Visible Lives: Oral Histories of the Disability Experience – Elinor Cohen

Posted on December 10, 2014 by     Leave a comment

Visible Lives: Oral Histories of the Disability Experience

I recently wrote about Visible Lives: Oral Histories of the Disability Experience which is a New York Public Library project.  This project excited me from the moment I learned about it and now I am even more inspired to continue as an interviewer and to invite others to participate in this unique initiative!

I interviewed Elinor Cohen, who has an amazing story and shared it openly and bravely during our two hour conversation (the time sped by!).  In preparing for our taping, Elinor and I learned that we live across the street from each other.  In fact, I am looking at her building while typing these words!  We are also both City College, CUNY graduates.  In addition to learning about one person’s experience and perspective on becoming disabled, I have made a new and dear friend.  I am grateful to the New York Public Library for many things, including being my baby-sitter when I was young, and now I add my gratitude for connecting me with Elinor! Please let me know what you think of her story. http://oralhistory.nypl.org/interviews/elinor-cohen-pawejx

Elinor and Wendy 11 2014Elinor Cohen and Wendy Amengual Wark

We had a launch celebration on November 22 at the Andrew Heiskell  Braille and Talking Book Library http://www.nypl.org/locations/heiskell and were able to meet other storytellers and interviewers in addition to enjoying some wonderful music: http://www.nypl.org/blog/2014/12/01/launch-visible-lives-oral-history

Deena Greenberg, project interviewer, wrote a wonderful blog about her experience interviewing Daniel Aronoff for the project. You can read it by clicking here. http://www.nypl.org/blog/2014/12/01/interview-daniel-aronoff-visible-lives

More about the project:

Visible Lives: Oral Histories of the Disability Experience is an oral history project that works to both preserve and document a thematic history through personal recollections. This project will collect stories of people who have lived (or currently live) with a visual impairment or a disability. The Library will train community members to conduct these interviews. Interviews will be shared in a preservation archive at The Milstein Division and on the New York Public Library website.  Public programs will also connect neighborhood residents and project participants.

Visible Lives is a project of Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in Manhattan.  A public archive will be kept at this local branch for future generations to listen to and research. 

For more information about this project or to share YOUR story:

Please contact Alexandra Kelly at Outreach Services and Adult Programming, AlexandraKelly@nypl.org or (212) 621-0552.

I am interviewing other storytellers and will share those conversations with you as they are posted. 

If you haven’t been inspired lately, isn’t this a wonderful time to be?

Onward!

~ Wendy

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Caring Capital

Posted on December 9, 2014 by     Leave a comment

On December 3rd I was part of a wonderful celebration hosted by Jaime Klein, Founder of Inspire Human Resources. http://www.inspirehumanresources.com/

We participated in an (dare I say it), inspiring exercise! We were given blank journals and asked to decorate them and to write a message inside for participants in Dress for Success http://www.dressforsuccess.org/.  The journals will be used to keep career related notes on job interviews, training and other thoughts.  It was such a personal act: coming up with a design and a message that a stranger would have and read and carry with them as they embark on a new, hopeful chapter in their lives.

Susie SchubThe force behind this exercise was Susie Schub, Founder and President of Caring Capital. “Caring Capital™ ignites employee engagement by empowering corporate volunteers to make appealing gifts for neighbors in need.  Through our proven philanthropic team-building services, employees connect, create, and make an impact on the community.  We deliver no-fail projects to employees worldwide, so each company may serve the community no matter where employees reside.  Since its launch in 2009, Caring Capital has engaged 25,000 employees who have donated gifts, from furniture and clothing to bedding and toys, to nearly 110,000 children, families, seniors and service members.”

Wendy with Caring Capital Journal 12 03 14

Look what resulted (Beaming Wendy!)

I am grateful to Jaime and Susie for the reminder that something that is easy and fun to do can make a huge difference in another person’s life!  Please visit the Caring Capital website and check out some of their amazing projects! http://www.caringcap.com/

If your organization has not embarked on an opportunity to be inspired, isn’t this a great time to do so?

Onward!

~ Wendy

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Divided We Fall

Posted on December 2, 2014 by     Leave a comment

Divided We Fall

As we watched the protesters make their way up Columbus Avenue, past our building on 95th Street, we realized that they had walked all the way from 14th Street and Union Square and were going to join those already gathered at 125th Street in Harlem. My heart both leaped and sank. My heart sank because the decision by the Grand Jury of Ferguson, MO not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson of any wrong-doing in the matter of his shooting Michael Brown to death on August 9, 2014 had been announced earlier that evening. [For a timeline of events, see the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/11/09/us/10ferguson-michael-brown-shooting-grand-jury-darren-wilson.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news] You will be also able to find a great deal of legal analysis of this matter through a quick internet search.

So, why did my heart leap? My heart leapt because we have the freedom to protest an act that many people have determined to be an example of injustice based upon the circumstances of Michael Brown’s race. Petitions were distributed within minutes of the announcement and many individuals and organizations have expressed their commitment to continue to work toward improving our systems of justice and law enforcement.  This nation has been founded on the principal that we have certain inalienable rights, and since the passage of the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th Constitutional Amendments, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_amendments_11-27.html  those rights have belonged to all U.S. Citizens. We have a legacy, in fact a responsibility to defend our rights and the rights of others, which is why we have a jury system, a jury of our peers, who hear arguments from both the prosecutor and defense attorney, is supposed  protect our rights under the law.

Barriers

When the decision was announced at approximately 9:30 EST on Monday, November 24, the internet lit up with millions of comments. People wrote of despair, heartbreak, rage, disappointment, disgust, and sadness. Others wrote hateful things, racists things, dividing things about those who grieved and mourned. Then, images began appearing of violence in Ferguson, MO. Images also appeared of peaceful protests in Ferguson and across the country; however, the predominant images posted by the media were of looting, burning, and violence. Let’s be very clear: violence solves nothing. Looting, burning of shops and destruction of property is worse than an exercise in futility – these actions result in raising barriers to inclusion and reinforcing the stereotypes held by many who do not understand the reasons for riots or even protests.

Individuals who believe that they are not represented by the justice system or their government may stop voting and if their frustration over their inability to effect change or achieve social justice reaches an extreme level, they will react not in a rational, ‘cool-headed’ way, but as a mob, pushed to mindless rage. There is not a specific cause and effect to riots. In other words, rioters or looters do not necessarily attack shops owned by people who treated them rudely or those with contents of the greatest value, there is just a need to vent. I experienced several riots in the 1960s first-hand and will never forget the enormity of the despair that consumed my community. The events of this past week have brought back those memories and feelings.

Haters ‘Gonna Hate

Since last Monday evening the twitter-sphere has been deluged by a steady stream of hate speech. I will not quote any of the comments here. I will state that although I have spent my life fighting hatred and have heard and read more racist comments than I care to count throughout my career and life, the sheer quantity and vitriolic intensity of many of the comments posted during the past eight days has shaken me. We do NOT live in a post-racial society. Racism is as prevalent today as it was in 1865. Yet, most people are fairly polite when they meet other people, in person, who are different from themselves. But if the numbers of comments on the internet in response to the events in Ferguson are any indication, we need to pay close attention to the reality that many people who are not discussing ‘the Ferguson matter’ at work, have very strong thoughts and feelings about this matter, which they are expressing elsewhere.

Some insight is offered by “The Whiteness Project,” being produced by PBS Video. This is “an interactive investigation into how Americans who identify as “white” experience their ethnicity.” http://video.pbs.org/video/2365320408/  The comments made by several of the participants indicate a profound lack of connection with or empathy for African Americans or their experiences. They also exemplify our nation’s deep polarity along racial lines which appears to be increasing rather than diminishing.  [This project certainly warrants an entire blog post, but as it is relevant to this topic it is included here.]

Can We Talk?

We need to address the responses to the reactions to the announcement in Ferguson, MO by creating a forum for productive dialogue. This dialogue needs to be based on the desire to experience empathy. It is only through empathy that we can begin to understand behavior or feelings that seem foreign or unacceptable to us.

It is with this in mind that I am making the following request:  How do you think you would feel if you were an 18 year old African American man living in the United States of America right now, observing all of the news, media and internet commentary regarding the events in Ferguson, MO?

Please, think this through very carefully before responding. As you try to walk in this person’s shoes, remember that the exercise is not based upon fashion or wardrobe choices, vocation, educational status, profession, religion, political affiliation, class, region, whether one was raised in a home with two loving, supporting parents or by a single parent, this has only to do with the circumstances of one’s birth – to be born as an African American male in the United States of America in 1996.  Can you imagine how you might feel during this past week reading all of the headlines on “the Ferguson matter”? [If you are, or ever have been, an 18 year old African American man, please share your comments as well!]

Please send me your comments and – for the love of our country – let’s not be polite! Let’s start to talk about race honestly, openly, respectfully, and with the intent to work on healing a nation that has been poisoned by racism since long before it was a nation.

If you have not asked yourself questions like this before, isn’t this the time to begin?

Onward!

~ Wendy

wendy@inclusionstrategy.com

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Can Plug and Play Diversity Work?

Posted on November 11, 2014 by     Leave a comment

Today NPR posted an interview with Tristan Walker, Founder and CEO of Walker and Company Brands and the non-profit, CODE2040 and J.J. McCorvey, author and Associate Editor for Fast Company, on how Mr. Walker is working to increase diversity, specifically representation of Blacks and Latinos in Silicon Valley and high tech.   http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/11/11/363012130/tech-star-wants-to-make-diversity-plug-and-play-for-silicon-valley  Mr. Walker has earned kudos for investing in efforts aimed at resolving the demographic gap (based on race and ethnicity), in high tech through his non-profit organization.  CODE2040 addresses the issues of effective recruitment, access and networking, and the preparedness of graduates to successfully interview and get hired.  Through his substantial influence as a highly visible and powerful CEO in Silicon Valley, Mr. Walker has been able to encourage large high tech companies to both donate to his non-profit and participate in CODE2040’s fellowship program and other initiatives.  http://code2040.org/  These efforts should create a noticeable shift in both demographics and the success of people of color working in Silicon Valley if they are sustained.

Is Silicon Valley Ready for Diversity?

While Mr. Walker and others prepare potential employees to successfully enter and navigate the high tech world, I propose that we need an equally concerted effort to prepare the current leaders of the high tech world to successfully evolve into inclusive leaders.  I have seen well-intentioned and deeply resourced efforts to ‘diversify’ an organization’s workforce fail miserably because the focus was on numbers, not relationships.  I posit that most of the new job candidates who are fortunate enough to be participants in programs such as CODE2040’s will be quite adept at making the cultural observations that are a necessary element of a successful career.  Those of us who have occupied the role of ‘the other’ in society learn at an early age to observe and understand the nuances of the dominant (white, heterosexual, male, Christian), culture as a survival tool.  Those in dominant roles rarely pay serious attention to the subtle social cues of the ‘minority’ cultures around them.  I have conducted hundreds of interviews with individuals whose intent was never to discriminate, but whose actions (yes, words count as actions), had the impact of discriminating against others. In the incredibly speedy world of high tech, people want a quick fix for problems. My programming friends might be called upon to develop a ‘patch’ to keep things going while a long-term or permanent solution to a problem is developed.  The impact of thousands of years of discrimination, which is hardly limited to Silicon Valley or high tech fields, will not be resolved with a patch, however. Solutions need to be implemented that are strategic, practical, and sustainable.
[See my blog post from September 2013 “There is NOT an App for That!” http://www.inclusionstrategy.com/blog/?p=15 ]

What to Do?

While the future leaders of Silicon Valley are still in their first and second year as undergraduates, the leaders of Silicon Valley need to prepare themselves for the cultural changes that they organizations will need to go through when those students graduate and enter the workforce. Highly developed cultural competency will become a survival tool for all leaders, regardless of industry, sector or mission.  (Think of butterflies.) The leaders of Silicon Valley may be brilliant in their respective fields, but how many of them have an expertise in diversity and inclusion?  Just as a company might outsource specific technical needs, I recommend that experts in this complex field of diversity and inclusion be brought in to help you to increase an organization’s collective cultural competency.

If you are not ready to have real, interdependent, productive relationships with a diverse range of people, isn’t this a great time to prepare?

Onward!

~ Wendy

Please let me know what you think in the comment section below or email me: wendy@inclusionstrategy.com

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Visible Lives: Oral Histories of the Disability Experience

Posted on October 29, 2014 by     Leave a comment

I am honored to be a volunteer interviewer for The New York Public Library’s new project, Visible Lives: Oral Histories of the Disability Experience.

Visible Lives: Oral Histories of the Disability Experience is an oral history project that works to both preserve and document a thematic history through personal recollections. This project will collect stories of people who have lived (or currently live) with a visual impairment or a disability.  Interviews will be shared in a preservation archive at The Milstein Division and on the New York Public Library website.  Public programs will also connect neighborhood residents and project participants.

Visible Lives is a project of Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in Manhattan.  A public archive will be kept at this local branch for future generations to listen to and research.

There will be a launch event for participants on Saturday, November 22nd.  The project is due to run until April 2015.  There are about 30-40 interviewers and a growing list of Storytellers.

Here is a link to the NYPL website:  http://oralhistory.nypl.org/neighborhoods/visible-lives

Here is a link to the first interview for the project with the photographer, Flo Fox: http://oralhistory.nypl.org/interviews/flo-fox-68pjgy

Please forward this post to those who you think might be interested in sharing their stories.  Interviews can be conducted at the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library on West 20th Street in Manhattan, at another location set by the Storyteller and Interviewer (as long as it is very quiet), or on the telephone, (although it is best if the storytellers and interviewers meet each other in person at least once before or at the time of the conversation). The interviews take approximately 2 Hours, but the time varies depending upon the storytellers.

If you have not shared your story, isn’t it a great time to do so?

 Onward!

~ Wendy

Please let me know what you think in the comment section below or email me: wendy@inclusionstrategy.com

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Representation At All Tables ~ Webcast ~ 22 October

Posted on October 20, 2014 by     Leave a comment

Join us this Women’s Equality Wednesday

22 October 2014 @1:00-1:30 pm est

For Our Free Live Webcast ~ “REPRESENTATION AT ALL TABLES”

Watch: http://bit.ly/RepLIVE

NYS PowerHER List Wendy 2014

DESCRIPTION: At the current rate, parity in women’s leadership will be reached in the United States in 2085! Whether it’s politics, finance, entertainment, or the military, few women have a seat at
the decision making table. NYS PowHER’s panel will explore why and how to change the playing field, culture and ourselves.

PANELISTS:

Wendy Amengual Wark – Founder, Inclusion Strategy

Tiffany Dufu – Chief Leadership Officer, Levo League & Launch Team member, Lean In
Levo League @levoleague

Mecca Santana – New York State Chief Diversity Officer
Chief Diversity Officer, New York State @MeccaSantanaCDO

Serena Fong – Vice President, Government Affairs, Catalyst
Catalyst @CatalystInc

THE FACTS

Benchmarking Women’s Leadership Report compares fourteen job sectors. Bottom line, although outperforming men, women still do not have parity in salaries and leadership positions. Some examples:

Academia. Women win more than 55% of the most prestigious awards despite only holding 29% of tenured positions.

Law. Women were 47% of the graduates, yet only 15% of equity partners and 5% of managing partners in 2012.

Business. Women held 51% of professional and managerial positions but only 15% of executive positions and 13% of board of director seats in Fortune 500 companies in 2013.

Politics and government. Women hold 18 percent of seats in the 2013 Congress, cosponsor more bills, and bring in  more federal spending to their districts. Similar to other states, the NYS legislature is only 22% female. More

Catalyst research connects gender diversity and financial performance and builds the business case that Diversity Matters. Yet U.S. businesses are slow to embrace needed change or initiatives like the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles “Equality Means Business.”

 U.S. Women in Business

What is NYS PowHer?

We are a network of individuals and organizations coming together to accelerate economic fairness for New York women. Our backgrounds, jobs, economic status, age, and religions may be different, but we all agree that women deserve and need a level playing field.  Some of us are long-time advocates and others new to the conversation, but we find common cause as a community: learning together, sharing information and actions, and generating PowHer to create a new reality for 10 million New York women and their families.

What is our mission?

NYS PowHer is building a broad, diverse, statewide collective effort to improve the economic outlook for New York women by addressing keys obstacles, promoting winning strategies, and educating and activating the public.

How do we get there? To tackle this, we will activate P-O-W-H-E-R:

Poverty Solutions

Opportunity and Access

Workplace Fairness

Healthy Family Life

Equal Pay

Representation at all Tables

What will NYS PowHer do?

We will amplify the amazing efforts already in full swing around New York State, like the Time to Care campaign and the Women’s Equality Agenda.

We will shake things up by sharing new ideas and approaches, encouraging meaningful action, and energizing the conversation.

We will take the lead on issues where good work needs to be done.

We will inform our community in real time with social media, share the excellent resources out there, and sponsor opportunities to learn together, like conversations with leaders and webinars.

We will include you to participate in any way you can and listen to your ideas and viewpoint.

For More Information:

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Onward!

~ Wendy

Let me know what you think!
Email me:  wendy@inclusionstrategy.com ~ www.inclusionstrategy.com

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Stealth Inclusion Explained

Posted on October 17, 2014 by     Leave a comment

Stealth Inclusion Explained

When I developed the concept of ‘stealth inclusion’ it was (and is) intended to help those in the C-suite who resist diversity efforts and whose approval and support every successful diversity and inclusion effort requires, to participate in educational sessions where they can personally experience transformation.  Often, members of the C-suite are white, heterosexual, affluent, educated, and male and so; this methodology particularly pertains to those among their ranks who are uncomfortable around issues of diversity and inclusion.  Through interactive exercises designed to facilitate increased self-awareness and empathy, participants’ resistance to the concept of diversity and inclusion is diminished.  It is as a result of the transformative process that we are able to create change in the workplace and our society as a whole.

Every successful leader needs excellent communication skills and a highly developed self-awareness. These competencies have elements of diversity and inclusion woven through them.  One way that those who resist inclusion have been able to undermine its advancement is by stigmatizing and minimizing diversity and inclusion programs, including the terminology used in those programs.  I posit that we need to have diversity and inclusion education as part of all leadership development initiatives, even if that education goes by a different name. Hence, the content for an educational session on effective leadership would necessarily include interactive exercises on the challenges of overcoming barriers to inclusion.

As I am sure you are aware, these are complex subjects and as such need to be handled with sensitivity and care. The ability to successfully facilitate these educational sessions (I do not refer to them as training as we are not training participants in a skill, such as how-to operate a cell phone), is predicated on highly developed competencies in the areas of adult education, E.E.O., and diversity and inclusion.

I have facilitated hundreds of these sessions with consistent success, often as the result of clients asking me to attempt to repair damage rendered by possibly well-intentioned consultants who did not have the requisite competencies, skills and experience.  Diversity and inclusion practitioners may each have different approaches to the work that we do and certainly should have different perspective, but we all need to insist that the caliber and standard of our work is impeccable.  This is one way that we can overcome some of the resistance to the work that we do. Another is to understand who it is that we critically need to reach if we hope to create sustainable change and how to best do so.  It is in this light that I developed the concept of ‘Stealth Inclusion.’

Onward!

~ Wendy

Please let me know what you think in the comment section below or email me: wendy@inclusionstrategy.com
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Stealth Inclusion

Posted on October 14, 2014 by     Leave a comment

By Any Other Name

It has become increasingly clear to me that there is a growing resistance to diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace as incidents of blatant racism, sexism and really all ‘isms’ seem to be on the rise.  I cannot definitively assert that there is a direct correlation between these two trends, but I believe that there is.  So, I have developed a concept called “Stealth Inclusion.”  Stealth Inclusion is a way to create inclusion in organizations by helping executives who may not necessarily acknowledge that they need help, to solve organizational problems.  This is particularly necessary where ‘exclusive’ cultures result in negative conditions, such as: employee turnover, disengagement, sabotage, diminished market share, poor or damaged public image, etc.

In Act II, Scene II of “Romeo and Juliet,” Juliet says the following to Romeo, in response to his concerns over their belonging to feuding families:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose   yellow rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
;”

So, what if we don’t call diversity and inclusion initiatives by their name, but use other names? What if we call our strategies, strategies for success, instead of inclusion strategies and our assessments, corporate assessments, instead of cultural assessments?  What if we use different or diverse words to describe what it is that we do and why it is that we do it?

By Any Means Necessary

In 1963 Jean-Paul Sartre wrote the words “by any means necessary” regarding class struggle, in his play Dirty Hands. The phrase was made famous by Malcolm X a year later and became a metaphor for justifying violence to overcome oppression. (Which I certainly am not advocating!)  What I am encouraging is that we find different ways to accomplish our missions. Is your organization behaving in a healthy way?  (See my 2007 article, “The Evolution of Inclusion,” where I discuss organizations as organisms (Posted in my blog in January 2014)).  Do the members of your organization:

a.) Know what your organizational mission is?
b.) Feel invited to contribute to the success of that mission?

If people are being excluded at your organization because of where or when they were born, how they worship, what they look like, how they identify, or any other distinction, you have a problem that needs a solution – a real, sustainable solution.  You do not need buzz words, or pot luck luncheons, or awards programs – you need effective strategies that can help you to cross the complex chasms that separate you from achieving your goals and getting that mission accomplished!

Mission + Strategy = Success Great_cormorant_flock

What motivates the people around you?  What really gets people excited enough to jump out of bed when it is still dark out and stay at the office past sunset?  Being part of a mission matters to you and to everyone else!  Being INCLUDED is what excites all of us!  Being invited to help, create, innovate, achieve, and win!  Not everyone can invite themselves to the party, many people need to be asked, many people come from places where there are different rules and customs about participation.

Excellent leaders learn about those different customs and learn how to invite and organize participation. Even when people have a common mission and are as motivated as the people were who filled Tahrir Square in Cairo in 2011, an effective, sustainable strategy must be implemented in order for success to occur.  That requires experienced and competent leadership: leaders who are flexible and open to learning and finding new ways to achieve their goals when old ways fail. So, if we do not call it ‘Diversity Training’, but ‘Effective Communication’ and ‘Successful Leadership, does it really matter?  [Note:  This does not mean that I am changing the name of the company!] The most effective leaders know what they don’t know and bring in subject matter experts to provide the knowledge and competencies that they lack.  Hence, part of a great strategy is having the right team members.

Mission Accomplished!

What is your goal?  What is your personal mission?  I have shared mine with you before: To make manifest the value of all people. Sounds simple, no? Well, it is not simple, it is complicated and takes real knowledge and competency and care and skill and passion and yes, sometimes, it takes Stealth Inclusion!

If you are not overcoming the barriers to inclusion at your organization, isn’t it about time that you do?

Onward!

~ Wendy

Please let me know what you think in the comment section below or email me: wendy@inclusionstrategy.com
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You Don’t Always Get What You Pay For! [Part II]

Posted on October 10, 2014 by     Leave a comment

Why do you need a D&I expert in the first place?

Before beginning a search for a D&I / EEO expert to join or support your organization you should ask the following questions:

  1. What are our D&I / EEO goals?
  2. What resulted from our previous D&I efforts?
  3. Do we think that we need a full time staff person to take on our D&I/EEO Goals or can an outside consultant sufficiently support our needs?
  4. Do we know the difference between D&I and HR?

How do you know when someone is a qualified D&I professional?

Great at self-promotion!

Some people are great at telling you how great they are.  As I noted in Part I, some people are happy to ‘fake it ‘til they make it’, so you need to find out how great they are in others ways.

  1. Checking references is a good way to begin.  Verifying someone’s track record may seem obvious or simple, but references are rarely checked.  Often the recipient thinks, “They gave me the references, so they must be good!”  Recently, I checked someone’s references and two of the telephone numbers were disconnected and no one answered the third.  Obviously, I did not go with that person. 
  2. Ask for examples of how they have  personally and specifically:
    1. Increased diversity and inclusion at an organization;
    2.  Diminished discriminatory behavior;
    3. Supported the mission and vision of an organization through D&I strategies
    4. Measured the results of their efforts

Individuals who have been doing D&I/EEO work successfully for any period of time should be able to share multiple examples of their successful endeavors.  You should also ask them about failures.  If someone is hesitant to provide you with examples on the spot, beware. 

A Multidisciplinary Field

Since D&I is multi-disciplinary, practitioners may have bachelor’s degrees in various fields of study, including: Human Resources Management, Business Management, Public Administration, Organizational Development, or as in my case, American Studies, an interdisciplinary degree. Also, graduate degrees such as in Law (Juris Doctor), and a wide range of human relations fields are appropriate. Many practitioners, who have not gone to graduate school, have been grandmothered-in by engaging in ongoing professional development and obtaining certifications at institutions such as, Cornell University. I recommend that you be prepared to examine the skills and competencies that individuals have developed and how they have applied those skills and competencies in the past.  Facilitating a 60 minute webinar is not the same as developing and facilitating a 5 day workshop on inclusive leadership. So, a resume or bio with “Training” as a bulleted item does not provide sufficient information.  Ask for details.

When Passion Meets Purpose

Passion alone does not qualify anyone to as a D&I practitioner, but being very passionate about it is one of the requisites for success.  Ask potential consultants or employees why they are in this field.  Did their response excite you about D&I? If not, they most likely will not excite your executive leadership, stakeholders or employees.  If they do not excite people about D&I, it is doubtful that they will be able to create or sustain inclusion. 

If you do not have someone who you can trust to lead your organization on a successful D&I mission, isn’t it about time that you do?

Onward!

~ Wendy

Please let me know what you think in the comment section below or email me: wendy@inclusionstrategy.com
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You Don’t Always Get What You Pay For! [Part I]

Posted on September 29, 2014 by     Leave a comment

HHC Diverse group of people nationalorigingroupRecently, there have been a plethora of scandals concerning domestic violence, discrimination, and sexual harassment in the news.  Each of these disturbing events seem to elicit responses by self-proclaimed ‘experts’ purporting to know how to solve problems of inequity and discrimination. This has led me to ask the question:  If you have a tooth ache, do you tie a string around that tooth and tie the other end to a door knob and slam the door?  NO! Do you go to a chiropractor or a cardiologist to have the tooth removed? NO! You go to someone who you are sure is an expert. You go to a licensed dentist. When it comes to EEO or diversity or inclusion (D&I), knowing who is really an expert is not as simple as going to Healthgrades.com and looking up a dentist’s education and licenses before getting that tooth pulled.

D&I/EEO is a multidisciplinary field with a few distinct points of entry such as employment law, human resources, and organizational psychology. The recent trend, however, is that people with degrees and experience in sales, marketing, communication, etc. are jumping on the D&I band wagon as the demand for diversity training increases. This is a perturbing development. In some cases, people are asked to become an organization’s diversity officer based on their being a member of a protected class: they may be people of color or women or members of the LGBT community or be differently-abled. They may be highly competent in the field in which they have spent their careers, but that does not make them experts in the complex field of diversity and inclusion.

Bona Fides

My professional experience in Equal Employment Opportunity began in 1988. In addition to my undergraduate and graduate education, I received formal training at Cornell’s School of International Labor Relations and in courses provided by the City of New York’s Department of Personnel in:

  • conducting investigations of discrimination
  • compiling and interpreting demographic statistics
  • preparing affirmative action reports
  • conflict resolution and mediation
  • developing strategies to overcome historic perpetuation of discriminatory practices
  • developing and facilitating adult education in EEO, Sexual Harassment Prevention, D&I, etc.

It took years of on-the-job experience augmented by this training before I was qualified to call myself an expert in my field.

Fake it ‘til You Make It!

Unfortunately, there are individuals who are willing to ‘stretch the truth’ and claim to have the requisite competencies and skills to create D&I strategies, education and initiatives.  They may even believe that they have those competencies or that their area of expertise is so similar to D&I that they can ‘fake it ‘til they make it.’ Some of this is due to ‘coaches’ and self-help ‘gurus’ who are telling people that faking it is o-k even admirable, as it will advance their careers.  I vehemently disagree!

When Passion Meets Purpose

I have been passionate about creating inclusion for as long as I can remember.  As both a woman and   person of mixed culture (my father was Puerto Rican and my mother was of Northern European descent), I have personally experienced discrimination and sexual harassment.  I have also been defending those unable to defend themselves since the 1960s in the schoolyard of my elementary school in Astoria, NYC.  Individuals with a true passion to end discrimination and increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace should get the specific education and experience that will qualify them as experts in this field. Those who do not bother to get their credentials can cause real damage to the employees who are in need of help and organizations that strive to become inclusive.  I have been asked to repair some of this damage by more than one of my clients, and it is the most challenging work that I do.

To be continued…

Most people do not know what questions to ask potential consultants or employees for D&I engagements. I will address this in Part II.

Have you been asking what makes a D&I expert an expert? If not, isn’t it a great time to begin doing so?

Onward!

~ Wendy

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