The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) received Top Honors for the 2013 Angela Peterson Excellence in Diversity Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) at its national conference, which was held in Kansas City, Missouri, last week. The Top Honors were awarded to the Society for its significant efforts and results in cultivating conservation communities with its suppliers, workforce, and guest diversity initiatives.
“The Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo is a proven conservation leader,” said Jim Maddy, AZA president and CEO. “In addition to its strong conservation efforts, Brookfield Zoo’s commitment and dedication to serving a diverse community is exceptional.”
“We are extremely proud to receive this award,” said Stuart Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Society. “We recognize and understand the importance of diversity and inclusion to our guests, our ability to attract and retain diverse talent, and the need to be competitive in a diverse marketplace. Most importantly, we must be relevant to Chicagoland communities to meet our mission of inspiring conservation leadership.”
In working with an outside consultant, CZS was able to implement its Supplier Diversity Program in 2012. This included training staff, launching a new web page on the Society’s site through which vendors can discover open opportunities, and hosting and attending certified diverse vendor open houses.
“As a number of cultural institutions in the Chicago area focus on supplier diversity, we are inviting other organizations to our open houses so they may also connect with vendors. This provides an added value to vendors,” said Jo-Elle Mogerman, Ph.D., vice president of institutional planning and inclusion for CZS.
Workforce diversity at Brookfield Zoo includes training employees in the Society’s institution values, which includes diversity, and providing opportunities for teens of various backgrounds and abilities to gain knowledge about animals and conservation while at the same time building their confidence and their professional, social, and public speaking skills. Additionally, through the Good Works and Bridges programs, staff provide vocational training and mentoring to give participants the opportunity to develop skills that can lead to greater independence. All of these efforts support the Society’s three-year strategic staff diversity and inclusion plan, which was developed by an outside consultant.
In addition to receiving the AZA award, the Chicago Zoological Society was recognized by the Diversity Recruiters Network and City Career Fair Productions for its active support of diversity in the community and the workplace.
In 2012, Brookfield Zoo marked the highest attendance in its 78-year history. Focused marketing, membership, and outreach efforts throughout the year resulted in more diverse guests visiting the zoo and signing up for zoo memberships. Working with community-based organizations and libraries, the Society extends the opportunity to families, particularly those who are underserved or economically disadvantaged, to visit the zoo throughout the year.
The zoo also offers a series of annual special events, including ¡Viva la Fiesta!, Veterans Day, and one honoring Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Additionally, the Society hosts its annual Best Buddies Day at Brookfield Zoo. Best Buddies of Illinois is a Chicago-based organization that creates and supports one-on-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For the past four years, buddy pairs have been treated to a free day at the zoo that has included a Dolphin Presentation and other fun activities.
The AZA award submission was developed by members of Arcoiris, CZS’s staff diversity team, which spearheads diversity and inclusion within the organization.
In recent years, the Society has received Top Honors and Significant Achievement designations in the category of Education Awards—in 2009, for Levels of Engagement; in 2011, for NatureStart: Early Childhood Nature Program; and in 2012, for Centers of Science Excellence. The organization also received Top Honors for the 2010 North American Conservation Award for its long-term dolphin conservation research and the 2012 International Conservation Award for collaborating with Saint Louis Zoo on Grevy’s zebra conservation.
The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, inspires conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service.
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