People of color make up the fastest growing segment of the workforce, but lag behind when it comes to representation in corporate management. Only 5 percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by Asians, Hispanics or African-Americans, said Marci Nakano of the Executive Development Institute (EDI) at the Greater Portland 2020 Diversity in Leadership event Thursday.

Marci Nakano

Marci Nakano

At the first of three events tailored to promoting diversity in leadership, Nakano spoke of how her organization can help middle and senior level executives learn strategies to overcome challenges to career advancement.

Grant Yoshihara

Grant Yoshihara

Grant Yoshihara, the senior vice president and chief engineer of operations at NW Natural, stressed the business case for employers investing in a more diverse workforce and corporate leadership, as it can improve a company’s bottom line.

Janet LaBar

Janet LaBar

Portland has long had a reputation as a place that is not very diverse, and it’s a difficult stereotype to overcome, said Janet LaBar, CEO of Greater Portland Inc. She spoke about Greater Portland 2020’s mission of advancing equity for everyone in the region.

Jonath Colon Montesi

Jonath Colon Montesi

Representing the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber Leadership Program, Jonath Colon Montesi shared how through the Chamber’s leadership program, he learned to use his Puerto Rican heritage as an advantage and how others invested their time in him to pursue growth opportunities.

Ryan Buchanan

Ryan Buchanan

Finally, Ryan Buchanan, the co-chair of the Greater Portland 2020 Council, spoke about how he came to understand the importance, and power, of a diverse team and described his commitment to providing opportunities for diverse professionals both in his company, eROI, and with employers across the region.

The event was hosted by NW Natural and was convened by Greater Portland Inc, Greater Portland 2020 and Partners in Diversity.

The next Diversity in Leadership event will be held in June, so stay tuned for details.

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