7 Questions with Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s Outgoing Board Chair, Gracelyn McDermott

We recently sat down with Gracelyn McDermott, Immediate Past Board Chair for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, to get a glimpse into her reflections from her time on our Board of Directors, her service and leadership as Board Chair, and her message for Maryland business leaders.

Gracelyn McDermott, Immediate Past Chair and Western Regional Chair

Gracelyn A. McDermott is the Vice President of Marketing Sales and Business Development at Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States and has served as Chair of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors since May 2021. With over 20 years of experience in project, program, and sales and account management, she has held various leadership roles in the healthcare sector. In addition to being an active leader with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Gracelyn also serves on the Board of Trustees for Mount Saint Mary’s University. She holds an MBA from Johns Hopkins University.

  1. You have been involved with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce for some time now, most recently serving as Board Chair from May 2021 to May 2023. What inspired you to get involved in the organization, and what are some of the things you’ve learned about the Chamber and about Maryland business along the way?

I first got involved with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce as a way to connect with local businesses and introduce myself to the market when I first joined Kaiser Permanente. I didn’t initially plan on taking on an officer role; I simply wanted to engage with fellow leaders and organizations who had a shared desire to make Maryland better for business.

My involvement has given me valuable insights into top industries across Maryland – from manufacturing to finance and banking, energy and more – that have proven helpful to be aware of and to share with my peers within the healthcare sector. I have learned that regulatory policies can have far-reaching impacts across multiple industries, including telecommunications, manufacturing, retail, hospitality, and healthcare, and that it’s incredibly important to have balanced policies that consider the impacts on businesses and communities alike.

Looking back, I am appreciative of my opportunity to get involved and provide leadership to the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, and I am very proud of the friendships I have made with individuals I may not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet or work with. Through my seven-year tenure with the Board, I have created strong bonds with people like Nate Beil from KCI and Steve Woerner, former CEO of BGE, who mentored and encouraged me to join the Executive board. Additionally, I led the search for our new CEO, Mary Kane, and helped redefine the Chamber’s mission and create a strategic plan to advance inclusive partnerships for a thriving Maryland.


  1. What was the impetus for developing a new mission and strategic plan for the Chamber? Why do you think it’s so critical that the Chamber’s new mission propels the organization to create a state and environment where all businesses and their communities thrive?

As CEO Mary Kane took leadership of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, it presented an exciting opportunity to shape the organization’s vision and priorities for the future. Developing a new mission and strategic plan was a critical step in laying out a road map that was both aspirational and achievable, building on the Chamber’s past successes and work.

It was critical that the new plan centered around advocacy for both small and large businesses, and that it encompassed the work of the Maryland Chamber Foundation. This laid the groundwork needed for the Chamber to expand upon efforts to support businesses as they faced challenges such as workforce development, rising inflation, and supply chain issues.

Importantly, it also positioned the Maryland Chamber of Commerce more clearly as a voice and advocate for businesses, helping to convene and create solutions aimed at promoting sound policy decisions that benefit Maryland businesses and communities as a whole. Moving forward, the new mission and strategic plan will guide and propel the important work needed to advance inclusive partnerships for a Maryland where all businesses and their communities can thrive.

  1. How has the Chamber been working to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, and what do you see as the future of DEI in the business community?

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce has made it part of our mission to advance inclusive partnerships – with the key word being inclusive.  We recognize that DEI is a business imperative, regardless of industry.  As part of this commitment, we have convened leaders through our webinars and in-person events to promote dialogue among businesses and leaders in the diversity space to learn and take proactive steps towards meaningful change that will drive towards greater inclusivity, and this is the work the Maryland Chamber will continue to do.

From my perspective, having a human-centered focus and design for the work we do is imperative. I see the future of the Chamber’s DEI work having an equity-centered design lens, and encouraging businesses to do the same so that day-to-day practices such as  sourcing, hiring, and promoting staff to alignment in benefit and retention strategies all have an equity-centered focus.  DEI can’t just be a program – it must be embedded in our daily practices, including how we engage, think, and work

  1. What is something surprising or fascinating that you’ve learned about the Maryland business community and wish that others knew?

The Maryland business community is diverse – it reflects the diversity of our state’s population – and while that’s not surprising, I think it’s incredibly important to recognize. What I would say would surprise many people is that at the end of the day, Maryland businesses truly want the best for their communities.  I think “Business” in general gets painted as the enemy or as an entity that only cares about profits.  That couldn’t be further from the truth – at least from what I have seen in the Chamber and other organizations in which I participate throughout Maryland.  When we talk about business needs, we talk about community needs – they go hand in hand.  I think it’s important that we make sure to recognize and celebrate the important work businesses do in their communities, and their efforts to help solve challenges that their communities are facing.

  1. How do you think the Chamber can best serve the needs of its members and the broader business community in the future?

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s strategic plan lays out clear goals for strengthening our advocacy efforts, enhancing our marketing communication, building inclusive partnerships, increasing membership and engagement, and promoting operational excellence within our board and staff. However, the success of these goals depends on how we engage and listen to the Maryland community, including small, mid-sized, and large employer groups, elected officials, and other stakeholders. By convening and actively listening to their needs, our staff, members, and board can be the voice representing the needs of more than 6,800 businesses across the state, and advocating for solutions that make Maryland better for business. Listening and engaging with our members and stakeholders is the key to success in serving the needs of our members and the broader business community in the future.

  1. Looking ahead to the next Chair of the Board, Misty Allen, what advice or words of encouragement would you give her as she takes on this leadership role?

I have had the pleasure of working with Misty for several years now, and I am 100% positive she will make an excellent Chair of the Board for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. Misty’s previous experience as Treasurer, Vice Chair and member of several committees has given her a deep understanding of the Chamber’s operations, strategic goals and vision – plus, Misty has excellent experience in government affairs and advocacy.

I know Misty will stay focused on the Chambers’ long-term goals and mission so that we can continue building our value and effectiveness in supporting the Maryland business community – I just would remind her that I am a text and phone call away and happy to provide her with any support she needs.

  1. What message would you like to share with Maryland business executives and leaders, Chamber members and stakeholders, and legislators as you reflect back on your work as Board Chair and look ahead to the future?

When I took on the role of Board Chair, I was asked about a quote that best described my leadership style.  I shared Maya Angelou’s famous quote: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”  Interestingly, as I look back over the past few years, I have seen change – and I have seen a shift in attitude.

I have seen that more and more stakeholders understand the importance of public – private partnerships and I see that they understand that it is through said partnerships where things can indeed change for the better.  Maryland business executives and leaders, Chamber members and stakeholders, and legislators is to continue down this path. We must ensure that everyone has a seat at the table because it’s only through dialogue, discernment, and coalition building that we can achieve our mission to make Maryland a state where all businesses and their communities thrive. Together, we can build a brighter future for Maryland’s business community, and I look forward to seeing what we can achieve in the years to come.

We are so grateful and appreciative of Gracelyn’s leadership, vision and support throughout her time on the Maryland Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and as our Board Chair. We thank her for her continued support, guidance and work as Immediate Past Board Chair.





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