Black Meetings and Tourism

September / October 2020

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inclusiveness and diversity in both the membership and leadership of their organizations," adds Smith. "Trends are often short-term and I'm hopeful that these are more long-term and sustainable efforts that will help these associations grow and advance the organizations well into the future." As the basic awareness of diversity's importance has evolved, so too has its definition, according to Ferguson. "When I entered the industry 30 years ago the definition of inclusiveness was a majority White in the industry hiring a person of color, specifically African-American," he relates. "If you look at that conversation in 2020, you're looking at folks with special needs, you're looking at the LGBTQ community, you're looking at people of other ethnic origins from around the globe, and clearly, you're looking for opportunities for women in the workplace. It's also religious differences and other differences that are important as we look at who we are as a nation. These are the people we are employing, so let's dig a little deeper now that we've recognized which groups fall under what category." "As the demographics of our workforce and travelers continue to change, the industry will need to evolve and adapt to attract, train and retain workers," says Smith. "I believe that we still have a lot of work to do in promoting the tourism, hospitality and meetings industry as great career opportunities to high school and college students across the country, and providing ways to access paid internships, mentors, and jobs within our associations and with our members." O'Dell said PCMA is studying diversity efforts beyond our industry. "One of the things PCMA has started to do that I applaud them on is to start to look at other adjacent industries outside our own space," he says. "There are great examples we see people doing great work, but they also do it in a non-traditional manner. In some cases, that involves a much more diverse workforce or towards diversity in thought. We won't boil in our own juices any more, we'll look at other industries and other facets, and more diversity, more inclusiveness will be one of the outcomes we see out of that." "We need to continue to have the dialogue to understand what [diversity and inclusion] means and to make sure that it's not something we're doing because we happen to be minorities in these roles, but because of the diversity of our industry and who we are trying to attract to the industry," notes Ferguson. "And equally as important, if we want corporations to do business with us, they are going to have expectations. We know the NAACP has led the charge for over 20 years with the Report Card, there's going to more and more tied to the diversity of an organization, and that should be a priority, not just filling a quota." B M & T ••• September/October 2020 ••• 33

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