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LGBT Chamber Participates in Diversity Bus Tour

Member News Release

From The Tennessean:

When Rashed Fakhruddin was hired by Nashville Electric Service as an engineer, he said he would not be able to attend meetings from 1 to 2 p.m. Fridays. That time was for prayer. And during Ramadan, he may move his workday up a few hours to adapt to his fasting schedule.

They were small accommodations, but by receiving that support from his supervisors, he felt motivated to go above and beyond for his employer, he said. He has become an engineering supervisor, and last year, he was awarded NES’ President's Award.

“When you have that sort of accommodation and understanding of culture ...  you are going to give another 100 percent for the company,” he said. "They feel grateful instead of feeling isolated and stressed.”

Fakhruddin spoke to more than 100 representatives of several Nashville companies and organizations Monday at the Islamic Center of Nashville as part of an inaugural Workforce Diversity Seminar and bus tour. Organized by Nashville's National Organization for Workforce Diversity, the summit sought to provide resources and insights for employers and government leaders seeking to create an inclusive and diverse workplace.

Participants visited Sri Ganesha Temple, The Temple, the Islamic Center of Nashville, Operation Stand Down Tennessee, Tennessee State University and Casa Azafran, plus heard from leaders of the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Vanderbilt University, World Relief and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

Throughout the day, examples of the workforce talent existing in the city's diverse communities were showcased — from Vanderbilt University engineering professor Sankaran Mahadevan, who has turned down job offers from other cities to remain part of the Sri Ganesha Temple's Hindu community; to the Nigerian, Colombian, Bangladeshi and Saudi students studying at Tennessee State University, who chose the school for its academics and multicultural community.

Katerine Hernandez, 21, shared her story of coming to Nashville from El Salvador as a child. She worked hard throughout high school, despite lacking a clear path to college as an undocumented student. After earning the fourth-highest grade point average at Glencliff High School and a perfect score on her writing assessment, she paid her way through Trevecca Nazarene University with the help of a private scholarship.  She now teaches at Trevecca, is a youth pastor and is program coordinator for the YMCA Latino Achievers.

“Students like me are going to be bilingual and are going to be very hardworking and are going to strive and bring value to your company," she said. "They are just hoping you also see value in them and in their community."

Employers and universities also shared strategies for welcoming diverse workers and students. Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos pointed to Vanderbilt's blind admissions policies that do not include an applicant's financial profile in their admissions decisions, as well as its commitment to help students to graduate debt-free.

In recent years, Nissan has focused on improving benefits that affect LGBT employees. When some employees at other companies learned about Nissan's efforts, they went to Nissan when it was time to buy a car, said Kim Sharp, a manager for Nissan.

"It just is good business," said Bradley Pinson, vice president of business banking relationship management at Fifth Third Bank. "There is a direct correlation between employee engagement and diversity and inclusion."

Reach Jamie McGee at 615-259-8071 and on Twitter @JamieMcGee_.

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