Pride Chamber’s Penaranda Offers Do’s and Don’ts to Increase DCI Efforts

Gus Penaranda, executive director of the incredibly fast-growing New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce, said he appreciates the sometimes ill-conceived flags, social media posts and even workplace events celebrating the a company’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

During the month of June, that is.

Here’s what Penaranda really wants to know: how will you feel on Friday, the day after LGBTQ Pride month ends.

“If you really want to be an ally, you have to be an ally 365 days a year,” he said.

The good news: Penaranda said he definitely sees a change in the company’s global approach to the LGBTQ community. It’s no longer just about how companies can do enough to get the “gay dollar,” he said.

“Most people started to stray away from what they used to do, which was be an ally for 30 days a year, check the box, put the flag up and then , on July 1, to move on,” he said.

“That’s not enough anymore.”

The Pride Chamber, which includes both LGBTQ-owned and operated businesses as well as businesses that see themselves as an ally, sees this firsthand. The chamber has more than doubled in size since Penaranda became its first full-time executive director in January, growing from 115 to nearly 240 members. It expects to have over 300 members by the end of the year.

The chamber’s efforts are also increasing. Already known for providing access to capital, marketing, data and networking, the chamber will launch a supplier diversity program in the fall.

Penaranda spoke to ROI-NJ, offering some do’s and don’ts of what companies – and business leaders – can do to affirm their commitment to DEI.

Make DEI a year-round commitment

If you want to be an ally, you must continually have discussions, meetings and events, both internally and externally, on DEI issues.

Penaranda said this is happening more now.

To start, companies, which suddenly need to have more Zoom-like meetings to keep their employees together during the pandemic, have reached out to the chamber to organize more panel-like discussions.

And municipalities, unable to handle a flood of requests for Pride-based events in June, had to find alternative dates.

“That’s why you see so many events in the spring and fall,” Penaranda said.

Do not put your HR department in charge of DEI

And don’t just hire a diversity manager and let that person tackle issues as a single department.

“HR is not the answer,” Penaranda said. “Human resources have a special responsibility towards a company’s employees. They cannot be expected to have answers to all DEI problems.

Penaranda said New Jersey companies that have been recognized for having the best DEI workplaces are the ones that see it as a company-wide effort.

“Hiring someone can be a way to start, but the only way for that person to be successful is to bring in other employees and create committees that actually have the real discussions about DEI,” he said. .

Understand that DEI impacts everyone in the business

Some confuse DEI as an issue that only affects the LGBTQ community. Others understand that this also includes other communities of workers, including veterans and single mothers or a member of any minority group, especially a group that has not traditionally been a significant part of your industry or sector.

Penaranda wants companies to know that this impacts the entire workforce – and can be one of the key aspects of attraction and retention efforts.

“There are studies that show an increase in productivity and employee retention when companies start to look inward and give groups of employees the opportunity to talk about things that aren’t particularly related to their job description: Should we form a group to march against cancer? ? Should we support a youth league? Should we march in the Pride Parade? ” he said.

“Companies are seeing that there is an overall positive effect when they do this.”

don’t be fake

Penaranda knows when he is played.

“I’m 20 years in state government, so when I talk to someone face-to-face, I can tell if they’re just speaking up and want to hang up or hang up. walk away, like a politician who isn’t interested in listening to what a constituent has to say and just wants to smile, shake your hand and walk away,” he said.

Penaranda said he was pleased with the reaction he has received since January when he joined the chamber.

“I have to say, with one exception, every company I’ve spoken to is all-in,” he said. “They are determined to find a way to work with the chamber. Because they see us as a chamber that has a strategic plan in place to advance LGBT affairs and business in general, and they want to work with us.

challenge the room

It’s true: ask tough questions; having uncomfortable conversation.

Penaranda welcomes him. He said many companies make sure partnerships are more than just token gestures.

“They are testing us,” he said. “They want to make sure that if they invest $20,000, $50,000 or $100,000 in the chamber, the people who run the day-to-day responsibilities of the chamber know what they’re doing. And everyone has been very happy so far, so I think we’re on the right track.

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