Inspiration from Daniel Burnham upon accepting the 30th annual Burnham Award for Distinguished Leadership
I was humbled to receive the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce 30th Annual Daniel H. Burnham Award for Distinguished Leadership on November 16, 2021, surrounded by many of my friends, colleagues and associates and mentors in business.
Thank you to Jack Lavin and the Chamber Board, including Kevin Cassidy and Bruce Lubin; my colleague Erik Barefield; and everyone at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce for ensuring that our city remains a world-class place to live and work.
We at Mesirow appreciate the Chamber’s focus on accelerating economic recovery over the past 18 months, and its support of minority, women, and disadvantaged business enterprises.
With this honor, I am in the notable company of 30 years of business leaders described by the Chamber as “dreamers, architects and masons of a community ever being built taller, smarter, stronger and more inclusive.” Over the course of my nearly 50 years at Mesirow, I have been honored to take part in that ongoing community.
Each day, the people of Mesirow continue to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at our firm.
And so, I accepted this award on behalf of the employees of Mesirow, and the leaders and members of the Mesirow Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, whose vision and hard work leads our DEI strategy.
The scope of DEI is broad – and it can be challenging to determine where to focus or what action to take. Upon acceptance of the Burnham award, I shared with business leaders in the room some insights from our ongoing work -- and five steps each of us can take to move forward with purpose.
1. First, assess where you are—and where you’re going.
Consider engaging an external partner to identify your organization’s current DEI strengths and opportunities for improvement. The result will be a valuable strategic roadmap that aligns with overall firm strategy.
2. Next, expand diversity at every level of your organization.
If you have an internship program, make sure that each class of young professionals is 50% diverse. Expand outreach to create broader candidate pipelines when you have open roles. And enrich diversity at senior leadership levels and on your Board.
3. Third, deepen retention through high-value programs and benefits, from employee resource groups and support for families to wellness programs and student loan forgiveness. These types of benefits go a long way in confirming your commitment to employees.
4. Fourth, continue to listen and learn through ongoing training. Only by gaining deeper understanding of underlying issues concerning DEI, such as unconscious bias, can we truly progress.
5. And finally, engage meaningfully with strategic partners.
Find out which organizations are working to advance representation in your industry and support their mission, programming, and events.
These five actionable, measurable steps have the power to:
Enhance our workplace culture, client service, and financial results
And, most importantly, change lives
I call upon the business community in Chicagoland and beyond to deepen your ongoing commitment to the work of building diverse workforces, equitable opportunities, and inclusive experiences for all.
Richard S. Price
Learn more about DEI at Mesirow