Business leaders launch movement to build more diverse Colorado economy

The Colorado Inclusive Economy is aimed at rebuilding the state’s economy to work more effectively for all
Business Leaders Launch Movement To Build More Diverse Colorado Economy

Denver-area business leaders recently launched the Colorado Inclusive Economy, a new movement aimed at rebuilding the state’s economy to work more effectively for all Coloradans. Employers who join the movement commit to hiring and advancing employees of color, developing more supportive workplace cultures and investing in workforce development to create a more diverse and skilled pipeline of talent.

“This is a real moment of awakening for the business community. The pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests have revealed economic disparities and institutional racism that we can no longer ignore. Working collectively and diligently, we can make Colorado a state where every resident has access to the same opportunities and the ability to reap equal rewards,” says Jandel Allen-Davis, M.D., CEO of Craig Hospital and a founding leader of Colorado Inclusive Economy.

Colorado’s economy has been among the strongest in the nation in recent years, but not everyone has participated in that prosperity, with communities of color continuing to lag behind economically. The COVID-19 crisis disproportionately impacted both the health and finances of Black and Hispanic Americans, who tend to work in service industries and in low-wage jobs most affected by coronavirus-related shutdowns. While the unemployment rate for white workers rose to 14.2% in March, the African-American rate jumped to 16.7%, and unemployment among Latinos was 18.9%

The Inclusive Economy movement is not only focused on getting individuals from marginalized populations back to work, but into higher-paying positions that offer long- term career growth. The group’s plan is to collectively hire and develop workers from underserved communities into career-path jobs offering salaries of $40,000 and above and to foster their professional development and advancement.

The group’s founding members represent both public and private sector employers, including Denver Health, IMA Financial Group, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Craig Hospital, Pinnacol Assurance, Bow River Capital, the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network and Janus Henderson.

“We invite and challenge our fellow business leaders to join us to build an economy that reflects both the diversity of our state and our common values of shared prosperity. History is calling us to co-create a society where all can flourish,” says Helen Young Hayes, founder of Activate Workforce Solutions and executive sponsor of Colorado Inclusive Economy.

Building a more inclusive culture not only increases economic opportunities but also provides a number of benefits for employers. Diversity can help with overall recruiting, reports Glassdoor, with 67% of job seekers considering a diverse workforce an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. Racially and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors, according to McKinsey & Company.

The steering committee guiding Inclusive Economy’s work is developing a list of best practices, a toolkit and other resources to help employers transform their recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, and advancement processes to support a diverse workforce. The committee is also building a database of subject matter experts to help employers implement and optimize workforce diversity programs.

“We’re pleased to be a founding member of Colorado Inclusive Economy and look forward to collaborating with business leaders across the state on this important initiative,” says Blair E. Richardson, CEO of Bow River Capital. “Recent events have revealed the social and economic disparities that exist for women and people of color in Colorado and nationwide. It’s imperative that business leaders join forces to address this issue in a meaningful way.”

Inclusive Economy’s 10-year goal is to demonstrate a collective improvement in the diversity of all levels of staff, from entry-level to managers to executives and board members, along with equitable compensation practices among all groups. The group plans to report its progress by sharing collective data on gains made in workforce diversity, employment and wealth creation.


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