The Tulsa Regional Chamber held a virtual inauguration Thursday for its 2021 chair.
Tulsa Economic Development Corporation CEO Rose Washington is the chamber’s first Black chair. In a recorded address, Washington said her priorities are rooted in improving diversity, equity and inclusivity, and her first area of focus is helping people.
The unemployment rate for Black Tulsans is more than double that for white Tulsans. Washington said the answer is improving access to job training and educational opportunities, starting before high school graduation.
"Thanks to my high school teacher, I interned in a local city clerk’s office instead of cutting tall grass in public spaces. I believe that opportunity at the Durant, Mississippi, city hall put me on the path that has led me here today," Washington said.
Washington said one initiative in the works is a partnership between the chamber’s Mosaic coalition and state Sen. Kevin Matthews to give high school juniors and seniors of color externships with senior executives in banking and finance, information technology, and entrepreneurial development.
Washington wants to see initiatives to help small businesses hurt by the pandemic get back on their feet. She said the chamber’s Small Business Connection will offer its resources largely for free through the first six months of the year, and she hopes business owners of color participate.
Washington is also encouraging large employers to create or expand diversity supplier initiatives.
"With this type of initiative, we will move forward as a region by giving existing small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs a greater chance to thrive," Washington said.
Washington succeeds Cox Communications Vice President Roger Ramseyer as the chamber chair.