Scripps Networks Interactive, in collaboration with the Knoxville Area Urban League and the Knoxville Chamber, hosted the region's first Diversity Summit today (Oct. 12).
The summit brought together community, business and political leaders to discuss the value of a diverse community and workforce and explore strategies to enhance workplace diversity in Tennessee's Innovation Valley (Knox, Anderson, Blount, Roane, Loudon and Monroe Counties).
About 200 people attended the by-invitation event, held in the large TV studio SNI has at its headquarters in Knoxville. The talk centered on community diversity and its importance to growing the work force in Eastern Tennessee, Scripps said.
Speakers included Luke Visconti, co-founder, DiversityINC; Janet Crenshaw Smith, a consultant with the Ivy Group, a diversity management firm; Rufus Smith, diversity manager, U.S. Dept of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Jim Samples, president of HGTV and chair of the SNI Diversity Council, discussed diversity in many contexts, including the brainstorm process for a new HGTV show: "We're a network primarily targeted to women. If we put together a group of men, all of about the same age and life experience, you're going to get one list of potential programming ideas. But as soon as you bring women into the mix, as soon as you have people from different ethnic backgrounds, that list of ideas expands. And it's fun for the people to react with one another. It's an enriching experience all around."
Virtually all SNI top-level executives were there, according to the company, including chairman and CEO Ken Lowe.
"We know the Greater Knoxville region to be a great place to live, work and raise a family," Phyllis Y. Nichols, president of the Knoxville Area Urban League, said in a statement before the event. "The Diversity Summit will explore the business imperative of diversity. The community will gain those same advantages as we gain a broader, more diverse population."
The summit was an important step toward the first Diversity Champions Report. To be published in early 2012, the report will highlight and raise awareness of economic inclusion and its impact on the Innovation Valley region, and generate best practices to address inclusion in the workplace.
"The most important thing is simply to make sure that the conversation takes place," Samples said at the event. "It's an opportunity for us to share best practices with each other, and work on ways to grow our local economy."