Dennis Kennedy, Founder and CEO of The National Diversity Council
kicked off the 2nd Annual Florida Diversity Conference
in Orlando at the University of Central Florida
on January 14. The purpose of this event is to educate and create local dialogue on diversity and inclusion and to celebrate the wide array of differences in our communities. Participants had an opportunity to attend a wide array of workshops and hear from dynamic speakers to increase their knowledge and understanding of a diverse workplace and community.Kennedy said, "The theme for this year’s conference is “Wind of Change
.” In the back drop of new national leadership that reflect the diversity of our country, I believe it behooves organizations and in particular the leaders of corporations to see “Change” as a business necessity. That is, in order for organizations to be successful, there has to be a change in the way companies and organization attract, recruit, retain, develop and promote diverse talent. It is essential for organizations to review their systems to ensure that diverse candidates have the same opportunities as everyone else. A review of the 2010 Glass Ceiling Study
reveals that both women and people of color are still devoid
of opportunities to participate on both Corporate Boards and in the C-Suites. I believe very strongly that Corporate Leadership should reflect the diversity of the community and its employee base. Hence, the barriers that have for so long excluded some groups have to be literally torn down in order for us to see real and measure change in the demographics of leadership in corporations in the state of Florida. The leadership pipeline has to be inclusive. The “Wind of Change
” is blowing in Florida but it is going to require more than one individual writing a letter and placing it on a website. It is going to require regular folks just like you and I to speak up and challenge the status quo of inequity that is unfortunately so prevalent in some of our workplaces in our communities. In addition, we as a community have to hold leaders accountable; it is essential.History teaches us that “Change” has always been difficult but I am very hopeful and encourage that the Community of Florida will usher in a new era of respect and acceptance for differences. Approximately 200 business leaders and professionals converged on the UCF Student Union for a full slate of powerful speakers. The morning keynote was delivered by Veteran Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile
, an adjunct professor, author, syndicated columnist, television political commentator, Vice Chair of Voter Registration and Participation at the Democratic National Committee, and former chair of the DNCs Voting Rights Institute. Brazile called for a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the recent shootings in Tucson, AZ, that included United States Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords.
Donna Brazile emphasized the need for civility as she reflected on the growth of character she personally witnessed among her colleagues over the past decades.
also paused to acknowledge the significance of the National Holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She was appointed by King's widow, the late Coretta Scott King to work on the planning and re-enactment of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous 1963 civil rights march on the nation's capital. Brazile's work for the King foundation coincided with the successful drive to make the slain civil-rights leader's birthday a national holiday.Brazile acknowledged her family as a source of balance and strength as she chuckled, "My sisters often tell me when issues get heated, Stay above the fray!" She closed by encouraging those who are ascending the corporate ladder to, "stick a foot in the door of the boardroom to make room for someone else." The packed UCF Pegasus Auditorium stood and cheered as Brazile exited the stage.The afternoon keynote was presented by Former Governor of Connecticut, John Rowland
, who became a member US House of Representatives at the age of 27. He served three terms in the US Congress and, during his ten-year tenure as Governor, served as Chairman of both the National Republican Governors’ Association and the New England Governors’ Association.Facing preliminary investigative hearings by a legislative panel he stepped down from public office on July 1, 2004. On April 1, 2005, he began serving a sentence of one year and one day at a federal institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania, after accepting a plea agreement.The audience was clearly spellbound by Rowland's moving story of overcoming personal adversity and still surviving. He discussed his early rise to power and the consequences of his failure to understand the true Source of Real power. He emphasized the importance of developing leadership skills and substance.