Fellows in the program participate in problem-solving and leadership exercises. (Photo: Contributed)

The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga recently completed an inaugural program that provides training for minorities to better prepare them for top leadership positions and promote inclusion in the business community.

The Inclusion by Design Executive Leadership Program aims to prepare participants for C-suite positions, local Urban League CEO Warren E. Logan Jr. said. 

“In Chattanooga, we have this reputation of being the Gig City … Since we are bragging all around the country how great we are, we want people to see it’s a city that’s open to women and people of color and everybody is participating in the growth of the community,” he said.

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Urban League leaders developed the program after trying to bring more people onto its board and seeing an “obvious lack of people of color and women in executive ranks,” Logan said.

That prompted officials to see what data showed about inclusion. They wanted market-based evidence that inclusion could benefit business. What they found is that diversity leads to success.

“When a company is more diverse from the standpoint of women and people of color, there is a great propensity that the company will yield a greater profit as far as the bottom line is concerned,” he said.

Each fellow, the title given to a participant in the program, was nominated by an executive of their respective companies.

The nominees are women or persons of color who are already functioning at the senior level and experiencing success in their current roles, but needing to learn to think more strategically and focus on impact, according to a news release. 

Fellows participate in executive leadership sessions, do community engagement activities and work with local executives over a 10-month period.

After the program, fellows continue to work with mentors to further their skills.

The program isn’t a guarantee that a participant will be promoted within their organization, Logan said.

“[The program] enables you to do a better job and go further at [your current] company or another company,” he said. “It’s a win-win situation. The company has a better employee and the employee has more tools in their toolbox.”

The Urban League has plans to test the program for three years and then evaluate the results, Logan said.

The company that employs the fellow absorbs the cost of the program, he also said.

The graduation for the inaugural class is slated for Dec. 7 and is full. Anyone interested in the program can contact the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga.

Graduates of the first class are:

  • Eduardo Centurion, Maclellan Foundation Inc.
  • Tyna Hector, city of Chattanooga
  • Dr. Shewanee Howard-Baptiste, UTC
  • Ken Jones, EPB
  • Meghan Scanlon Roach, SunTrust Bank
  • April Lomax, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee
  • Chelsea Johnson, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Tennessee Health Foundation
  • Travis Lytle, SmartBank
  • Jonathan Butler, Urban League of Greater Chattanooga Young Professionals
  • Brooke Standefer, Unum
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