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January 18, 2024

Three panelists face crowd inside the Horry Georgetown Technical College auditorium.Being open to tell stories of who you are to build rapport with others was one of the key messages shared at the first-ever Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Forum and Small Business Expo, held on Jan. 16, 2024, at the Horry-Georgetown Technical College Business Conference Center in Myrtle Beach.

The event was hosted by the Carolina African American Heritage Foundation (CAAHF), the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (MBACC) and the City of Myrtle Beach and part of CAAHF’s Grand Strand Freedom Week.

During the event, participants had the opportunity to hear from panelists Kelvin Waites, DEI director for the City of Myrtle Beach; Amanda Masterpaul, Lecturer, Women’s and Gender Studies with Coastal Carolina University; and Les Echols, director of community & minority enterprise with the Greater Florence (S.C.) Chamber of Commerce.

The panelist shared their insight about DEI initiatives and best practices, including these three tips shared in this cumulative overview:

  1. Take a look at who is on your leadership team. Diversity is not just about your staff, but also who is on your executive team. Examine the composition of your C-suite and those who hold influence over strategic direction over your organization. They should have the buy-in to understand DEI values and how it impacts your organization.
  2. Go beyond the diversity statement to see everyday gains. DEI should be more than posting a diversity statement and instead be ingrained as an everyday practice in an organization. The advantages of fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace is not just a matter of compliance but is linked to improved organizational performance and innovation. It shows a commitment to fairness and social responsibility, which enhances employee morale and loyalty. And, daily DEI practices can help create a more adaptive and resilient organization that’s better equipped to navigate challenges effectively.
  3. Give yourself and others grace. Granting grace in a DEI environment is essential for fostering a positive and constructive atmosphere. Acknowledging that individuals may be at different stages of understanding or embracing DEI concepts promotes a learning culture. Offering grace allows room for open dialogue and education, facilitating a more inclusive environment where mistakes can be seen as opportunities for growth rather than punitive measures. It encourages empathy, understanding and collaboration, ultimately contributing to a workplace culture that values diversity and works towards inclusion.

Along with the panelists, Angelique Jarvis-Simmons, bilingual business coach with the S.C. Hispanic Chamber (SCHC), spoke about the advantages Hispanic populations bring to the local business community, including how their cultural diversity enables businesses to cater to a broader range of consumer preferences. She also shared how the SCHC can provide assistance to this growing multicultural community.

Participants also had the opportunity to connect with more than a dozen exhibitors on hand, including South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development; SCORE Grand Strand, which offers free mentorship for entrepreneurs; SPARTA Networking, a leading DEI-focused consulting and staffing firm; Neighbor to Neighbor, a senior care provider; The Lovely Law Firm Injury Lawyers; and others.

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TD Bank is excited to sponsor the chamber’s Educated Voices On Leading and Valuing Equity (EVOLVE) series as we seek ways to better understand and respect one another. We are committed to demonstrating strong and sustained action to support diverse colleagues, customers and communities to contribute to meaningful, measurable change.