The city of Springfield's first diversity, equity and inclusion director yesterday offered advice to business leaders during the monthly 12 People You Need to Know series.
During the live interview hosted by Springfield Business Journal, Suleyman said leaders in business, nonprofit, faith and other organizations must be intentional when it comes to DEI issues.
"It's not just the right thing to do. It's actually good for business," Suleyman said, pointing to the effects of diverse voices within companies.
The most important trait for leaders who care about DEI issues is to foster a sense of empathy, Suleyman said.
Further, he said being an inclusive leader means you waste last time when overseeing a diverse workforce.
"Inclusion is when you engage individuals according to their learning styles," he said.
Suleyman urged business leaders with questions to approach him on the topic.
Originally from the country of Lebanon, Suleyman arrived in the United States with his family as a refugee in 2000, SBJ previously reported. He joined the city of Springfield in May 2021 after previously working as director of equity for Dubuque Community Schools in Iowa.
At the city, Suleyman said his first goal is to examine internal processes when it comes to diversity. How, for example, are diversity, equity and inclusion being promoted within the city government, and how is the city looking for diverse talent?
Noting a willingness to change Springfield for the better from the city's leaders, Suleyman said the Queen City has "great potential." An antidiscrimination ordinance is a top goal, he said, but he doesn't want to stop with what could be seen as "performative" legal protections.
"Inclusion means all Springfieldians are Springfieldians," he said of a cultural shift needed within the community.
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