Tag Archives: affirmative action

The Best Ways to Hold Companies Accountable for Increasing Representation of Black Senior Leaders

It is always affirming to be asked to provide an opinion on diversity matters as a diversity expert. Matthew Boyle a journalist with Bloomberg Business asked me:  What have you learned about the best ways to hold companies accountable for increasing representation of Black senior leaders?

Here is my long response to Matthew. (The referenced article is linked below.)

Organization’s C-suites, Boards of Directors, and shareholders can hold each other and, most importantly, themselves accountable for increasing representation of Blacks (and Latinos and Females) in leadership by following a simple set of protocols:

  1. The skills and competencies required for the role are established (rather than requiring an MBA, for example, because the person who had the job for thirty years had an MBA).
  2. A job description is developed based on the actual Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQs) for the position.
  3.  Long lasting relationships are developed with organizations that facilitate the recruitment of Black, Latino, and Female candidates by Board and C-Suite Members, in addition to HR staff.
  4. Through our “Unconscious Bias” and “Inclusive Recruitment through Hiring” Workshops, my partner, Paula Edgar and I help hiring committee members to become aware of  and manage their implicit or unconscious biases regarding candidates (biases regarding candidates names, addresses, colleges, etc.) when screening resumes and conducting interviews.
  5. Organizations that are serious about diversifying their leadership designate a minimum acceptable percentage for candidates who are Black, Latino, or Female for leadership positions. An agreed upon percentage of those being interviewed for leadership positions are reserved for Black, Latino, or Female candidates. This is not a hiring quota. It is not a lowering of the bar or standards of an organization. Everyone who is interviewed must meet or exceed the requirements for the position. It is  acting on a commitment to increase diversity at the senior level of an organization.
  6. Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC  has established interviewing methodologies to minimize the impact of those biases including: developing uniform interview questions; managing the way that those questions are asked; and establishing consistent protocols for how candidates are ranked and selected by the hiring committee.

These are tangible, measurable best practices that can be implemented by any organization regardless of size or sector. 

“Walmart’s Black Executives Lost Ground Since Five Years Ago” by Matthew Boyle Bloomberg Business, June 18, 2020

If your organization is not being strategic about increasing diversity at all levels, isn’t today the perfect day to begin?

Onward!

Wendy Amengual Wark
Partner
Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC

June 18, 2020

 

Genuine Change Requires Genuine Self-Examination, Strategies, and Transparency

Genuine Change Requires Genuine Self-Examination, Strategies, and Transparency

Help!

During the past week my partner, Paula T. Edgar and I have received at least two dozen requests for help from potential clients. These requests have varied in terms of the specific type of help that they were seeking, but mostly people wanted help drafting their “Black Lives Matter” statements. Several people reached out asking if they could “pick our brains” (aka get free consulting), but that is the subject of another blog post. We have provided several of our clients with feedback on their statements, which is totally appropriate as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) consultants. These statements should be personal and reflect an organization’s culture and history. (Please see Paula’s blog post “Say Something. Organizations Cannot Be Silent About Black Lives.” ) In other words, if you want to make a statement about an emotionally and politically charged issue, it really needs to be genuine. Here, as an example, is the statement that Paula and I released on “Black Lives Matter” last week.

We get frequent requests from potential clients interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion work that fall in the ‘window dressing’ (not really genuine) category. Some examples:

“We don’t have the resources to do a whole DEI assessment or strategic plan. Can you just give us a checklist of dos and don’ts?”

“We have had several ‘issues’ lately. Can you do a 45-minute webinar on unconscious bias?”

There are many more examples that I could share, but you get the idea. Racism, bias, inequity, and exclusion have dominated human interaction for millennia and yet people expect this to be effectively addressed by a single 45-minute ‘diversity workshop’ or an email from the CEO expressing their commitment to being inclusive. These ‘strategies’ give meaningful diversity and inclusion efforts a bad name.

The Walls Are Porous

The walls are porous. I have been saying this for a very long time. What I mean is that what happens out in the world impacts people inside of the walls of the office or hospital or restaurant where they work. Whether employees are comfortable discussing the Black Lives Matter protests or not, does not mean that they have not been impacted by racism and violence against Black people. The devastation resulting from the Coronavirus on a global scale has made this point painfully clear as many people are doing their jobs while being out in the world. The new workplace walls might be one’s bedroom or closet or kitchen walls. WFH (working from home) is what many ‘non-essential’ employees have been doing for the past few months. It is impossible for any organization regardless of function or size, to avoid being impacted by this pandemic. There have been hundreds of articles providing advice on working and managing from home. (I wrote a blog and presented a webinar on this in March: “10 Inclusive Management Best Practices for Remote Teams” ) The challenge of navigating the Coronavirus and its impact on the workplace was greatly compounded on May 25th.

On May 25th, the video of George Floyd being murdered by Police Officer Derek Chauvin ‘went viral’ and the traumatic impact was immediate. I have conducted thousands of investigations of allegations of discrimination in my career. It is exceedingly rare that ‘smoking gun’ evidence exists. The almost 9-minute video (which is extremely difficult to watch) is more than a smoking gun. In response, protests calling for justice and asserting that Black Lives Matter have been happening in cities and small towns from the United States to New Zealand and include people of all races, ages, genders, and religions. The protests have been inclusive and effective. Elected and appointed officials across the country are scrambling to write and pass legislation that creates accountability and transparency for law enforcement agencies and protects people from hate crimes. As with the Black Lives Matter’s protests in 2014 and 2016 White people have marched alongside Black people to call for justice. Unlike in 2014 and 2016, however organizations have had to acknowledge the impact of these events on their employees and customers and figure out if, and how to address and share their position on Black Lives Matter.

In the midst of the complicated process of trying to bring staff back to work safely (as more and more states ‘open up’ during the current recession of Coronavirus cases), leaders also have to assess the impact of institutional and systemic racism on their organizations.

The walls between the members of your organization and recent events have virtually disappeared. People are streaming life; and personal-life and work-life are now blended. So, the porosity of walls – when external issues seep into and impact an enclosed space (office) – has become more complicated for organizations to manage.

In every organization, employees have been disparately impacted by the Coronavirus. Black and Brown people have been disproportionately impacted by the Coronavirus in terms of infections and deaths. Some employees have had family members die because of the virus, some employees have had the virus and are struggling to fully recover and deal with its long-term impact on their lives. Others are primary care givers of a family member with the virus or must cope with their kids not going to school or summer camp. People are being bombarded by a tremendous amount of negative news and images. All the above is impacting our ability to sleep, eat properly, relax, renew, and refuel. We are asked: “How can you expect organizations to manage DEI during all of this?” My response: how can you not? DEI impacts everything that is happening now. So, now is the time to mindfully address your organization’s DEI issues. 

Do The Work

Inclusion takes work. Equity requires an investment of time, money, and other resources. Inclusion doesn’t happen organically. No one wants to hear that. Potential clients sometimes think that when we recommend a thorough, multi-leveled and strategic approach to DEI that we are simply trying to sell them more services. We are not. We are being genuine with you and we know what works

Paula and I try to explain that a coordinated and sustained effort is required to achieve healthy organizational change, especially if the organization has a demonstrated history of racism or other forms of discrimination. Employees need tangible evidence that leadership is serious in words and deeds about creating inclusion.

If your organization has not done anything in the DEI sphere, say so, along with sharing your commitment to change. If your organization has had false starts in terms of your DEI efforts, say so, while sharing how you have learned from those failed efforts. If your organization has done some genuine DEI work and realizes that the elusive goal of being an inclusive organization requires ongoing work, say so, while mapping out how you intend to continue doing this vital work! Expect that those who are reading your “Black Lives Matter” statement can read between the lines and determine how genuine you are based on what you do and do not say. Members of your organization know what you have and haven’t done in the past and so, if you distort that history, they will know that you are not being genuine or transparent.

Be Strategic

I have been writing and talking about the importance of (DEI) being part of an organization’s strategic planning process for years. We do not recommend that you invest in a strategic planning process and then, three months later stitch on a DEI patch. That “patch” will inevitably fall off after minimal wear. DEI needs to be woven into your strategic planning process – from the beginning. All stakeholders need to be part of the process – from the beginning. Organizations need to be prepared to implement the strategies that they commit to and establish a budget and other resources for that purpose. The plan needs to be communicated to all staff and key stakeholders along with an invitation for their participation and feedback. Too often, executive teams craft DEI statements and plans in a vacuum without inviting the input of those most deeply impacted by the outcomes of those plans. The fear of hearing the truth does not make the truth disappear. Many organizations reach out to us for help in cleaning up the messes that result from not being genuine in the first place.

Be Transparent

Once you have crafted a collaborative, time bound DEI strategy, complete with accountabilities and dedicated resources, you need to communicate that plan to those impacted by it. Then, you must actually carry out the plan, to the best of your ability, including modifications as needed for unexpected situations such as, the Coronavirus. Communicating a plan without carrying it out will make it difficult for employees to trust that your commitment is sincere, especially if there have been DEI challenges in the past.

Self-Examine

Organizations need to conduct a DEI assessment so that they can incorporate the findings into their DEI strategic planning process. A rigorous assessment will employ methods that make it safe for all employees to share their perspectives and challenges including: an anonymous DEI survey, confidential interviews, and focus groups. A review of an organizations’ DEI histories, documents, prior DEI training efforts, and public image, including social media should also be conducted. (It is amazing that in 2020 many organizations have websites that require multiple clicks before there is any hint of where they stand on diversity, equity, and inclusion. That is too many clicks for most people to bother with.)  

These best practices are developed to support an organization’s unique culture and sub-cultures. Asking us to come in and facilitate a workshop without having a clue as to what DEI issues the members of your organization are struggling with is like asking a doctor to prescribe medication without conducting an examination. The results can be unhealthy and require more serious treatments. Many organizations waste an incredible amount of resources by not making an appropriate investment in the first place. DEI workshops should be customized (by experienced, qualified professionals) to meet the specific needs of your organization. This can only be established through an unbiased (externally conducted) DEI assessment and collaborative DEI strategic planning process.

We really want to help you and I am being genuine when I tell you that with very rare exceptions, we can. The question that you have to ask yourself is: “How much do I want to change?” (That is an intentional double entendre.) If you want genuine change within your organization, then you need genuine self-examination, strategies that have been developed mindfully, and transparency about your history, intentions, and commitment.

If you want genuine change, isn’t today the right day to begin?

Onward!

Wendy Amengual Wark

June 10, 2020

Postscript:

I have written blog posts in the past about the tragedy of racism and specifically, about Black people who have been murdered by police officers. It is chilling to re-read these posts that are four and six years old. Today, we are experiencing continued violence against Black people and in response hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets despite the risk of contracting the Coronavirus. Legislation is being submitted at the Federal, state, and local levels to create accountability and transparency of law enforcement agencies. The good news is that many, many organizations realize that they cannot stay silent regarding their position on “Black Lives Matter.” This makes me optimistic. They are embracing the need for genuine change. We can do this. It will not be easy, but we if we are willing to do the work, can do this – together.

My July, 2016 blog post, “In Light of Recent Events” Addresses strategies that employers can implement to support employees traumatized by the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

In December of 2014 I wrote, “Divided We Fall” about the responses to the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.

 

Announcing Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC!

January 14, 2019

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As we embark upon a new year, we wish you and yours all things wonderful!

2018 was an incredible year! Most exciting was the formation of Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC – our partnership! (Learn more about Paula and Wendy) We recognize that our skills and competencies are enhanced through our collaboration.  Merging our organizations has provided our clients with a greater depth and range of services. Most importantly, our personal missions and visions align and result in greater innovation and impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion in our world!

We are happy to share with you, some highlights of our 2018 accomplishments: 
During 2018, we trained over 3,000 individuals in subjects including: Sexual Harassment Prevention (as New York State and other jurisdictions enacted stricter training requirements for employers), Inclusive Workplace and Leadership (Unconscious Bias), and Anti-Racism. The content for these sessions was developed in collaboration with our clients to meet the specific needs and challenges of their organizations. We also developed content to satisfy New York State Bar diversity, inclusion, and the elimination of bias CLE requirements.

We supported our clients with developing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and strategies and supporting their EEO and HR needs by conducting investigations, facilitating counsel and advise sessions, and advising leadership on best practices.

In our work as diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants, we had the opportunity to travel to Athens, Greece as well as more than 10 US States to facilitate workshops and consult on various subjects. The myriad perspectives across global and regional environments create exciting opportunities for exploring the complexities and nuances of this work.

We’re excited to continue to enhance our opportunities to learn while engaging with a diverse array of people during this new year.

We look forward to the opportunity to support your organization and collaborate with you on your inclusion strategies!

Please visit our new website: Inclusion Strategy.com and let us know what you think. We would love to hear from you.

Sincerely,

Wendy and Paula

Wendy Amengual Wark: Wendy@InclusionStrategy.com

Paula T. Edgar, Esq.: Paula@InclusionStrategy.com

 

“X” Marks the Spot!

With Judy Issokson

‘X’ Marks the Spot                   

We work in places that can be marked on a map with an ‘X’. Those places are occupied by people who come from many other places, with multiple perceptions, and experiences. The walls of our workplaces look and feel solid, but they are porous.  Personal experiences and responses to all that occurs in our respective worlds seep into the workplace and impact the relationships that used to be separated (or so we thought) by political, religious and class differences.  Regardless of where we are on the political or religious spectrum, regardless of our race, gender, or national origin, we all have thoughts and feelings about what is happening in our world and the impact of those events on our lives.

The workplace is not a microcosm of our world, nor is it a metaphor of our world, it is our world. Just as our home, our community, our city or town, our state, our nation, is our world. So, when we are thinking about what we just read on Twitter or saw on the evening news, those thoughts come with us into the workplace and impact our relationships in that part of our world.

As one of our first steps to aligning communication, let’s make sure that we are using the same vocabulary.

Relationships: the way in which people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other.

Social Justice: a fair and just relationship between an individual and society.

The Work                                                                                                                        

Creating inclusion out of our diversity, helping people to relate more indivisibly, teaching leaders to lead more effectively and communicators to communicate more successfully, is a type of activism. We work to raise people’s awareness that their relationships matter, that empathy matters, that inclusion matters. Our work is a form of social justice as we strive to help people treat each other fairly and justly.

Social Justice is exhausting. It’s big. It’s important. We may think it’s a mandate, and it is for some, but not for all. (ironic?) We may think it’s a right— and it is until it isn’t—or it was until it wasn’t. We may hear it’s a privilege- and it isn’t. It’s evidence that we have come a long way and that we have many more miles to go.

On the good days, there’s the organizing, meeting, defending, advocating, listening, collaborating, reading, scanning, posting, talking, campaigning, calling, aligning with others, learning and a sense of making progress.

On the not-so-good days, there’s the organizing, meeting, defending, advocating, listening, collaborating, reading, scanning, posting, talking, campaigning, calling, aligning with others, learning and a sense of defeat.

And as long as we maintain that Social Justice is big and conceptual, we lose. Sometime, somewhere, each of us has likely said or thought “how can my thoughts/actions possibly make a difference with ‘X’?” And then one day, we maintain that Social Justice is not big and conceptual. It is personal. Our thoughts and actions are engaged and activated.  We are touched personally and emotionally. Sometime, somewhere, each of us has likely said or thought: ‘The status quo of ‘X’ is unacceptable. This is my fight and my right. I can help make a difference with ‘X’.”  We engage and connect, and we fight for justice— a place where winning means our actions may have impacted others; a place where the hearts and minds of others have shifted to see, accept, adapt, embrace, perceive and live differently.

A Call to Action

In the workplace, the focus of diversity and inclusion, as well as leadership development, is frequently on sharing the ‘big ideas’ and explaining the ‘right thing’ (as mandated or spelled out in the law.) We comply with the bare minimum by signing up for classes in person or on-line. We complete the seat-time and check the box. The minimum standard is met. We have participated in the big and the conceptual.

And then one day at work we have an experience that triggers something personal. Whether it happens directly or indirectly, we feel the need to speak up, take action, and hold someone accountable for better behavior in “X”. We are on the path for taking action for the social justice in our immediate community— at work, at home, in our teams, or when we look in the mirror.

Just as an “X” marks the spot on a treasure map, so does it mark a spot for discovering the issues or insights that incite you to action; and if you are incited to action, you are likely to be intrinsically motivated to do the ‘exhausting’ work and be energized by it.

The first step in doing the real work of diversity and inclusion, as well as leadership development is to articulate your “X”. Next, the work becomes designing the journey to get there in the most meaningful way possible— “X”-ercising your right to make a positive difference— for yourself and others.

The Big Picture                                                                  

When we work with clients to facilitate a more inclusive socially just workplace, we are the guides:  a person’s path to empathy or an organization’s inclusiveness can only be accomplished and maintained by its citizens – those in relationship with others – for whom there is a great deal at stake. We do our best to never mistake the map for the territory.

In the next installments of ‘X’ Marks the Spot, we will share some of our most successful strategies and techniques. We will discuss how, for us, this work is personal and local and global and matters.

Onward!

Judy Issokson & Wendy Amengual Wark

March 6, 2017

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Judy Issokson, EDD, PCC
Owner, Issokson & Associates

Over the past twenty-five years, Judy has worked in multiple industries in both private and public sectors with internal and external clients eager to align organizational structure to emerging business needs, improve global implementations, define improved strategies for effective transitions, and fine tune organizational integration processes.

Judy holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Masters in Education from Northeastern University and a BS in English Education from Boston University. Her professional certifications include International Coaching Federation Professional Coaching Certification, Myer-Briggs Type Inventory, Facet5, Trust Works, Emotional Competency Inventories, Authentic Leadership, and various 360 assessments.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/issoksonandassociates/

Wendy Amengual Wark
Founder, Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC

Wendy Amengual Wark, the Founder of Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC has worked in the field of diversity and inclusion since 1988. Wendy helps employers to develop and implement practical and sustainable inclusion processes such as cultural assessments, strategic diversity planning, inclusive communications, customized training, mentoring programs, and employee resource groups. Wendy is in demand as a speaker and presenter at conferences and writes a blog on all things inclusion. She is writing the upcoming book, Let’s Not Be Polite: Overcoming Barriers to Inclusion.

Wendy has studied at Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; the City College of New York, City University of New York; and the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England and achieved several high academic honors, including Phi Beta Kappa and a Ford Foundation Fellowship.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/wendyamengualwark/

 

 

Happy New Year!

Hampton Bays, NY W. Amengual Wark 2017

My husband Chris and I have an annual tradition. On New Year’s Day, if we are able, we head to the ocean, regardless of which coast we are on, to welcome the new year. The rhythmic cycle of the waves; the energy and beauty of the elements: air, water, earth, and fire of the sun collaborate to create the possibility of renewal. This year began on the beach at the Shinnecock Inlet which separates Hampton Bays from Southampton, NY. It is a place of incredible energy formed by the great hurricane of 1938, where the ocean crashes against the jetty as it squeezes through the inlet creating truly dramatic waves.

Hampton Bays, NY W. Amengual Wark 2017

Proper renewal begins with reflection. 2016 was like all of the years that came before: with losses and gains, successes and failures, challenges and achievements. We grieved, celebrated, worked (a bit too much), and played (a bit too little). We wish we had seen more of you and that time did not speed by as it does!

We are optimistic about the coming year, despite the many serious challenges to inclusion, globally and locally. The song, “Get Together” by the Youngbloods,  is as relevant today as when Chet Powers wrote it in 1963. We are reminded of how powerful we each are: “You hold the key to love and hate all in your trembling hand.” The song ends with urgency: “Right now, right now.”

So, resolutions aside, what do you want to create in 2017?  My hope for 2016 is to be the best Wendy that I can be, to pay attention and live with intention. I hope that you will join me as I strive to test Henry David Thoreau’s observation that: “…if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Wishing you all things wonderful in 2017, and beyond!

Onward!

~ Wendy

 

Resistance!

Resistance! magnets

There is resistance in weight training, resistance in electricity, resistance in magnetic fields (thinking of Leonard Nimoy today!), and resistance when it comes to diversity and inclusion.  D&I practitioners have  been trying to figure out how to overcome this resistance for decades and now, in 2015, resistance to inclusion seems to be stronger than ever.  So, how do we deal with people, especially those in leadership and management positions, who resist including others who are different from themselves in whatever it is that they are leading or managing?

Accepting Resistance

The first thing that we need to do is accept the fact that there is resistance to diversity and inclusion.  This has nothing to do with how you might feel about that resistance. Neither does it have anything to do with you.  Those who resist diversity and inclusion may do so for a single reason or a complex variety of reasons.  Perhaps they are afraid of change.  Perhaps they are afraid of difference. There are many causes for such fears, but acknowledging the existence of fear in people is the first step toward ameliorating it. I do not recommend that diversity practitioners begin calling in psychoanalysts for every manager and leader in their organization who resists diversity and inclusion.  I do suggest that we need to understand the history of racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and other fears and hatreds of groups of people if we hope to create inclusion in the workplace or anywhere else.

What’s In A Word?

If people cringe every time we use the word diversity or the word inclusion, might we find other words that help us to diminish resistance and achieve our goals of creating sustainable inclusion?  What words are acceptable or even embraced by leaders and managers?  Development, succession planning, return on investment (ROI), value-added, are all words and phrases used in the business world.  Use this vocabulary to create successful and sustainable D&I initiatives.  Diversity will be woven into the fabric of the initiative when you intentionally include your hidden high potentials and others who have not traditionally been invited to the table. ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) should sponsor community activities that expand your market share and fulfill your corporate responsibility, hence establishing an ROI for executives who want to see more than a woman’s history month luncheon result from their investment in the women’s ERG. 

Creating Curiosity

Launching a pilot initiative that uses an intriguing vocabulary will create curiosity in ambitious people.  Whether it is a mentoring pilot with a small group of mentors and protégés as part of your overall succession planning / employee development plan or a leadership think tank where brilliant ideas are exchanged in a safe environment, those who were not invited to participate will be curious about the endeavor.  Promote the initiative.  Let all of your employees know what you are ‘piloting’.  Keep them apprised of the progress of your pilot program.  Then, if you decide to make mentoring a part of your organizational culture, you will have created sufficient curiosity to have more applicants than spots for protégés.  That is a great formula for success!

What’s Their Mission?

Do you know your organization’s mission?  I have shared mine with you before:  To make manifest the value of all people.  If you do not know your organization’s mission – really know it – then stop reading my blog and go and read your mission statement!  Print it out and tape it on the wall.  Study it and understand that every word of a mission statement should be there for a reason.  Does your diversity and inclusion mission (you do have one, don’t you?) support the organizational mission?  If not, tear it up and go back to the drawing board!  Each time I help an organization to define and develop its D&I mission it reminds me that the lack of a viable, articulated mission is the primary reason that D&I initiatives fail.  Trying to plug-in a diversity event, a single training session, or a new ERG will not create a successful D&I program.

If you help your leaders and managers to achieve their missions over a sustained period of time, they will be able to move from resisting to embracing inclusion.  In other words, you can flip your organization’s magnetic field so that it can live long and prosper!

If you are not diminishing resistance to diversity and inclusion in your organization isn’t today a great day to begin?

Onward!

~ Wendy

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Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC, All rights reserved, 2015.

 

Comfortable Diversity

Comfortable Diversity

I was once asked (directed) by a boss of mine not to use the words “race” or “gender” while facilitating diversity and inclusion education for the organization’s employees. The main reasons I was given for this approach were:

1. There are all types of diversity: job title, geographic location, marital status, parental status, we don’t have to focus on the obvious differences.

2. According to Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas (the late diversity scholar and author of Beyond Race and Gender: Unleashing the Power of Your Total Work Force by Managing Diversity; AMACOM, NY, NY. 1991.), “Employees differ not just on the basis of race, gender, and ethnicity, but also on a variety of other dimensions such as age, functional and educational backgrounds, tenure with the organization, lifestyles, and geographic origins, just to name a few.” Dr. Thomas was absolutely right, but that does not mean that any dimension of diversity should be avoided when trying to create an inclusive environment.

3. If the training focuses on race and gender, it might make our people uncomfortable.

I was also told, in other terms, that we were living in a post-racial society and that there was no reason to dredge-up the past and make people feel guilty about things that they could not control.

Today, as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and contemplate his legacy and the history of race in our nation, it is impossible for me to understand the claim that we live in a post-racial society when there are so many racially based challenges that we face every single day.

No Pain No Gain

Many people have begun the New Year by trying to live healthier lives. They have started to exercise, possibly after a long period without doing so. If this is the case, underused muscles will be aching in response to the pressure to participate in this healthy activity. If one is out of shape and overdoes it, then it can become too painful to continue and make progress toward better health. (I will confess that as I write these words, more than a few of my neglected muscles are groaning in response to my recent attempts to include all of my interdependent parts in goal oriented exercising.)

To continue with the exercise metaphor, much of the diversity training of a few decades ago was also a bit painful because of neglect, particularly when trainers would overdo it. So, the tendency might be to cringe at the thought of working out when lingering pain from the last effort reminds us how uncomfortable exercise can be. This certainly makes sense. That is why it is wise to begin a regimen of exercising carefully, mindful of old injuries, weaknesses, and risks. While there is going to be some inevitable discomfort, it does not need to be debilitating.

Beyond Trends and Fads

Just as with zumba, and other forms of exercising, fads and trends come and go, but three basic methods remain at the core of a healthy physiological program: reaching a targeted heart rate for your age and condition (cardio or aerobics), stretching, and strength. Similarly, effective methods for reaching sustainable inclusion goals require energy, stretching one’s ability to communicate and connect, and improving an organization’s cultural strength, or interdependence. These may initially cause participants some discomfort, but with time they will grow and expand their capacity to be truly inclusive. Just as anyone beginning an exercise regimen is advised to see their doctor to make sure that they are not causing themselves any harm and if they can afford it, they should hire a professional trainer to guide them. Likewise, it is recommended that your organization reach out to an experienced guide before embarking on an inclusion campaign.

One Step at a Time

Just as we are advised to begin an exercise plan by walking – simply walking before we start running – I recommend that we begin by talking. Conversations that have the goal of creating empathy in spite of diversity can help us to acknowledge our common history and distinct positions. In other words, let’s not be polite; let’s have genuine conversations that result in real relationships. Conversations that are grounded in mutual respect and the understanding that every one of us has a unique perspective – a unique set of experiences – can result in sustainably inclusive relationships. Conversations that are facilitated in a safe environment where respect is the primary requirement can be the first steps that move our homes, our schools, our workplaces, our cities, and our nation in a direction of healing and sustainable or manageable health.

Setting Realistic Goals

Just as exercising and dieting goals need to be realistic and practical, inclusion goals, if they are to be sustainable, must also reflect our current state and condition regarding diversity and inclusion. That requires an honest assessment and a well thought out plan. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not just show up in Selma, Alabama and expect racism or the denial of civil rights to end. He worked with others and developed a well-thought out plan and still met with incredible resistance before he and all of those who fought for our civil rights advanced that goal. That success enables and encourages all of us to continue to walk, to continue to strive to achieve our goals of inclusion, of equity, of humanity.

If you have not begun to advance your goals of inclusion, isn’t today a great time to begin?

Onward!

~ Wendy

Please let me know what you think! wendy@inclusionstrategy.com

 

 

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

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

 

Caring Capital

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

 

Divided We Fall

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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