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  • Writer's pictureConnexFM

The ROI of DEI

Businesses across the globe agree that establishing a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiative is not only the right thing to do but also provides great benefits to a company’s bottom line. According to a report from McKinsey & Company, “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.” This means that there is hard, statistical evidence to show those who may be hesitant that increased diversity is in the best interest of their businesses.

From the Ground Up

ConnexFM understood the need to provide education and guidance to members who may be unfamiliar with DEI initiatives, and in turn established its DEI Committee in September 2020. ConnexFM CEO Bill Yanek knew it was time for the association to act.

“ConnexFM exists for members to gain a competitive advantage,” he said. “The association created the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee to ensure the association is open, inclusive and each member feels welcome and has a sense of belonging. Our committees, including Women in Action, Young Professionals and DEI, create opportunities for our members to engage and find their home at ConnexFM.”


Built Environment CEOs Sign Diversity Commitment

Association leaders are committing to greater diversity, equity and inclusion within the leadership of their organizations. The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) has secured 20 signatures from leaders — including Bill Yanek, ConnexFM’s CEO — committed to supporting greater diversity in the built environment.

The primary goals that CEOs agreed to include:

· Building diverse staff and volunteer leadership teams

· Sharing best practices

· Promoting this work with association membership

Lakisha A. Woods, CAE, President and CEO of NIBS, said this commitment ensures real and equitable change will take place for employees and employers throughout the building industry. For more information, visit


Realizing how important starting a DEI program was for ConnexFM, Yanek reached out to DEI expert Sherry Darden to assist. Darden, originally from Kansas City, Missouri, has a background in accounting and HR, and served as adjunct faculty at Collin and Tarrant County Colleges in the Dallas area. Her experience made her the perfect partner to help educate and guide the ConnexFM Board and staff.

“I was there from the very beginning,” Darden said. “This was right after the George Floyd protests, and Bill asked me to come in and provide guidance to the ConnexFM staff and the Board of Directors.” But Yanek knew that one or two sessions with Darden wouldn’t be enough — this initiative needed to be taken further. “It takes time,” she continued. “It probably took about six months of conversation before everyone understood and agreed on the direction we wanted to head in.”

The Dollars and Cents of Common Sense

With any DEI initiative, there will certainly be feelings and emotions associated with the program. We must remember that all aspects of people’s lives are directly impacted by discrimination. While this is extremely important to recognize, members must take a step back and see that even though emotion may influence our initial thoughts about DEI, there are tangible business benefits that drive the need for DEI.

Knowing this to be true, the DEI Committee established its tag line for the effort: The ROI of DEI. “The moral obligation — or the right thing to do — may not necessarily capture everyone’s attention or may not be the reason why somebody would want to be invested and involved in DEI,” said Pat Bacigalupo, Director of Store Maintenance at Gap, Inc., and ConnexFM Board Member. “By showing people that there’s a financial and business benefit, we can try to bring them on board this way, as well.”

Stronger governance; better problem-solving abilities; having employees with diverse backgrounds bringing their own perspectives, ideas and experiences — these are just a few of the benefits of DEI that help organizations become more creative and effective and, in turn, outperform businesses that don’t invest in diversity.

Some people may have the false impression that to add new perspectives, previous members of an organization will have to be cast aside or removed from their roles. But, Darden provided an analogy to explain why this is incorrect: “Think about it like Thanksgiving dinner,” she said. “You have your dining room table, and it seats a certain number of people. But during Thanksgiving, to keep the adults from having to sit at the ‘kids’ table, you put a leaf in the table that can add four or five more spots, allowing for all adults to sit together. So it’s not about replacing — it’s about expanding the table so that everybody has an opportunity to join.”

Getting Certified

One of the best ways to improve the standing of your business with regard to DEI is applying for one of the many certifications that are available through the federal government. “When we use the word ‘diversity,’ most people think about race or gender,” Bacigalupo said. “But it really encompasses much more than that. There are certifications for women-owned small businesses, minority-owned businesses, LGBTQ-owned businesses. There are even certifications for being in a HUBZone, which stands for historically underutilized business zone. There are so many opportunities out there to show consumers and other businesses that you’re on board with diversity.”

Many large companies have supplier diversity programs in place and are required to do a certain percentage of business with DEI-certified suppliers. Having one of these certifications under your company’s belt could prove to be incredibly beneficial when looking to expand your business dealings.

The process to obtain one or more of these certifications may seem daunting to some, so to help in 2022, ConnexFM is aiding its members who may not be experienced in the application process or for those who aren’t familiar with DEI in general. “We’re going to give [members] information on the benefits of each [certification] and have workshops to cover that information and the application process — hopefully involving the Small Business Administration, as well,” explained Darden, who previously worked for 11 years with the Small Business Development Center as a Master Business Development Specialist.

“The FM Industry has a robust and competitive market, and Supplier Partners can differentiate themselves by earning the business certifications,” Yanek said. “Resources to expand their businesses —such as earning their specific certifications — exemplify ConnexFM’s strategic mission of providing opportunities to distinguish themselves in the marketplace.”


Become Certified

There are a host of DEI-focused certifications that members can apply for:

  • Small Business

  • Veteran-owned Small Business (VOSB)

  • Service-disabled Veteran-owned Small Business (SDVOSB)

  • HUBZone Small Business

  • 8(a) Small Business

  • Women Business Enterprise (WBE)

  • Minority Business Enterprise (MBE)

  • Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)

  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Business Enterprise (LGBTBE)

For detailed descriptions of each certification, visit


Just the Beginning

As mentioned earlier, embracing diversity is just the first step in the process — implementing and growing the program takes time, effort and understanding.

“Awareness and education are two of our main focuses,” Bacigalupo said. “We want to reveal the necessity and value of DEI in the facilities management industry and make sure we are creating a community that is safe, open and welcoming to all.”

But maybe most importantly, true champions of DEI know that the work is never finished. “As long as I am involved in this initiative, we will never be done,” Darden said. “Things are always going to change. Needs are going to change. Demands are going to change. We’re always going to be reaching out and checking the pulse to make sure we meet members’ needs.”

Learn More

Visit for more information about the ConnexFM DEI Committee and how to get involved.

ConnexFM DEI Committee



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