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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Workplace Diversity Has Effects Within Community

By LINDA COBURN Contributing Reporter One way corporations show their support for diversity in their communities is to encourage employees to serve on boards and volunteer time to local organizations. But are companies doing enough? Diana Bruno, executive director of the Fair Housing Council of the San Fernando Valley, said that businesses provide a very real contribution to the Council’s mission. “Many of our board of directors are from the business community,” she said. “For example, our board president, Richard Cooper, is also the community liaison for Telesis Credit Union.” Cooper said that Telesis encourages all of their employees to be involved in the community. “I have personally always been involved with civil rights. My mom was actively involved in the 60s and 70s,” he said, which makes the mission of the agency, to eradicate housing discrimination, close to his heart. Cooper said. “The boards that I serve on have a wonderful diversity of ages and ethnicities” and represent all sizes of businesses from entrepreneurs to large corporations. Locally-based Telesis employees donate their time to organizations such as Valley Village, a community organization that provides housing and services to folks with disabilities, said Cooper. Other groups benefiting from the human resources of Telesis are the Guadalupe Community Center, Los Angeles Valley College Foundation and the College of the Canyons Foundation. Decline in support But everyone agrees community organizations are not getting the support they once did. One reason may be that the Valley is no longer home to many large corporations. The Fair Housing Council, which has been in the Valley since 1959, is lucky because many of their supporters are retirees of the large companies that used to populate the area, particularly aerospace firms like Lockheed. “We don’t have a lot of companies like that in our landscape anymore,” said Bruno. Small business owners generally don’t have the resources, financial or human, to commit to community-building organizations. That’s why, according to M.C. Townsend, executive director of the Regional Black Chamber of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley, the larger companies should support the chamber, which promotes small, minority- and woman-owned businesses. She states that it is not only their moral responsibility but it would benefit their bottom line. “We (the chamber) have close to 350 business members, and those members each know 10 other people, and those 10 know 10 more from that the glue sticks and it becomes a stronger community for all alike,” said Townsend. Some of the remaining corporate giants of the area, said Townsend, such as Time Warner Cable, Southern California Edison and State Farm, have been great partners of the chamber. “They recognize the need to infuse support into the chamber,” she said, because “It helps to build economic power in many areas.” Seeking more Dora Zavala, who chairs the Hispanic Business Committee of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, echoes that sentiment. “I would like to see more companies partner with the chamber,” she said. “Like providing financial resources or having more representation.” “But that’s the 80-20 rule,” Zavala said. This is the axiom which states that 80 percent of the work will be done by 20 percent of the people. Take Cooper, for example. In addition to his full-time job at Telesis and his role with the Fair Housing Council, he also gives time to the Valley College Foundation board. So, to answer the initial question, it appears that more than a few companies are making a very real contribution to promoting diversity in the community, but, as Townsend said, “In my opinion, there is still a real lack of support from big corporations (which are) not meeting their total corporate responsibility to the community.”

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