Weekly REDEW: 2010 Western Washington Diversity and Inclusion Conference and Awards

Yes, that’s right. It’s time again for your weekly “Random Economic Development Email of the Week” or REDEW, where I share some of the strange things that come into my inbox and then riff on their relation to regional economic development.  I know you’ve been waiting excitedly since last week’s debut. This week’s winner: an invitation to the 2010 Western Washington Diversity and Inclusion Conference and Awards!

Apparently, on December 2, this will be the first ever event of its kind:

The 2010 Western Washington Diversity and Inclusion Conference and Awards, a Seattle SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) event, will be the first of its kind ever held in Western Washington and will provide an opportunity to discuss, educate, embrace and celebrate diversity in the workplace. Participants will have the opportunity to share innovative best practices, strategies and obtain tools to create diversity initiatives that utilizes the talents of every employee within their organization.

We all know that diversity and inclusion are important, but I think that one of the most interesting – and less discussed – aspects of diversity in the workplace is its impact on talent attraction and retention. I know that I’ve heard a lot of anecdotal stories about highly educated workers from diverse backgrounds that move to Seattle and are uncomfortable with the lack of diversity in the community – particularly at high levels of business and culture. And – again anecdotally – you hear about these people choosing to go back to where they came from. Richard Florida uses the word “tolerance” in a slightly similar way, when he talks about making sure that your region is welcoming and comfortable for talented workers.

In looking at how our economy demands highly skilled workers to maintain its success, I’ve mentioned that we’re already one of the highest importers of talent of any state in the country. 30.5% of over-25 year olds in this state have a bachelor’s or graduate degree, but that’s only because 40% of over-25 year olds moving here from other states have those degrees and 44% of that demographic moving here from other countries. Yet, with all that in-migration, there are still over 600 tech jobs open and 40% of the jobs that require graduate degrees (and 27% of the jobs that require bachelor’s) in the state are taking longer than 60 days to fill.

The point being that we’re already straining to barely keep up with growing and attracting enough talent to feed to economy, so the idea that we’re not successfully welcoming diverse talent is a serious and potentially economy-stalling issue. And so I’m excited that SHRM is tackling it head on, and in my favorite way (“sharing innovative best practices, strategies and obtaining tools” is exactly how our Performance First program tackled the diversity issue with regard to contracting).

Talent attraction and retention is likely to be a big part of the next Regional Economic Strategy, and so you’ll be hearing a lot more about this over the next year.

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