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What does diversity mean in the workplace? At Beach Bank, a Fort Walton-based community bank that has expanded into the Tampa Bay region, diversity is much more than an abstract concept embedded in a mission statement — it’s a value that shapes how the bank operates, from the top down.
Henry Gonzalez, Beach Bank’s senior vice president and Tampa market president, says diversity is an action plan, not a predefined way of looking at the racial and ethnic makeup of the company’s workforce.
“Diversity is not just what my generation tends to think of — just skin color,” he says. “It’s a lot more than that. It’s diversity of thought and, the term I like best, diversity of cultural experience. We all come from different backgrounds and different cultures.”
Tonya Calix, Beach Bank’s vice president of human resources, has been with the organization for 10 years and attests to how diversity has become “part of the norm” and “the right thing to do … it doesn’t seem forced or a reaction to anything that’s going on.”
At Beach Bank, Calix says, everyone participates in diversity training initiatives on an ongoing basis, not just one time when they first join the organization.
“Every month I give a report to our board of directors to let them know the action steps that we’re taking to improve and incorporate diversity and inclusion into our culture,” she says. “We are also starting an annual Diversity Day for our entire organization.”
Gonzalez identifies as Hispanic but says it’s not hard to find common ground with someone like Calix, a Black woman. “The way I was raised was probably quite different from Tonya,” he says, “but yet we still have the same dreams and aspirations.”
Beach Bank has adopted the slogan “One Beach” to emphasize that all are welcome and valued, but at the same time, it has taken concrete steps to celebrate the diversity of the team that drives its success. To cite just one example, every month the bank spotlights the traditions and customs of a different culture.
“It’s one of the coolest things we’ve started,” Gonzalez says. “The first month, we celebrated Hispanic culture, and we highlighted a Hispanic person within the bank; he talked about his experience coming from Venezuela and how he adapted to our culture and is now a successful lender within our organization. Most recently, we celebrated Native American culture and heritage. We even provided information about how to reach out and get involved in Native American heritage. I thought that was fascinating … and really informative.”
Calix, in her position as vice president of human resources, says an organizational emphasis on recognizing the diverse makeup of the bank’s team also helps put a human face on some of the confusing and troubling issues with which our communities struggle. And that humanization, she adds, leads to empathy and understanding when difficult conversations arise in the workplace.
“You’re watching things on the news and sometimes you don’t know what to believe or what not to believe,” Calix says. “But when I give stories about my own life and challenges that I’ve gone through, that my family has gone through — my in-laws are Honduran — giving those personal examples, it’s something that people can relate to that makes them a little bit more open-minded to believing that maybe there is an issue; maybe there is something to these news stories; maybe there still is racism and prejudice in our country. So I think by making it personal — because they know me and because they trust me and because I work with them and I work for them — that allows me to really inspire change.”
As a community bank, we invest in the future of the communities we serve. At BeachBank, lending money is only one way we invest in our communities; we support many local organizations with donations of our resources and time.