Sherry Snipesa and Cheryl Gentry

Cheryl Gentry and Sherry Snipes have created a game changer for the diversity space with their DANDI (Diversity & Inclusion) Awards and Executive Forum, which will be held on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 in New York. DANDI will recognize the “exemplary commitment and focus on diversity and inclusion.”

“We are pretty excited about the cadre of nominees. We want this event to bring about participation in the diversity space,” shares Gentry, the founder and president of Glow Media.

“This is the first of a long history of celebrating diversity. This is a game changer for the diversity space. Word is out and there is a lot of excitement about getting involved with the DANDIs,” adds Snipes, founder and president of Global Diversity Collaborative.

Gentry and Snipes, executive producers of the DANDIs, met while they were working as HR Specialists at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). After working together on several projects over the years, and often discussing the success and failure of corporate diversity initiatives, the DANDI Awards was born. The  DANDI Executive Forum will be held at the New York Times Building at 7:30 a.m. and the DANDI Awards at New York Times Center at 6 p.m.

Read more about this pioneering diversity initiative. –yvette caslin

Whose idea was it to create the DANDI Awards?
Cheryl: We actually came up with the idea together. We started thinking about what is missing in this space and how we can make an impact doing something completely different for these diversity executives. It started with the awards, and Sherry [suggested] we maximize the opportunity by adding the executive forum.

Sherry: It was multiple conversations that led to the DANDI Awards and Executive Forum. Working in [diversity], I attend a lot of conferences and programs and I felt there was an opportunity to have provocative conversations and real discussion. If we are going to convene all of these wonderful people, let’s have a forum for them to actually talk and hear from people that are really making a difference – corporations, nonprofits or NGOs. [The Executive Forum’s topic is “Game-Over Strategies That Work”].

How do you define diversity?
Sherry: In Webster’s Dictionary, diversity means differences, and that’s really what we are talking about here, capitalizing on our differences to make a difference in the world. Diversity encompasses many characteristics. We tend to think of race and gender first … very, very important aspects of diversity and inclusion in terms of leveling the playing field. There’s also LGBT, disabilities and socioeconomics are important elements relating to the workforce and access to career opportunities and making a difference socially.

Cheryl: Diversity doesn’t mean affirmative action, in fact, the USTA is one of our nominees. They have a great diversity initiative, making sure kids are able to play [tennis]. They are talking to manufacturers of rackets and are going to a lot of courts in the inner city and country clubs asking them to line the courts. The NBA has done similar things. When we looked at these organizations and vetted them with our advisory council, we really looked at organizations that were inclusive – not just gender, but age as well.

What are the awards categories?
Cheryl: Arts & Culture, Consumer Goods, Education, Entertainment, Entrepreneur, Environment and Sustainability, Fashion, Financial Services, Healthcare, Workplace Diversity, S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), Sports, Social Responsibility, Nonprofit, Media, and International

One of the things that make the DANDI’s different is that a lot of these organizations win diversity awards within their industry. We are really bringing together a great group of people [from various industries], which makes this a great networking opportunity as well. [It will be a showcase of successful diversity initiatives and who’s executing them.]

Sherry: In terms of the process, the nominees were vetted by an ambassador’s council of 13 business professionals, which is a cross functional independent group of professionals in different organizations and different industries. Most of them touch on the diversity space in some aspect. We have put together a comprehensive report on all of the nominees and the ambassadors will vote through an online process and we don’t know who’s voting for who and we will announce the winners on the evening of July . There are special honors that are noncompetitive: The Lifetime Achievement Award (Edie Fraser, STEM Connector); Impact Award Greg Hinton, Democratic National Committee; Focus Award (Global Innovations); Legacy Award (Clinton Global Initiative); and Diversity in Innovation Award (Dr. Michael Joyner, Touchless Flatware). They are individuals who have made stellar achievements in the diversity space.

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Yvette Caslin

I'm a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.