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TMA CEO Stuart aims to promote diversity
by Julia Hale

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Scott Stuart, the CEO of Turnaround Management Association ( TMA ), told Windy City Times that he is passionate about diversity.

"We have been on a campaign called the 'TMA Big Tent,'" said Stuart, who wore a rainbow band on his Apple Watch. Stuart has been CEO of TMA since July 2018. "We want people to know that our 'tent' is an all-inclusive place, that we want to support and embrace diversity at the highest level. Starting [with] me of course, being part of the LGBTQ community."

With approximately 10,000 members, TMA has headquarters in Chicago and 52 chapters around the world. "It's a group of professionals that consists of lawyers, financial advisors, accountants, auctioneers, real estate liquidators," said Stuart. "It's a very diverse demographic of professionals, and we continue to grow around the world."

TMA is a corporate restructuring organization. "We deal with a lot of companies that are in distress, of one form or another. That's really the essence of where corporate restructuring lies," explained Stuart. "There are all kinds of reasons, it's not just bankruptcy, it's corporate renewal. So, it's identifying problems, spearheading them and trying to correct them before it gets to that point of desperation."

"Even though these organizations sometimes skew to be largely white males, the conversation about diversity has become so critical," he said. "You can see here, in Chicago for example, basically on every corner there's a Pride flag. Ten years ago you wouldn't have seen a Pride flag at every corner."

Stuart facilitates dialogues about diversity within TMA itself, too. "We've been doing outreach to younger members, we have a very empowered women's group, we have a very strong international group," he said. "We're trying to create greater connectivity from the TMA headquarters here, to all those demographics, as well as to our leadership at the chapter level, so that they have support and they [understand] what it is to be a member of this organization, what the value is, and how it can help you create your personal brand and build a professional network over the course of your career."

So far, TMA is reaping the benefits of these efforts toward diversity. "We just finished our global nominations process for our Board of Trustees," said Stuart. "We traditionally don't get more than about 40 nominees. We got 80 [this year]. Of those 80 nominees this year, half are women and young professionals."

In his one year as CEO of TMA, Stuart has also started a new tradition: "CEO Speaks," a five-to-seven-minute-long podcast that Stuart hosts himself. "'CEO Speaks' is every two weeks," he said. "It's intentionally deployed on Saturday mornings. It was a way for me not only to get information to the membership, but to share with them the things I see and learn in my journey as I'm travelling to different chapters, participating in different conferences, interfacing with our members. If I can't take that information and bring it back to the membership, it doesn't do anybody any good."

Stuart also cited his love of radio as his inspiration behind the idea of a podcast over an email blast. "The thinking behind it was kind of like when presidents used to do a Saturday morning fireside chat," he said. "It's a really easy way to impart information that our members would otherwise not have. Plus, it's a great mode of communication because you can be very expressive and people can feel your passion and really embrace [your] message."

Stuart has been a voice for diversity within his industry since he came out 20 years ago. "I was married to a woman and then we got divorced and I came out," he said. "One day I woke up and I said, 'This is who I am and—you know what?—the hinges are gonna fly off the door when it opens up because I am out, and I am gonna be proud, and I am not gonna be afraid.' I have always embraced that part of my life [since] the day I made the decision to come out."

He added that he has embraced his identity throughout his career as well. "I was one of the founders of an organization in New York city called Workout. It was created as an LGBTQ support group for professionals in the restructuring industry. We didn't have one, so we created it."

"Ten years ago, people, particularly in the consulting part of the business, were not comfortable being out at work. We wanted to give them a safe place where they could interact with other professionals," said Stuart. "Let me tell you how far we've come with that. Not only do we now have almost 200 members in that organization, but ten years ago, people who joined the organization did not want to be listed in the member directory. Now, we have an open member directory."

While Stuart has fully embraced his identity, letting it shape his career path and serving as an example to others of what's possible, he knows that progress and diversity don't end with him. "I'm so excited that, particularly in this historic year, Pride is so much more obvious and welcomed in most places around the country," he said. "In the celebration of Pride, I want to make sure that it's not just about Pride and it's not just about our community, but it's about all communities who have suffered and have had to struggle to get to a place of inclusion."

"There were so many trailblazers that pre-date me," said Stuart. "It's really critical to be able to carry that torch and to make sure that we're constantly empowering people."

"Diversity means that everybody has a seat at the table," he said. "I'm thrilled to be in this position where I can celebrate my own diversity, which empowers me to empower others to embrace their diversity."

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