more challenging?” Both she says. Outside factors are challenging companies to take good intentions and channel it into action. Still, it can be overwhelming to think about DE&I on top of everything else. She notes that study after study, both nationally and globally, have shown incorporating DE&I into an organization is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. Studies show companies have achieved performance improvements through DE&I efforts such as:

  • Winning the war for talent
  • Improving quality of decision making
  • Driving employee motivation and satisfaction
  • Improving company reputation and image

Yalamanchili references a recent report by a leading research company that found the two most impactful things an organization can do if feeling overwhelmed by where to begin with DE&I are:

  1. Leadership

Company leaders must be able to articulate to every associate why it matters to the organization. Yalamanchili calls it “your why” – specific to your organization. You will know you’ve done it right when your why is unique and custom to your company. When your why is unique with a clear vision, it unites everyone.


  1. Equipping middle and frontline managers

The workplace experience of associates is in the hands of their managers. So to move DE&I efforts forward, it is important to equip the managers with the necessary skills such as greater listening and creating a more inclusive environment while preventing unconscious bias from getting in the way.


We are here to help.

Seth Piccirillo wrapped up the Manufacturing Council meeting by noting that DE&I is not a one time conversation and the Partnership has much planned on the subject throughout the coming year.

Whatever phase your organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts may be in, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership is here to help you take action.

You can learn more about all the Partnership has to offer here on our web site including innovative programs such as: (LINKS TO EACH SECTION ON WEB SITE)

Diversity & Inclusion Executive Exchange

Diversity & Inclusion Academy

Diversity & Inclusion Symposium

By working together, we can continue to enhance a diverse, equitable and inclusive Buffalo Niagara business community that supports everyone.

View the presentation slides here.
Watch the full webisode here:

Thank you to the Manufacturing Council Sponsors


Bank on Buffalo







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