The first-ever Wisconsin Leadership Summit, co-hosted by Madison365 and the Ho-Chunk Nation, gathered leaders of color from across the state October 18 and 19, specifically to address issues related to attracting and retaining talented people of color.
Many panel sessions addressed the retention question directly, while a number of breakouts focused on issues like education, entrepreneurship and nonprofit leadership, all with an eye toward creating an environment in Wisconsin where people of color can thrive.
That work didn’t end when the conference adjourned, though — on the second day of the conference, Madison365 CEO and Publisher Henry Sanders announced that the Wisconsin Leadership Council would officially convene early next year to continue the work.
“From the very early planning stages of the Summit, it was clear that this couldn’t be just another conference,” Sanders said. “Our stakeholders and sponsors and everyone else involved were clear about one thing: the work we intended to do at the Summit was too important to leave at the Summit. If the Summit was a success, it would have to be just the beginning. And that’s exactly what’s happening.”
The Wisconsin Leadership Council (WLC) will spend the next few months recruiting members and developing a clear charter and mission, and will likely begin meeting regularly in the spring. It will guide the priorities and content for future Wisconsin Leadership Summit events, including regional events as well as the second annual statewide summit next fall, as well as a print magazine intended to inform businesses on best practices for diversity, inclusion and empowerment.
“The members of the Council will drive its work,” Sanders said. “They’ll be the ones laying out the details, goals and priorities.”
The first five WLC members include ManpowerGroup Global Diversity Officer Christopher Rowland, who will chair the council; CUNA Mutual Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Angela Russell; Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon; United Way of Dane County CEO Renee Moe; and Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee Griselda Aldrete.
Rowland called the Summit an “incredible platform connecting leaders from across the state to discuss some of the most important issues impacting our communities and our state. It was a beautiful example of what is possible with vision and collaboration. With a great turnout and diverse representation this Summit could be a launching pad, creating momentum and inspiring action for the complex issues of today and tomorrow.
“I hope the Council can be a brain trust connecting those cross region and sector with the ability and capability to create impact in a collaborative effort to drive real change,” he said.
“It is a true honor to have been selected to serve on this Council,” said Russell. “I hope that we can lift up and regularly highlight the diversity and talent that exists throughout Wisconsin and work to make Wisconsin a state where everyone can live and work up to their fullest potential no matter their background.”
“The future is younger and more diverse, and Wisconsin’s future depends on us taking intentional action to ensure this is a dynamic, forward-thinking state filled with opportunity for people of color,” Brandon said. “The ultimate goal is to accelerate an advanced economy where everyone can prosper. The Council is a big step toward accomplishing that goal.”
“Wisconsin is known for innovation, hard-work and collaboration,” said Moe. “This Council is invigorated by the opportunity to honor these core values while building our collective future, including an equitable economy for all.”
“The Council comes at a crucial point in Wisconsin’s quest to achieve equity, diversity, inclusion and opportunities for the upcoming generation of leaders,” Aldrete said. “Wisconsin needs to continue to attract, retain and recruit diverse talent to ensure that our state mirrors the communities it serves. I hope the Council can serve as a model and catalyst for sustainable and actual change for our state, while enabling the right leadership to get behind this much needed effort that needs to be supported and elevated.”
A formal application process for additional Council members will open later this year. Those interested in being considered can email firstname.lastname@example.org.