Overcoming cultural barriers was identified as a local challenge in the 2017 Central Ohio CEO Survey conducted by Capital University for Columbus CEO. Here is how some past CEO of the Year honorees are addressing it.

Melanie Corn, president, Columbus College of Art & Design

As a nonprofit college, Columbus College of Art & Design attracts diverse students.

A third of our students are people of color, a quarter the first in their families to attend college, and more than 40 percent Pell-grant eligible. These statistics represent students overcoming a number of cultural barriers.

Even better addressing these barriers is a priority in our strategic plan.

From hiring more faculty of color (to better represent our student body) to communicating transparently about things like financial aid, tuition and scholarships, everything we do aims to set all students up for success.

It’s about speaking their language, and giving them everything they need to excel.

Matt Habash, president & CEO, Mid-Ohio Foodbank

Mid-Ohio Foodbank has intentionally built an inclusive culture and partnered with diverse-minded people. Yet our hungry neighbors face a seemingly insurmountable cultural barrier every day—poverty and the associated judgments that accompany it.

If we have any hope of ending hunger and narrowing equality and cultural gaps, we must come together as a collective community in our response to mitigate the barriers that feed into poverty. Increasing income and recognizing SNAP (formerly food stamps) as public health policy and not as entitlement are some of the considerations that will require all of us to think differently.

Imagine the impact: connecting our hungry neighbors with the right food, in the right place, at the right time, without judgment.

Barb Smoot, president & CEO, Women for Economic and Leadership Development

Overcoming cultural barriers starts at the top—with the board of an organization. Business cases show that organizations with diverse boards—and not just diversity of thought—reap higher returns and make better decisions.

WELD recruits a diverse board and complements existing skills with training. This year, we deployed multicultural competency training from the Columbus Council on World Affairs at a board meeting, inviting employees and volunteer chapter leaders to participate.

WELD cultivates partnerships that broaden our perspectives. We partnered with the Japan-America Society of Central Ohio on a program on business communication styles for those who engage with Japanese professionals.

E.J. Thomas, president & CEO, Habitat for Humanity MidOhio

The key to overcoming cultural barriers begins with basic organizational culture. If at that bedrock level everyone exhibits empathy and mutual respect, many cross-cultural challenges simply fade away to nothing. Habitat-MidOhio serves families in the central Ohio community without reservation or exception. Safe, decent and affordable housing becomes the baseline needed to rise from poverty, and we are pleased to help all who qualify. Our work strives to reach across the differences that seek to separate us in the absence of knowledge and familiarity. Our responsibility is to acquaint ourselves in an effort to bridge that divide. Internally within the affiliate, respect and servant leadership represent the oil that keeps the gears running smoothly.

Central Ohio corporate and nonprofit executives can provide contact information to participate in the 2018 CEO Survey at capital.edu/ceo-survey.