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Inclusion & Diversity Summit organizers work to bring change to Oklahoma



Schnake Turnbo Frank partner, president and CEO Russ Florence noticed a big difference when he moved from Tulsa to Oklahoma City four years ago: a lack of commitment to workforce diversity and inclusion. He wants to fix that.

His company hosts the Inclusion & Diversity Summit 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive.

“I kept asking people to work toward and inclusion and diversity project, and everyone agreed it was needed and important, but no one stepped up,” said Florence, who is president and chief operating officer of the public relations and management consulting firm. “I finally said, ‘Why not us?’”

Florence hopes the summit will help create something like Mosaic, Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce’s diversity business council. Mosaic has grown to 210 member companies and was featured in Chamber Executive magazine’s fall 2016 issue.

Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti will speak Tuesday.

“The diversity in the Thunder extends beyond the players on the court,” Florence said. “The organization is rich and diverse in the front office, and it embraces differences.”

Isaac Rocha will discuss inclusion and diversity efforts at The Bama Companies. Rocha worked in its Tulsa office for nine years before moving to its Los Angeles office, where he works as regional business development and inclusion officer.

In Tulsa, the baking goods company helps employ people released from prison through “second-chance hiring.” The retention rate among these hires is 74 percent higher than with other new employees, Rocha said.


“Having a diverse workforce helped us expand our product line,” he said. “We added a guava pie that’s selling well in the Hispanic market.”

Oklahoma must be attractive to people from out of state, including minorities, immigrants and LGBT people, he said.

“We have a skills gap that’s growing as baby boomers retire,” he said. “Tulsa and Oklahoma City are competing for millennials, 40 percent of whom are minorities nationally. We also need to retain as many people from within our state as possible.”

Rocha said embracing diversity and inclusion is good business.

“It’s more than the right thing to do; companies that are leaders in this field outperform those that aren’t,” he said.

Speakers at the summit include national diversity and inclusion leaders.

Redia Anderson, retired BP America chief inclusion and diversity officer, will highlight her success in promoting advancement, retention and development of women and minorities at BP and other organizations over 25 years.

Michael Gonzales, Hallmark Cards director of diversity and inclusion, will speak about the company’s diversity and inclusion strategies.

“As long as state leaders take stances that are anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT, anti-Hispanic, anti-immigrant, we will have barriers to business success,” Florence said. “We can’t call ourselves a pro-business state unless we’re welcoming and inclusive.”

Florence advocates the best practices that are a cornerstone of Mosaic in Tulsa, which include making a commitment at the top of the organization; using diverse suppliers; supporting diverse groups in the community; and recruiting, training and promoting diverse candidates and employees. Schnake Turnbo Frank follows these practices.

“We have an environment in which we can talk about Black Lives Matter and cultural differences,” he said. “It’s part of our DNA.”

Florence is encouraged about buy-in to the summit. Registration is going well, and sponsors include Arvest Bank, BlueCross BlueShield of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Natural Gas and the Oklahoma City Thunder. But he won’t be satisfied with a good turnout.

“If we have a full house and everyone says, ‘That was great,’ but nothing happens afterward, we haven’t done our job,” Florence said. 

Print headline: Diverse work, Inclusion & Diversity Summit organizers work to bring change to Oklahoma. 

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