Speaker discusses Northwest Arkansas diversity during Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce meeting

BENTONVILLE -- Donna Morris said there's reality and then there's perception when it comes to diversity in the area.

Morris, executive vice president and chief people officer for Walmart Stores Inc., was the keynote speaker at the Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce's 2022 annual meeting, which was held Tuesday at Bentonville High School's Tiger Athletic Complex.

Monica Kumar, belonging, equity and inclusion strategist for the chamber, asked Morris questions about diversity and inclusion.

"Our reality is that we actually are very diverse," Morris said. "The perception is that this area is not very diverse."

Morris urged businesses that are building advertisements to think about the pictures they use. She asked if the businesses are including photographs of their customers, employees and people from the community.

"Diversity is from all lenses," she said. "It's absolutely ethnic diversity, and it's absolutely sexual orientation and gender identification.

"If you are an all-female team, that's not diverse," she said. "If you are an all-male team, that's not diverse. If you have all gone to the same school, that's not diverse."

Morris said it's important to have people with different educational backgrounds and also different age groups.

She added feedback that Walmart receives concerns food options and not having many vegan or vegetarian options at area restaurants.

"I think we have to create an environment where people feel like they can live out their lives, and it includes extracurricular activities," she said. "People want to work hard, but they also want to play hard. They have to feel there's a place of worship and places for their children and friends to go."

Morris said the area is beginning to offer many of those amenities.

The luncheon was the first big event she's attended in Northwest Arkansas, Morris said. She moved to the area in February 2020.

Kumar also questioned Robert Burns, director of the home region program for the Walton Family Foundation. He said it is critical solutions be crafted by the community, and it's important to have the involvement of different representatives from the community.

Listening to different people is one way to build inclusion in communities, Burns said.

"Try to put yourself in the other person's shoes and listen," he said.


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Awards given at Tuesday’s 2022 State of the Chamber & Awards Lunch:

Hospitality Hero Award — Scott Passmore, Bentonville Schools

Ambassador of the Year — Pamela Ferguson

WalStreet Member of the Year — Blue Yonder

MainStreet Member of the Year — First National Bank NWA

Spirit Award — OZ Cycle Tours

Community Service Award — JazzyJaeNWA, Jasmine Hudson and Jae Merchant

R.E. “Ed” Buck Award — Ramsay Ball

Dickerson Award — In Memory of Cecil Turner

Source: NWA Democrat-Gazette