Nancy A. Allen is the president and CEO of the Women’s Business Development Center, a local nonprofit organization whose mission is to assist in the establishment and growth of women in business. Allen helps certify businesses that are owned, operated, managed and controlled by women. Allen was born in Haiti and raised in South Florida. She speaks English and French and is also fluent in Spanish. She has been working in the fields of international, community and economic development for more than 20 years. She holds a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Q. When hiring, how important should diversity be to an employer?
Diversity should be paramount to an employer or a corporation. It has to do with corporate responsibility and the marketplace. The better you know your customer, the better you can serve them. How better to know your customer than to have a diverse workplace? It’s important to get a range of opinions. Long gone are the days the boardrooms are filled with men of a certain age and a certain ethnic background that made all sorts of decisions. Today, those seats need to look more like what the customers or clients represent.
Q. Should companies have an official diversity policy?
Yes. Policy and practice go hand-in-hand. Any corporation worth its salt has a policy when doing strategic planning. It’s good to have goals. If you’re goals include being diverse, keeping involved with global markets, then that merits being written down in some sort of policy to help set goals and objectives. When counseling women business owners, I encourage them to form a strategic business plan — and it must be flexible. Having goals, however, will make it easier to measure and evaluate the successes or mission of the organization. Getting a buy-in to your policy will make it most effective.
Q. What priority should diversity have in a business plan?
It should be high. Some businesses are naturally diverse, others have a lot of catching up to do, but it should be a priority. Diversity does affect your bottom line. Corporations can be very good civic stewards and the more the corporation reflects the values of its leaders, the better they will be all around.