Leading an Inclusive Community with Mary Stagaman

It is possible to lead from the middle.

What does it truly look like to lead an inclusive community, and how can we, as leaders, make an impact on this conversation? Join us today as Mary Stagaman, the Vice President of Inclusion at Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, talks about reaching beyond the familiar, celebrating diversity, and the difference this makes for us in our businesses and our lives.

Cultural competency

If we were to get more intentional about diversifying our workforce and building a more inclusive community, we could accelerate the pace of change.

We need to develop the skills that we talk about when discussing cultural competency — the ability to change our communication styles, the way we interact with people to bridge differences — because these aren’t skills we are born with. We instinctively try to find our own tribe. But the good news is, we can bring people to higher levels of cultural competence in a fairly short period of time.

They’ve developed a program called Building Cultural Competence, and it’s specifically focused on leaders, so that when they go back to the community, the skills they learn become magnified as they echo out through their circles of influence.

Focusing on inclusion

Focusing on inclusion is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. Diverse teams perform better, and companies that are more inclusive have better bottom lines.

We can look at inclusion in two ways: the first is personal. Each of us is on his own learning journey, and if you’re ever the only minority in the room, you’ll realize how powerful of an experience it is.

The second is taking it up to the leadership level. Any organization that aspires to be wholly inclusive must have leadership that is culturally competent, willing to take strong stances against discrimination and willing to understand the pervasive systemic issues.


Immigrants absolutely have to be a part of our growth and competitive strategies for the region. Immigrants disproportionately study STEM disciplines, and they’re also disproportionately entrepreneurial. They have an outsized impact and are adding vibrancy to our community in ways we should all benefit from.

It’s so important that cities around the country have gotten into the welcoming business over the last few years, whose sole purpose is to make sure that immigrants are being integrated into the population as quickly and effectively as possible. Because we aren’t just a community. We are a country that has always depended upon immigration for our growth and advancement.

Diversifying your network

The Stir! Multicultural Networking Reception is a program for people to come and meet other people across cultures and communities. Mary also talks about how there is an amazing roster of large global companies in the region that are major actors in our journey to a more inclusive community.

We’re all afraid of stepping out and embracing the unfamiliar. It requires intention, a persistent willingness to deal with cognitive dissonance, and the openness to engage in tough conversations. But if many people and companies are starting this journey, then maybe we have the opportunity to accelerate the rate of change and development.

Lead from the middle

Understand what you can do, and know that it’s possible to start something by simply changing your own behavior. For example, if you manage a small team, you can change the way you approach that team, whether or not your organization as a whole has fully embraced the idea of diversity as a strength, and inclusion as a must-have. It comes back to the individual’s ability to step up and say, “I want to be part of creating a better organization and a better community.”


Mary Stagaman (LinkedIn)

Stir! Multicultural Networking Reception

CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion


Episode 18: Becoming Fully Human with Dan Hurley

Episode 19: Diversity and Inclusion with Dr. Janet Reid

Episode 24: The Value of Inclusion, Diversity, and Clowns with Paul Miller

Episode 51: Creating Vibrant and Prosperous Communities with Jill Meyer


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