DIVERSIFY Summit Unites Diverse Businesses, Professionals & Allies June 19

Chamber Staff

The Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce hosts DIVERSIFY June 19, a half-day virtual summit highlighting diversity, inclusion and the 21st century workplace. The unrest sweeping our country spotlights the high cost of racial and economic inequality and our intention is that our annual DIVERSIFY event provides a timely platform for diverse business owners and professionals as well as their allies during a difficult time.

“Between COVID-19 and systemic racism, we essentially face two pandemics in our country right now,” said Christy Gillenwater, Chamber President & CEO. “This isn’t easy. We present DIVERSIFY as a safe forum for drawing inspiration from one another as we unite to fight racism, intolerance and injustice.”

June 19 via Zoom, DIVERSIFY 2020 features breakout sessions led by industry professionals and a keynote by University of Southern California (USC) professor Manuel Pastor on “Inclusion, Growth, and Community: Reimagining Our Economy in the Wake of COVID-19.”

Manuel Pastor, Ph.D, is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at USC where he directs the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII). He is the Turpanjian Chair in Civil Society and Social Change at USC, and holds an economics Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Pastor’s research has focused on economic, environmental and social conditions facing low-income urban communities – and social movements seeking to change those realities.

In addition to Pastor’s keynote speech, DIVERSIFY 2020 offers two breakout sessions and a panel discussion with local leaders.


Opening Comments | 8 to 8:15 a.m. 

Trust: The D&I Sustainability Factor | 8:15 to 9 a.m.

Linda Wiley, Ph.D., Turning Point Leadership Group, LLC

Organizations low on trust find it difficult to realize and sustain results in the area of diversity and inclusion. In times of crisis and uncertainty, like we are navigating now, organizational trust becomes more important than ever. This session covers the definition of trust and the role it plays in sustaining diversity and inclusion. Attendees will be challenged to examine their own level of self-trust and begin to explore the concept of relationship trust. They will identify the role they play in moving these efforts forward and learn behaviors that will help.

Breakthrough | 9:15 to 10 a.m.

Jessica Stollings, ReGenerations

The coronavirus cracked many of the ways we used to do things. Now we have the opportunity to ask: What are we going to build? How can it be better? How can we do it together?

COVID-19 is changing generations. And generations are changing history. It's all part of a larger cycle that – with the right understanding – can move your workforce from breakdown to breakthrough. In this insightful and interactive session, national speaker and author Jessica Stollings-Holder will share how a generational lens can help you prepare.

Keynote – Inclusion, Growth and Community: Reimagining Our Economy in the Wake of COVID-19 | 10:15 to 11 a.m.

Manuel Pastor, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Sociology and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of South California (USC)

For the last decade, economic research has been showing that an Achilles’ heel for prosperity was inequality: regions that were more unequal, more racially segregated and more socially fragmented were unable to maintain employment growth over time. Meanwhile, qualitative work was showing that places that were able to better wed inclusion and growth did so through community, that is, by creating sustained data-driven dialogues between diverse sectors that helped to forge a sense of a common regional destiny. What does that imply for the COVID crisis, a pandemic that has both lifted the veil on persistent inequalities and made it absolutely clear that we cannot protect ourselves if we do not seek to protect all of us? How can regional leaders help metropolitan economies to not just recover but reimagine a more prosperous, more equitable and more sustainable future?

Panel Discussion: Diversity & Inclusion in a Time of Crisis | 11:15 a.m. to 12 p.m.

In the past weeks, millions of people across the country have taken to the streets and raised their voices in response to the senseless violence and loss of life that continues to threaten members of the African-American community, indeed our community. As well, the impacts of COVID-19 have thrown into high relief the toll that inequality has taken on those of us with diverse backgrounds. In this panel discussion, local leaders will share reflections on our community’s response, discuss the implications of this crisis for diversity and inclusion efforts and share their ideas on how we can build a more diverse and inclusive economy as we move toward recovery.


Rae Bond – Hamilton County Medical Center

Ron Harris – BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

Shannon Stephenson – Cempa

Closing Comments | 12 to 12:15 p.m. 


Full registration – $15 (includes Q&A with presenters and access to recordings after the event)

Other Topics

If you were to take a quick survey of national headlines, you’d encounter gloom and doom-type discussions around commercial real estate. Much of this is thanks to the popularity of remote work, a trend accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.   As…

Protege Chattanooga is a nine-month program that matches early-to-mid-career professionals with a red-carpet list of regional leaders. The end goal? Unforgettable connection among young professionals paired with a viable, noteworthy mentorship with real-world leaders.   It's all by design, as the…

To coincide with Earth Day weekend, Leadership Chattanooga's 40th annual class made history, spending the day doing what had never been done in program history.  One giant day of service.   Some 40 members of the 2023/2024 graduating class split into…

The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's annual Small Business Awards sheds a light on local companies that serve as examples of excellence within our community and help us build a thriving Chattanooga. This week, we announced our winners at the…

When people hear the news – Melody Shekari was named the new head of the Women's Fund of Greater Chattanooga – they often say the same thing:  She's a perfect fit.  "A lot of people say it fits who I…

On April 18, Fleurette Fitch – a 21-year employee of Shaw Industries – was honored at a Washington DC gala for her outstanding manufacturing career. That evening, the Manufacturing Institute recognized Fitch as a Women MAKE Award honoree for her…

Sign up for weekly updates.