CEO Forum: DEI Lessons Learned

Dec. 1, 2022 – Start with the why. Speakers at the 2022 Partners in Diversity CEO Forum agreed that defining what diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging mean to the organization is an important first step. Find the reality within your organization, then your team can co-create what Dr. Danny Jacobs, president of OHSU, calls “timeless aspirations.”

About 50 top leaders from area businesses, nonprofits and public agencies gathered at NW Natural’s new headquarters in downtown Portland to learn with each other. Speakers included Dr. Adrien Bennings, president of Portland Community College, Román Hernández, managing partner at Troutman Pepper, and Dr. Jacobs. Guiding the conversation was Alaina Robertson, division president of Taylor Morrison. They focused on the theme: DEI lessons learned. From incorporating DEI into organizational processes and owning mistakes, to dealing with pushback and making public statements, the panelists shared specific ways that they are leading DEI in their workplaces.

"Thunder is just the noise; lightning does the work," said Dr. Jacobs during his keynote speech prior to the panel discussion. It was something his grandmother used to say to him, echoing the importance of taking action as a leader and not just make noise by talking about it.

At the end, each of our speakers provided two key DEI lessons learned:

Dr. Adrien Bennings

  1. Be open to learning.
  2. Be intentional and meaningful.

Román Hernández

  1. Every organization must have the most senior leadership engaged, vocal and present.
  2. Recognize that people come from different levels and space.

Dr. Danny Jacobs

  1. Don’t get tired.
  2. Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Partners in Diversity started more than 15 years ago when a group of CEOs and community leaders came together to create workplaces that are more diverse and inclusive. Every two years, the organization pays homage to its roots by convening CEOs, presidents and executive directors from member organizations and share ways to advance this work.

A special thanks to NW Natural for sponsoring the 2022 CEO Forum.