Diversity Training Group (DTG), the outside organization commissioned to review the Loudoun Chamber’s operations, has started laying the groundwork for their assessment, though the timeline for the review is still uncertain, according to Mauricio Velásquez, president and CEO of the Herndon-based organization.
The assessment follows an episode in which three Black members of the Chamber resigned, citing dissatisfaction with the level of support given to a committee tasked with supporting Black businesses as well as what they described as a lack of responsiveness from Chamber leadership.
Velásquez said the consulting group will take the Chamber through an assessment process that will provide recommendations in areas such as the organization’s procedures, employment and programming.
“When we do an assessment, we identify issues, we identify root causes and solutions and make suggestions to address both conscious and unconscious biases in what we in the organizations and the people we are studying,” Velásquez said to the Times-Mirror.
He said organizations that have chosen to undergo assessments are “willing to pop the hood,” “willing to ask the tough questions” and are open to changes.
“Any organization embarking on this journey, it’s all about ‘what are we doing right?’ ‘Where can we improve,’” Velásquez said.
He said the timetable for completion of assessments varies for large organizations, such as the Loudoun Chamber. In the past, large organizations, he said, have taken several months to complete — responsiveness being one factor in how quickly an assessment proceeds.
Last year, the Chamber’s Black Business Empowerment Committee (BBEC) was formed in response to the economic impact of the pandemic shutdowns. Carmen Felder and Vanessa Maddox, served as the chair and co-chair, respectively, with a goal of supporting Black businesses.
In the months that followed, disputes over a controversial video meeting and an email spilled over, pushing leadership of the BBEC and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion subcommittee to seek formal corrective action against two Chamber officials, as part of a list of grievances.
Further, they requested in a memo obtained by the Times-Mirror that the Chamber address its lack of diversity among staff and incorporate a DEI/Human Resources professional into its operations.
Sophia Nelson, who was part of the DEIC, as well as Felder and Maddox, was upset with a lack of action, resigned and the Black Business Empowerment Committee was shuttered.
Earlier this month, the Chamber released a statement regarding its work to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in Loudoun.
The organization outlined the changes it has made to improve its diversity and inclusion performance, and support its members over the past four years.
Other actions included adopting two policies regarding diversity and inclusion, one that governs all Chamber operations and another for the Board of Directors and other leadership positions.
Additionally, the organization created a board-level governance committee, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy Committee, to provide oversight and accountability over DEI policies, programs and practices.
Velásquez said he was unable to discuss anything specific about the partnership the consultant group has with the Loudoun Chamber.
However, he said that two years ago, he met representatives from the Chamber at a statewide chamber event and at the time he said they expressed interest in working with DTG.
“What our job is at DTG is to identify ‘What are the obstacles, what are the barriers stopping us from getting from the present state to the ideal future state,’” Velásquez said.
Velasquez said DTG has been in operation for 25 years and trained numerous participants in workshops.
Velásquez said DTG counts among their current clients, Major League Soccer, the National Police Foundation and National Democratic Institute. The group has also done work for Dominion Energy, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and the City of Fairfax.
Loudoun Chamber President & CEO Tony Howard and Stacey Metcalfe, chair of the Board of Directors did not respond to numerous requests for comment.