As its name suggests, the primary objective of the Northern Virginia Chamber’s Membership Committee is to recruit and retain regional business and their leaders as active members of the Chamber. Collectively, our members have created a meaningful, powerful association that enriches our community and positively impacts our members’ businesses and their employees.
The Northern Virginia Chamber is the region’s largest Chamber of Commerce, with over 500,000 employees, and is also the most influential. Through weekly events, targeted networking groups and full-time government advocacy, the Chamber offers members, no matter their size, a wealth of connection opportunities, access to government officials and business support designed to help promote and grow their unique businesses.
The diversity of our region is one of its greatest assets, offering opportunities to learn from one another and form personal connections that guide lasting business growth. The Chamber’s commitment to diversity and equality for all businesses has been a driving force in its approach to board leadership and in its programming. In conjunction with the Chamber’s strategic objective to be recognized as a champion of Diversity Equity & Inclusion, one of the primary focuses of the Membership Committee is to help the Chamber meet its objectives of increasing the diversity of its members by recruiting and retaining companies owned or led by Black, Indigenous or Persons of Color (BIPOC) individuals.
Since January 1, 37% of the new Chamber members are owned or led by women or BIPOC individuals. Of the new members, 23% are women-owned or -led and 26% are BIPOC-owned or -led. (These are not mutually exclusive. A company can be owned or led by a BIPOC woman.) And while these numbers show the commitment the Chamber has made to meeting its objectives, there is still work to be done. Overall, 16% of the Chamber’s membership is owned or led by women or BIPOC individuals, with 7% women-owned or -led and 9% BIPOC-owned or -led.
One initiative to enhance the Membership Committee’s efforts to increase DE&I membership is to partner with the Chamber’s DE&I Board of Advisors. This committee is a critical driver in fostering real organizational change and establishing a dedicated focus on diversity and inclusion priorities. Over the next several months, the two committees will work together to concentrate on BIPOC-owned or -led companies to strategically increase the membership of the Chamber in line with the representation of the community it serves. These efforts will include opportunities for prospective members to meet Chamber leadership and current members to learn about the significant advantages of joining the Chamber.
Deborah Gandy is Managing Director, Chevy Chase Trust, and the Chair of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce Membership Committee.