Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce puts diversity efforts at forefront of 2021 plan

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is upping its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts for 2021.

“I think that with the climate, and in 2020 — the murder of George Floyd, just the unrest and things that were going on — we felt this was just the perfect time for us to really move this forward,” said Cindy Gettig, the vice president of business development for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion — also known as DEI — both internally and within the local business community is listed as one of the organization’s top priorities in its 2021 annual plan. The chamber hopes to advocate for access to opportunities for marginalized groups, continue education available for business ownership and career development and implement DEI training for employees and members. 

It’ll start with surveying the marginalized and underserved communities over the next few months. It also plans to create an organizational assessment with an expert DEI consultant.

About 13.77% of Horry County’s 27,629 businesses are owned by people who are a racial minority, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. About 82.9% of Horry County’s population is white, 12.9% is Black and 6.1% is Hispanic or Latino.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce launched a business diversity council in 2016, which was renamed to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council last year. 

Gettig said the chamber sees promoting DEI efforts as an important role the organization should play in the community. She said it’ll be taking a deep look at what it’s doing internally to assure it’s practicing the concepts.

“It has just become part of our work moving forward, and so it is going to be a part of 2021 and beyond,” she said. 

It’s taught EVOLVE (Educated Voices on Leading and Valuing Equity) courses, which teaches about topics such as implicit bias, microaggressions and what a multigenerational workforce looks like. 

“It was very well received,” Gettig said.

The courses have moved to virtual webinars throughout the pandemic. It also hopes to get minority-owned businesses involved with the chamber and its resources.

Gettig said that some of the EVOLVE course participants told her they didn’t know what unconscious bias was until they saw an example in a video. That education, she said, needs to be ongoing.

“It is important for our business community to embrace DEI, because it only makes your business better and our community better,” she said. 

Cecilia Evans, the Myrtle Beach market manager for Bank of America, sits on the chamber’s DEI council and has participated in the city’s “Beachside Chats,” which have discussed race.

“It is not something that is new to us,” Evans said. 

Evans said Bank of America wants to constantly have conversations about race and racial equality.

She has attended several EVOLVE seminars, and said that they’re messages that everyone should hear multiple times. Continuing efforts, she said, will help to transcend barriers that have existed for people of color in the business community, along with highlight the importance of DEI.

“It is about being accepting and bringing your own self to work,” Evans said.

The South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce did not respond to a request for comment about Myrtle Beach’s efforts.

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