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Not enough women at the table

Wouldn’t it be great if a decade from now we look back on 2018 as the year Northeast Ohio got serious about finding solutions to what is holding back our region economically?

I posed that question several months ago in a column, after I applauded businessman and car dealer Bernie Moreno for announcing a bold idea to make Cleveland the hub of blockchain technology. That announcement came on the heels of Jon Pinney’s brave speech at the City Club.

The managing partner of law firm Kohrman Jackson and Krantz titled his talk, “Dead Last.”

Something shifted after those events, as more people started talking about strategies and ideas to improve our regional economic development.

Some civic leaders having those discussions, including Pinney and Moreno, formed a group and recently announced an effort to advance Cleveland’s economic standing and address economic equality — the formation of which we support in this week’s editorial.

The group, which was described in a news release as “a cooperative, inclusive effort to help build trust within the community and develop a shared vision for Cleveland’s future,” will hold a two-day planning session in December.

The 15 members of the unnamed group will be joined by dozens of other community members at the meetings.

Let’s hope a few of those community members are women.

Of the 15 civic leaders behind this effort, only two are females. That’s 14.

2%. Not exactly reflective of the demographics of Northeast Ohio, where women make up slightly more than half of the population.

You can’t throw around words like “inclusion” if you aren’t holding yourself to that very standard — and the best place to start is by looking at who is, and who isn’t, seated at the table with you.

This very issue was brought up in the first question asked of Pinney during his City Club speech, in which he named eight people he thought could lead the effort.

The questioner pointed out all the people he named were white men.

Pinney agreed that was a problem, saying “that ne to change completely.

It ne to be an inclusive process.”

How is it then, fewer than six months later, a group formed partially in response to Pinney’s speech — and which Pinney is a part of — is so lacking in female representation?

The group said it will include representatives at its December planning session from “a diverse range of companies, organizations and government entities, as well as up-and-coming and not-often-heard voices.

That’s a start, but it feels less than inclusive when the core group — the ones ultimately making the decisions — doesn’t reflect the broader community.

Sure, much has to do with who holds power in our region, and it is overwhelmingly white men.

It’s terrific they are willing to serve and to help the region thrive, and I applaud that. And the two women in the newly formed group are dynamic leaders who have much to contribute.

But we can do better. Diversity and inclusion doesn’t just happen.

It’s a deliberate commitment to ensuring all voices are part of the mix.

Approaching the economic problems of Northeast Ohio with brainpower, enthusiasm and civic mindedness is essential.

And thanks to Moreno and Pinney and other leaders who have volunteered their time and talent, we are starting to have that conversation. If we add true diversity and inclusion, attacking those problems with a representative group of problem solvers, we will increase our chances of success.

Diversity and inclusion brings results, statistics show. Let’s start there.