Panel Discusses the Challenges and Opportunities of Diversity in Business

The Small Business & Diversity event panel, from left to right, Christian Valencia of HIIT Bottle, Dalip Jaggi of Eva Smart Shower, Summer Sepulveda of the Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBEC) and Mihaylo Center for Entrepreneurship Director John Bradley Jackson.

The Small Business & Diversity event panel, from left to right, Christian Valencia of HIIT Bottle, Dalip Jaggi of Eva Smart Shower, Summer Sepulveda of the Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBEC) and Mihaylo Center for Entrepreneurship Director John Bradley Jackson.

Diversity is an increasingly important component of business due to demographic changes in the U.S. population, globalization and increased sensitivity toward the concerns of minorities. A panel of three business leaders and Mihaylo’s John Bradley Jackson, head of the Center for Entrepreneurship, discussed diversity in business during a panel discussion on Aug. 13 moderated by Richard Franzi and broadcast on OC Talk Radio’s “Critical Mass” program.

It is one of the most significant trends in the U.S. economy: The workforce is becoming increasingly diverse. According to the Center for American Progress, racial and ethnic minorities comprised 36% of the U.S. workforce in 2012; women comprised 47% of the labor force, and the contemporary workforce includes a mix of several generations with diverse perspectives. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2050 there will be no single ethnic or racial majority in the nation.

To highlight these trends and their implications for small businesses, a panel of three business leaders and Mihaylo’s John Bradley Jackson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, discussed diversity in business during a roundtable presentation on Aug. 13 at Mihaylo College. The event, moderated by Richard Franzi, was broadcast on OC Talk Radio’s “Critical Mass” program, available through Iinternet radio, YouTube and podcast. The panel included Summer Sepulveda, community liaison coordinator for the Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBEC)-WestDalip Jaggi, co-founder of Eva Smart Shower; and Christian Valencia, CEO and co-founder of HIIT Bottle.

“Diversity is a term that should be defined by personal qualities and experiences,” Valencia, a Hispanic American, said, suggesting a definition that extends beyond the traditional parameters of age, race, ethnicity and gender. He notes that diversity and business success are interconnected. “Diversity drives innovation; innovation drives the growth of the company.”

Jackson noted that the main drivers of America’s increasing diversity are the immigration rate and the ethnic composition of the nation’s birth rate. “The share of the Hispanic and Asian community is growing rapidly across the U.S.,” he said. “Diversity is built on the premise that we all need to be treated fairly and to celebrate the differences.”

A notable lack of diversity in major companies, particularly in the technology sector, has made business headlines in recent months. “I think big corporations are stuck in their habits,” Jaggi, an Asian Indian American, noted. “Diversity and an inclusive environment isn’t adopted overnight.”

Rick Franzi of Critical Mass Radio (left) moderates the panel discussion.

Rick Franzi of Critical Mass Radio (left) moderates the panel discussion.

While large corporations may have diversity issues, Jackson notes that small businesses do not necessarily fare better. “Small businesses tend to have some hiring biases – they hire people they like,” he said.

Sepulveda noted that minority-owned businesses tend to disproportionately hire with diversity in mind. “It has been proven that minorities hire minorities and women hire women,” she said.

While significant progress is being made to incorporate the nation’s diversity, the skills gap present in many jobs is an impediment to achieving diversity. “Companies today don’t have time to train,” Jackson noted. This disproportionately impacts minority groups and socio-economic classes that have lower educational levels.

In addition to the rapid diversification of the American workforce, the globalization of business makes attention to diversity even more important for business success. Once a concern only for large multinational corporations, even small enterprises are now open to the world economy through the Internet and many seek to expand into international markets. “It is absolutely critical for them to understand the cultures of the countries they want to get into,” Sepulveda said.

Franzi underlined the rise of emerging markets in remaking the global economy: “We have the biggest economy in the world, but we probably won’t always be that in the future.”

For the complete discussion, listen to the podcast.

For more on the Center for Entrepreneurship and its regular speaker events, both on campus and at the Placentia-based CSUF Startup Incubator, visit the center online or stop by SGMH 3280.

About dcoats

I'm Daniel Coats, a CSU Fullerton Communications graduate student
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