Submitted by: Julianne Reichert, Duane Morris LLP

Over 100 enthusiastic young professionals gathered at The University of the Arts’ Hamilton Hall on Monday, May 21, 2012 for YPN’s 6th annual installment of its Success in the City program. Tanya Hall, executive director at Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress, moderated the panel discussion on the very timely topic of diversity in the workplace. The panelists represented a cross-section of area businesses and organizations and included Ronald Baldwin, director of supplier management and diversity at Keystone Mercy Health Plan; Varsovia Fernandez, president and CEO at Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Rakia Reynolds, president at Skai Blue Media; and James Sanders, director at Minority Business Development Agency Business Center Philadelphia.

Many of us are accustomed to thinking of diversity in regards to race, religion, age, sex and disability. Our expert panel advised that diversity is constantly evolving and means different things to different people. Area companies must adapt their diversity and inclusion policies in accordance with newer categories coming to the forefront that may soon be protected under federal and state laws. Ms. Fernandez commented that diversity also encompasses variety of industry and expertise.

Diversity programs require acceptance from the top down or as Ms. Fernandez put it, “A company’s leadership must be on board with its diversity and inclusion initiatives.” In Mr. Sanders’ words, “Companies must implement diversity and inclusion programs aggressively,” whether it is the internal hiring of minorities or the external hiring of diverse businesses.

Incorporating diversity and inclusion into the workplace can take many forms and offers various benefits both internally and externally. Proud that her “curated” team represents all walks of life and schools of thought, Ms. Reynolds believes this has helped her company communicate and interact with its audience on an even-greater depth and understanding. Mr. Baldwin directs Keystone Mercy Health Plan’s efforts to hire more minority-owned businesses as suppliers, offering that this can help with a company’s public relations efforts.

This was another great YPN program, of which I’m sure every attendee walked away with at least a couple takeaways. Personally speaking, I feel encouraged to learn about my own company’s goals and strategies relating to diversity and inclusion. How will you take what you learned and use it on the job?

View photos from the event.