Ana Dutra on Making Diversity Actionable in Chicago

Ana Dutra, President and CEO, The Executives' Club of Chicago

Born and raised in Brazil, I relocated to Chicago in 1992 to pursue my MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. After initially feeling overwhelmed by the cultural and language barriers, I was eventually able to overcome these challenges. My personal experience of living and working in different countries and cultures was the foundation for my deep commitment to and passion for diversity and inclusion. I want to make sure that women, immigrants, Latinos, African Americans – any individuals who represent minority groups – feel included and integrated in the Chicago business community or any community they chose to be a part of.

Now serving as the first Latina CEO of Chicago’s premier executive membership and networking organization, The Executives’ Club of Chicago, I have made my passion The Club’s mission.

We are shaping conversations, sharing best-practices and are committed to making diversity and inclusion a priority for Chicago leadership.

In today’s business environment, diversity and inclusion are critical success factors and have become strategic imperatives for driving market innovation and for the development of new products, services and business processes.

Deb DeHaas, the immediate past board chair of The Club and Deloitte’s Vice Chair, Chief Inclusion Officer and national managing partner of its Center for Corporate Governance, says “Studies indicate that companies that build diversity and inclusion into their teams are more likely to reap the benefits of new ideas, more debate and, ultimately, better business decisions. Companies that promote diversity and inclusive behaviors are 70% more likely report that their organization has captured a new market within the previous year.”

Members of The Executives’ Club of Chicago recognize this.

At a recent Committee meeting, The Club’s Marketing, Communications and Sales Committee Co-Chair, Nichole Barnes Marshall perfectly personified The Club’s mission in one sentence: “Diversity may be counting heads. Inclusion is making heads count,” said Marshall, Global Head of Inclusion, Aon Plc. As Marshall noted, simply having a diverse workforce isn’t enough – the integration of both diversity and inclusion is critical for bottom-line success.

A notable takeaway highlighted in Deloitte’s 2014 Global Human Capital Trend Report is that “…leading companies are working to build not just a diverse workforce, but inclusive workplaces, enabling them to transform diversity programs from a compliance obligation to a business strategy.”

Although the world is becoming more and more diverse, many companies have not, and that’s an important reality that influenced our decision to become active leaders in this space. We are determined to eliminate organizational biases and make Chicago an inclusive city and business community.

DeHaas says such a shift is not easy. “Moving beyond diversity to focus on inclusion entails companies examining how fully the organization embraces new ideas, accommodates different styles of thinking, creates a more flexible work environment, enables people to connect and collaborate, and encourages different types of leaders,” she says.

Our mission to lead the diversity and inclusion efforts and affect the outcomes in Chicago’s business is resonating throughout The Club and will spread to the Chicagoland business community through our members, speakers, Directors and sponsors.

We strive to be a model of diversity and inclusion, strengthen Chicago’s bonds and empower individuals to embrace and leverage their differences.

Companies interested in joining The Executives’ Club of Chicago in making a corporate commitment to diversity should contact: (312) 263-3500.