Diversity and inclusion are two of the most used words during 2020, along with COVID-19 and quarantine. The Black Lives Matter movement has erupted into protests over police brutality across the nation for over 20 days straight. At a time when diversity and inclusion have never been more important, no chamber of commerce in all of Orlando includes a diversity committee, except for Lake Nona.
Lake Nona Regional Chamber of Commerce has the first diversity committee in Orlando, stated Cynthia Washington, the chair of the Lake Nona diversity committee that began in November 2019. Washington is also the president of Washington Concepts, Inc., who has helped federal, state, and local governments find pre-screened and qualified diverse vendors for 23 years.
“I was very surprised at that because I chaired the smaller minority business committee in D.C., and D.C. is diverse, just like Orlando,” Washington said. “The Orlando chamber is thinking of – and I spoke directly to the president – they are thinking of having [a committee for women], but there is no diversity committee in Orlando.”
While the city of Orlando does have an Office of Multicultural Affairs and a Minority and Women Business Enterprise program, the Orlando Chamber of Commerce does not have a diversity committee.
The 9th congressional district, which includes Lake Nona, is made up of roughly 74% of residents who identify as white and 13% who identify as African-American, with 40% identifying as Hispanic/Latino of any race, according to the 2015 American community survey by the U.S. census.
Washington says the Lake Nona Chamber of Commerce, which involves memberships from local businesses, needs to do better in terms of diversity.
“I would say they are not doing well at all,” Washington said. “I’m looking at KPMG coming here, and they have a diversity manager, but we want to see them meet with the diverse vendors here in Lake Nona.”
Washington also named the United States Tennis Association, which has its national campus in Lake Nona.
“We know there’s no diversity there, I’ve been to some of their meetings, and we want to see more diversity there,” Washington said. “There’s large entities here that we want to start with to increase diversity.”
More meetings, even virtual meetings, to discuss diversity and more efforts to include the Lake Nona Chamber’s diversity committee in their activities are just some of Washington’s ideas for how local businesses can do better.
“They could become more aware that we are here and that we want to participate and that we are qualified to participate,” Washington declared. “I think everyone should join the Lake Nona chamber because that’s the direction we are going in to ensure that they acknowledge diversity is important, that they want us involved, and [that] they move forward to involve us in their contracting efforts.”
Nonahood News is doing its part, too. We have begun a new project to promote diversity and inclusion in the Nonahood, where business owners, residents and artists can send in videos stating they support diversity and inclusion to the link below, which will then be compiled, showing our Nonahood coming together in support of diversity. Send your video statement to https://nona.link/unity.