Dayton, Ohio - On October 14, 2021, the Dayton Business Journal (DBJ) awarded Parallax Advanced Research Program Manager, KeAnna Daniels, a 2021 Outstanding Diversity Champion Award for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in her work with the Launch Dayton program. The award is presented to individuals within the community who have shown outstanding initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in their organization or community, making a positive difference.
Parallax is a founding partner of Launch Dayton: a collaborative entrepreneurial support effort with programmatic roots dating back to 2015. Parallax’s Launch Dayton team supports Dayton Region entrepreneurs by cultivating an easily accessible resource environment, creating high-caliber programming, and building a network of champions, mentors, and resource providers to help entrepreneurs succeed.
A native of the Dayton region, Daniels relocated to her hometown in 2017 after working in St. Louis, Missouri’s startup community for a few years. Prior to joining Parallax, Daniels was instrumental in creating Gem City Entrepreneur Resource Fair, which convened majority of Dayton’s business support organizations and over 150 Black and Brown entrepreneurs and business owners in one space, to connect those needing entrepreneurial resources with existing resources. Daniels worked closely with the Dayton community which would influence the framework used to build Launch Dayton’s Early Risers Academy and Mentor Network.
Daniels joined the Parallax team in 2019 and leads Launch Dayton’s Early Risers Academy and Mentor Network. Her commitment to championing diversity and inclusion helped increase the percentage of women and minority founders served in the programs. Prior to her arrival, the participants in the programs were 15% women and 26% minority. Now the diversity of participants is more representative of the makeup of the Dayton community, with 48% women and 43% minority.
According to Daniels, harnessing diversity in the workforce should be manifested intentionality from the board of directors and investors to the leaders to the frontline staff. It should be ingrained in the culture, processes and procedures, language, and staff philosophy of a company, all attributes that Launch Dayton is working towards.
“Harnessing diversity in the workforce looks like representation of multiple ethnicities, cultures, thought, gender, age, capabilities, and backgrounds. It is being proactive, progressive, and purposeful about being (not just saying) inclusive, diverse, and equitable,” said Daniels.
Daniels believes that implementing DEI has benefits for every entity involved in the process.
“True and intentional diversity helps organizations be more innovative and cutting-edge because of the differing perspectives they have represented on their teams. It allows an organization to be transdisciplinary. Diversity also builds rapport and support with communities and residents, which creates an opportunity for the company to be more human-centered,” Daniels said.
On the flip side, when an organization is not diverse, it ostracizes people, which is detrimental to the ecosystem.
When asked about the specific steps she takes to harness and promote diversity within Launch Dayton and Parallax, Daniels said, “I wake up every day with the goal to eliminate barriers for Black and Brown people and with an emphasis on Black and Brown entrepreneurs. So, in everything I do and every conversation I have, I promote the importance of access to resources and guidance on how to use those resources. I create opportunities to connect people to people, and people to resources. I challenge discriminatory conversations and behaviors, and I hold people and organizations accountable.”
Like all great endeavors, promoting DEI has its challenges, and Daniels thanks her team for supporting the effort through all challenges.
“I'm grateful for my colleagues, Parallax Advanced Research Program Manager and Marketing and Communications Manager for Launch Dayton, John Owen, and Audrey Ingram, respectively, because they support my work and accept the challenge to think differently. For example, they are very intentional about having diverse representation at all our events. In fact, Launch Dayton Startup Week 2021 was the most diverse Startup Week we’ve hosted in our six-year history. They are active allies and support and encourage my DEI work,” said Daniels.
Daniels’ goal is to altogether eliminate the need for diversity conversations.
“If we no longer must have the conversation because we are and have become diverse and inclusive then that's the ultimate win. DEI should just be,” said Daniels.
About Parallax Advanced Research
Parallax is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that tackles global challenges by accelerating innovation and developing technology and solutions through strategic partnerships with government, industry and academia across Ohio and the Nation. Together with academia, Parallax accelerates innovation that leads to new breakthroughs. Together with government, Parallax tackles critical global challenges and delivers new solutions. Together with industry, Parallax develops groundbreaking ideas and speeds them to market.
About Launch Dayton
Launch Dayton is a collaborative effort of regional entrepreneurial support organizations to connect and support Dayton’s entrepreneur and startup community. Launch Dayton partners believe everyone, regardless of their background, should have the opportunity to determine their own economic prosperity. The Launch Dayton community exists to support and inspire all Daytonians who are building businesses. Launch Dayton partners collaborate to build an easily accessible environment, run high caliber programming, and connect a network of champions, mentors, and resource providers.