Tag Archives: diversity

What Difference Does Difference Make? Is the Candidate Qualified?

What Difference Does Difference Make?

I have been asking this question for decades: What difference does difference make? It came to me when I was confronted by very privileged individuals who could not even imagine what life would be like for those who are not white, Christian, educated, socioeconomically secure, heterosexual, without a major disability, born in the USA, and for the most part, male. I needed to find ways to get through the resistance to inclusion, to create a bridge that would help those who were taught that difference is bad to cross the chasm from ignorance to inclusion. I needed to develop a methodology to help these people to unlearn the lies that they had been taught all of their lives: that they were not part of the problem of racism nor the cure; that all people who worked hard, followed the golden rule, and kept out of trouble would be able to be successful in American society; that affirmative action was unfair and helped those who were less capable, lazy, and did not deserve the jobs that they got; that the majority of Americans have not been victims of racism, sexism, antisemitism, homophobia, ableism, and other forms of hate; and that discrimination is not a cornerstone of privilege. I have been told hundreds of times by individuals who actively reinforced institutional racism and sexism that they were neither sexist nor racist. Usually, I was told this vehemently.

Intersectionality

With the announcement that Democratic Presidential candidate, Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his Vice-Presidential running mate, the internet and media worlds lit up with an incredible range of responses. Most of the statements, however, have not focused on Ms. Harris’ political position on various matters. Most of the statements have focused on her gender, race, or ethnicity, in other words, her intersectionality. As the first woman of Indian and Jamaican descent to be nominated (presumed at the time of this writing) Vice Presidential candidate by one of the two major political parties in the United States, comments regarding Ms. Harris’ intersectionality have abounded. Kamala Harris identifies as a Black woman. She is representative of millions of Americans of mixed ‘race’ and ethnicity. Many of us were deeply, positively impacted by having a President who was of mixed race when we elected President Barack Obama. Now, we have that opportunity again. The opportunity is to normalize and embrace our intersectionality rather than engage in debates over how Black or how Indian Ms. Harris is. At Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC, we discuss intersectionality in many of our workshops. I, for example, cannot dissect my intersectionality. I cannot only be a woman today, without being a person who is in her 60s, or someone who is half Puerto Rican and half Irish descent. All of my distinct demographic identities combine to make me who I am. They have always shaped and impacted how others see me, respond to me, and treat me. I am the sum of my parts. I am the sum of my experiences and perceptions. I do not need to be aware of the cause and effect of those perceptions for them to exist. I, like Kamala Harris, am among the ‘offspring of the colonial embrace’ – a phrase first coined by Paul Scott, author of The Jewel in the Crown. We have European, African, Asian, and Native American DNA to varying degrees. Kamala Harris is not Indian or Jamaican or African or European, she is American, very American. I love Aurora Levins Morales’ poem, “Child of the Americas” for this specific reason: we are new and cannot go back to those elements of which we are comprised.

Is the Candidate Qualified?

We have an opportunity to pay attention to how we describe and define each other. Kamala Harris is many things as a human being. The most important things that we need to focus on in determining if she should be the next Vice President of the United States, is her qualifications for the position. As a Senator, a former State Attorney General, and a former District Attorney, Ms. Harris clearly meets the qualifications of a dedicated public servant who knows the law and has navigated the pressures incorporated in the positions that she has held.

This is not a political endorsement, but rather an illustration of the recommendations that we make to our clients on a regular basis. When asked for assistance with increasing diversity in organizations, especially at the leadership level, we are often given the proviso that the candidates need to be qualified. My consistent response is that you should never even interview a candidate who does not meet or exceed the qualifications for the position, even if the candidate is a white male. I will further argue that, based on the adversity that Ms. Harris has had to contend with as the child of a Black man and a brown woman, both immigrants, she is more qualified than one who has had a life of privilege. Privilege, for anyone who bristled when reading the previous sentence, does not mean that your life is free of grief or adversity, but that people of color, especially women of color have to deal with all of those things on top of the double edged sword of living in a world rife with racism and sexism.

Representation

When I think about the question: What difference does difference make? The answer to me is obvious: Difference makes a tremendous difference! I did not have a single Puerto Rican teacher until I was in college and did not have any Puerto Rican professors in graduate school. This is astonishing to me still as one who was born and raised in New York City. I had a Puerto Rican baseball coach as an adolescent and he provided me with an incredibly positive role model as a man of color who, despite tremendous odds, achieved his master’s degree. Kamala Harris represents so many people who are not accustomed to seeing people like themselves in positions of power. She represents so many people whose parents came to the United States because of its reputation as a democracy where anyone, everyone has an opportunity to succeed. That representation also means that issues of importance to women, Black people, children of immigrants, people of mixed race and heritage, have a greater likelihood of their concerns and issues being addressed.

To those who are threatened by difference, I want you to think about your role models, mentors, teachers, influencers. Who in your world has held a mirror up to you so that you can see your future self? Who has created a bridge for you to cross from poverty to economic stability? Who shared stories of overcoming obstacles so that you could have hope of a better, brighter future? Those of us who are the majority of the human beings on this planet have had too few of those representatives. Kamala Harris has not been successful because she is a woman of color, but despite being a woman of color who had to and continues to overcome barriers that most white people cannot even begin to imagine. Representation matters. History matters. If we are to create a future based on equity and inclusion, difference matters.

Onward!

Wendy Amengual Wark
Partner
Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC

New York City
August 16, 2020

Wendy@InclusionStrategy.com
www.InclusionStrategy.com

 

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.

 

Say Something. Organizations Cannot Be Silent About Black Lives.

Say Something. Organizations Cannot Be Silent About Black Lives.

Paula T. Edgar
June 8, 2020

Many organizations are struggling with the question of whether they should make a statement about the murders of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, or any of the myriad of events that have happened recently with a specific impact on the Black community.

The answer is yes. Listed below are four recommendations on how to make a statement that will resonate with, be responsive to, and be supportive of your Black employees, colleagues, allies, and the community within your organization.

Step 1: Navigate around the discomfort.

We are at a tipping point in our society regarding organizational responsibility to address racism. We are in the middle of a global pandemic and yet many people are so traumatized and angry about the lack of justice afforded to Black people that protests are occurring worldwide. Business, as usual, cannot happen now.  Silence is deafening. Silence is painful. The perception of your silence may be viewed as a lack of care for the people who work for you and with you. It is incumbent upon leaders to reflect on what may be causing them discomfort regarding developing a statement regarding Black Lives Matter. Ask yourself: What is making me uncomfortable about addressing issues of racial injustice? Why am I hesitant to say Black Lives Matter? Why don’t I want to use the word Black? Remaining silent is not an example of leadership, and it is definitely not inclusive leadership. So, who are you as a leader? That is the question you should be asking yourself.

Step 2: Commit to saying something.

At this point, making a statement and not getting it exactly right is a better option than not making a statement at all. While any statement your organization releases should be timely, it is also important to be mindful and not reactionary. Ideally, the statement that you develop should come from the person highest in the organization, and it should be written with empathy and as much organizational spirit and tone as possible. It should also be personal. For many leaders, this can be challenging, because generally any statement from leadership tends to be very curated and overly vetted.

The recommendation is that a statement is first drafted in the voice of the leader of the organization, and then reviewed by other stakeholders to provide feedback. You may want to solicit feedback from your Black colleagues before you release the statement, however, unless those colleagues are a part of the usual vetting, you should proceed with caution. Your Black colleagues want acknowledgment of what is happening and an organizational commitment to change going forward. This is not the time to add an additional burden on them to also have to consult when it is not a part of their role. Remember, institutional voice is important, but authenticity and commitment are what resonate with employees, colleagues, and customers.

Step 3: Commit to doing something

One of the conundrums that organizations are facing now is that saying something also comes with a requirement to do something. Back your words with action. Even if your organization has previously committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, this new inflection point requires renewed commitment and action. If in the past your organization has not turned words about diversity and inclusion into action, now is the time. There will be continued issues in relation to bias and discrimination in our society that you will need to be responsive to. Why not put resources and systems in place so that you are better prepared to respond in the future? Many statements have included a commitment to anti-racism training, or to instituting diversity and inclusion initiatives. The recommendation is that you need to engage with diversity and inclusion experts to do this – whether this means using your internal D&I professional and/or engaging consultants. Do not try to do this on your own, because oftentimes good intent coupled with reactionary decisions leads to organizational challenges because the actions are not well thought out or strategic.

Step 4: Be prepared for constructive feedback.

Once a statement has been written, and any guidance and feedback has been incorporated, release the statement internally and externally. Once released, if the feedback you receive is not all positive, be open to that. When organizations take a stance in an area in which they have either not done the necessary work or made commitments that were not carried out in the past, the feedback received may point out a lack of confidence that the words will not lead to action in the future.

An observation I have had when my business partner, Wendy Amengual Wark and I conduct diversity assessments of organizations is that during the process, leaders often voice a fear of what they may hear in an anonymous assessment. What we relay to them is that whether they use the assessment as a venue or not, the perceptions and experiences still exist, but they are unaware of them due to a lack of feedback. The same can be said here. If there is negative feedback that comes from issuing a statement, you must deal with it. You can do that by acknowledging that you can do better and by acting proactively and strategically going forward.

But what they will say, if you say nothing at this pivotal time, is that you said nothing.

 

 

 

 

Self-Care During Quarantine and Social Distancing

Self-Care During Quarantine and Social Distancing
Paula T. Edgar
May 5, 2020

 My therapist often reminds me that, “Growth begins where comfort ends.” Prior to our world being upended by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, I took her statement as a mantra to remind myself that as a diversity, equity, and inclusion professional, I have to embrace discomfort in order to effectively challenge my clients to do so as well. However, with the amount of discomfort and grief that I am feeling due to this pandemic and the societal shifts that have happened as a result of the efforts to flatten the curve, I’m good with growth for a long while!

Top of mind for me during this pandemic is that many of us have not been prioritizing self-care, which is critical to manage the stress, anxiety, and constant changes occurring as we navigate these uncharted waters.  

It is not lost on me how difficult it can be for many of us to put ourselves first when so many around us are struggling. We know this is important, so I wanted to share key strategies that are meant to supplement as you adjust to the new normal of work, child/family care, friendships, and our overall health. I hope that as I have, you’ll find that when you feel strong, you’re better equipped to support others (put your mask on first!). 

I also know that self-care is nuanced. As such, I divided these strategies into three categories: getting your mind right, your physical health, and then your soul. For many of us, we can’t focus on the latter two until the first is strong, and for others, we can’t fathom sleep or exercise when our mental health feels fragile. So I encourage you to jump around in the article and find one or two things that resonate for you. In the interest of keeping this short, I know there are many resources not listed here, and I encourage you to share your own with me on social media (tagging me), using #CoachPaula, and in the comments below. 

And a gentle reminder that this is a journey – some days these will feel effortless, and others it will be a challenge to incorporate even one idea on the list. I get that, and I’m with you. I find that having a list in front of me is helpful, so keep coming back and keep practicing prioritizing yourself. We’ll be better for it when this is over. 

Get Your Mind Right

Many challenging thoughts run through our heads every day, and are impossible to avoid on any media platform. However, a quick dose of optimistic thoughts can drastically shift our mindset. I leverage the following: 

  • Incorporate a gratitude practice. This may include reflecting on who and what you are grateful for each morning before starting your day. Try one of the following, or use these to create your own: 
  • Be present in the right now. 
  • I am safe and healthy. 
  • I am grateful that I am able to tackle the challenges that I might experience today. 
  • I am grateful for (Insert Name) and how they have supported me
  • I am grateful for (Insert name of fun thing you enjoy) because …

Meditation: In times of stress, uncertainty, and consistent change, it is helpful to have a grounding wellness practice, and while many tend to shy away from wellness, meditation and breathing exercises are proven methods to help with focus and navigating difficult times. I recommend taking 10 minutes daily, preferably in the morning, or just before going to sleep to meditate and focus on gratitude, even though the inclination you might have is to focus on the negative, there is always something good to focus on.

  • Guided meditations are a helpful way of creating space to reflect on your emotions and exercise gratitude. There are several apps that provide these resources. I personally use Headspace
  • For New Yorkers, Headspace is offering free services 
  • Calm is another helpful meditation app
  • Shine Text App is an uplifting and inspiring app

Social Media Filtering: It is critical to manage the constant flow of negative messaging that comes through social media and the news. In order to do so, you can do one or all of the following:

  • Identify the things that trigger you or put you in a bad mood. If you find that you’re consistently upset by a topic, news source, or content generally, do something about it!
  • Mute certain people in order to control what you see in your feed and mute certain topics (i.e. coronavirus), or even take a break from social media to focus on yourself for as long as you need to.

Physical Health

Exercise: Exercise is important for keeping your body healthy during this time because we are less active than we usually are. Thankfully, there are many free online resources for exercising as well. Pick a few to try and do your best to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Here is a list of exercise resources:

Sleep: Sleep is the foundation of all that we do. It helps with our immune systems, focus, and general health. If you typically don’t get much sleep or if you are having trouble sleeping during this time, now is the time to try to improve your sleep. Each week try to add a half an hour in order to help you to sleep more. Here are some resources to help with your sleep:

Feed Your Soul

Connecting with Family and Friends at Home: Because most of the world is in quarantine, many of us are spending a lot of time with family members, roommates, or friends who we are sheltered in place with. During “normal” times, we typically only interact with these family and friends for limited amounts of time since our lives are generally filled with the demands of school, work, errands, social media, and other distractions. Try some of the options below to exercise self-care while prioritizing the people you are with during the quarantine. Here are some options that may help you to be more connected, less bored, and deal with your current situation.

Reading/Podcasts/Music: Now is a great time to catch up on some of the things you might have been putting off, including reading, listening to that list of podcasts you have been saving, and catching up on new and old music that you love. Here is a list of resources:

    •  

Humor: Like gratitude, incorporating humor into our daily thoughts helps make us happy. During these challenging times, I particularly love looking at social media memes. You can also find other sources of humor, including prioritizing time with your funny friends, watching comedies on Netflix, and asking Alexa or Google Home for a joke of the day.

Connect Virtually: Make sure that you stay engaged with your external network while we are working from home. This will help you to deal with loneliness, anxiety, and if you are an extrovert like me, it will help you to get your “people fix”. Here are some ideas for connecting virtually:

I hope that this article will serve as a resource for you during these challenging times. Share it with your friends, family, and colleagues, and as a reminder, I encourage you to share your own self-care strategies and resources with me on social media (tagging me), using #CoachPaula, and in the comments below.

In Closing,
Be well, stay safe, and don’t forget to wash your hands!
Paula T. Edgar, Esq.
Partner
Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC
Paula@InclusionStrategy.com
www.InclusionStrategy.com

 

6 Tips for Working From Home Amidst the COVID-19 (Corona) Virus Outbreak

6 Tips for Working From Home Amidst the COVID-19 (Corona) Virus Outbreak
By Paula T. Edgar 
March 18, 2020

The impact of the COVID-19 (Corona) Virus on our global community has been vast and created many challenges. One significant challenge that many people are dealing with is the recommended social isolation to “flatten the curve”. People are being encouraged or mandated to work remotely from home instead of commuting to work and school. As everyone adjusts to this new short-term normal, I am sharing some tips and best practices that make working from home productive, using the acronym CORONA (sorry).

C– Communication

O– Own your space

R – Remember you are working

O – Only do the task at hand

N – Notify stakeholders

A – Anticipate distractions

Communication

Phone Calls and Video Calls

  • Maintaining contact with colleagues, clients, and/or professors while working remotely is important to foster greater engagement, accountability, and trust.
  • When we are communicating via phone calls or emails, we cannot read people’s intentions or frustrations and it can challenge communication, especially when working with remote teams. In addition to phone calls, I recommend scheduling video conferences to connect with others. Video calls help to maintain human connection visually through seeing others’ eyes and facial expressions.
  • In some cases, managers do not trust that their employees will be productive when they are working remotely, so it is necessary to set up consistent/scheduled meetings, (via video call if possible) to set expectations and timelines and to check in on projects and deliverables.

Email

  • Most of our communication happens via email. It’s important to make sure when crafting emails to be personable instead of just getting to the point, to check in with people, have pleasantries at the beginning of communication, and also to close out with something thoughtful so people feel heard, even via email.
  • During the current situation, it’s even more important than usual to focus on specifics when drafting communication (use bullet points) and to keep emails short and concise, communication so that your correspondence does not add to the overwhelming amount of information that people are receiving.

Social Media

Social media communication and content can sometimes be a distraction, but it can also be an effective way of staying in real-time contact with your colleagues to combat the effects of social isolation. Apps like Slack, WhatsApp, and Group Me are helpful to maintain the human connection with your professional, personal, and school networks.

Own Your Space

Organize your workspace

  • Most people’s normal workspace is within an office setting, and they may not have an office at home. During this time of working remotely, it is beneficial to create a dedicated workspace, if possible.
  • Having a dedicated workspace helps your environment to be “work like” and puts you in a work mindset. One issue with people working from home is that their space might be too comfortable and can prevent them from getting and staying in the right mindset to be “on” and productive.
  • Having a dedicated workspace can also make your participation in video calls appear more professional.

Dress the Part

  • When working from home, it is very enticing to want to stay as comfortable as possible (i.e. pajamas), however changing into business casual dress (emphasis on casual) is a good compromise for a home setting, especially when communicating via video call.
  • Dressing the part also helps you to shift to work mode mentally, which can beneficially impact your work productivity.

Remember You Are Working 

  • When working remotely, it is important to follow your typical work schedule as much as possible, so that you can be available for your colleagues and clients. Sticking to your normal workday routine can also help to put and keep you in the work mindset.
  • Start your workday off with a to-do list of what you want to accomplish, to hold yourself accountable.
  • Do whatever you have to do to be prepared to start your workday. Have your phone and laptop charged so you don’t have any tech issues and can start immediately.

Only Do the Task At Hand

  • Studies show that employees can be more productive when working from home because it allows for a flexible schedule, however attempting to multitask has been shown to be ineffective.
  • While adhering to set office work schedules is a best practice for collaborative work, this is sometimes not when people are most productive. Working from home allows you the option to be more in control of your projects and to work when you are in the right frame of mind, but remember, don’t multitask!
  • I use and highly recommend the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that allows you to be more productive by getting work done in small chunks with small breaks.
    • 20 mins work on one task – no distractions (phone on silent, no checking emails or social media)
    • 10 mins break
    • 20 mins on a new task or the same task
    • Repeat

This method is very effective for getting assignments done because 20 minutes is digestible and easy to manage (in both thought and action).

Notify Stakeholders

  • On a daily basis, in order to counteract the perception that you may be less productive while working from home, it may be helpful to send a brief end-of-day synopsis of what you have accomplished to your manager or team. (“Here’s what I got done, and here’s what I will get done tomorrow”)
  • Everyone has different communication and management styles and also different preferences for when and how they want to be updated. Manage up by anticipating any potential requests and by being proactive. A best practice is to affirmatively check-in with your manager in order to facilitate better communication, rather than waiting for them to check-in with you.

Anticipate Distractions

  • When working from home, there are lots of distractions – your bed, family members, tv, pets, etc. It’s important to know when you are most productive or when you will have the least amount of distractions and schedule your project time or conference calls around those times.
  • Talk to others in your home in advance to let them know when you’re working and should not be disturbed.
  • At the start of any conference or video calls, give the other attendees a heads-up by letting them know that you are working from home and that distractions may occur.
  • Use the mute button when you are not speaking to prevent attendees from hearing any distracting sounds during calls.
  • Instead of trying to hide your personal circumstances, be real and authentic about your situation so your colleagues can understand and empathize. 

In Closing

As a reminder, when done properly by incorporating the resources and tips above, working from home can be productive and mitigate some of the stress we are going through in this time of on-going change.

Be well, stay safe, and wash your hands!

Paula T. Edgar, Esq.
Partner
Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC
Paula@InclusionStrategy.com
www.InclusionStrategy.com

 

 

10 Inclusive Management Best Practices for Remote Teams

10 Inclusive Management Best Practices for Remote Teams

March 12, 2020

The challenge of inclusive management is even more critical when teams must function remotely. Each year, more and more employees work remotely at least part of the time. Right now, many organizations across the globe are closing for two weeks or more to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. There are also many employees who are being quarantined during this time. The stress of frequent news of quarantines and death can deteriorate the productivity and working relationships of teams.

Here are 10 best practices that you can implement to help to maximize your team’s potential and minimize your stress as a manager during this time:

  1. Updates: Make sure that everyone on the team is updated (at the same time) about any decisions surrounding the COVID-19 that your organization makes. This will reassure staff that they are ‘in the loop’ and decrease their anxiety.
  2. Video Meetings: Conduct meetings via video conference, not just audio. This will contribute to the team’s sense of being connected. Also, people will be more motivated to get up and dressed for a video meeting than they would for a conference call. (Which will contribute to their well-being!)
  3. Team Meetings: Even if it has not been your practice in the past, have team meetings at least once each week during this crisis. This will help everyone to connect and reinforce teammates supporting each other.
  4. Check-Ins: Have daily check-ins with every team member. This can be a video call as short as 2 minutes, but this investment of your will be time well-rewarded with engaged and motivated team members.
  5. Time Management: Schedule times for email check-ins, calls, and video conferences as much as possible. You will find that your team may be even more productive than usual without interruptions and knowing when to expect communication. They will spend less time checking email and more time finishing a project!
  6. Impact: The impact of stress, especially prolonged stress affects each of us differently. Be mindful of the impact of this crisis on members of your team: some may be sleep deprived or social media over-dosed; others may be dealing with anxiety in silence.
  7. Social Distancing: Depending on the personality of each of your team members, social distancing will affect each of them differently. For some, this time will be a relief from social pressures. For others, this will be a severe challenge. Acknowledge that each of us responds to social interaction differently.
  8. Offer Support: Your staff may not be members of a high-risk group, but their family members, partners, neighbors, and friends may be. Ask your team members (privately) if they need to take FMLA, work flextime, or get counseling during the crisis.
  9. Give Positive Feedback: Let your team members and your leadership know how your team is going above and beyond to keep things running during this very challenging time. Giving your team members kudos now will be appreciated for a long time to come.
  10. Practice Self Care: It is always challenging to successfully manage teams, but even more so during a crisis. You need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself so that you can take better care of others. Eat, sleep, take a walk in the park, find ways to vent, watch a funny movie, and spend time with those you love.

No one strategy will magically make you the world’s most inclusive leader or make this crisis disappear, but the 10 strategies outlined above will help you to manage more inclusively and minimize the long-term impact on your team.

We hope that you stay healthy, productive and inclusive while we make it through this crisis together.

Onward!

Wendy Amengual Wark
Partner
Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC

Wendy@InclusionStrategy.com
www.InclusionStrategy.com

 

Accountability Assures Organizational DEI Success

Who ‘owns’ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at your organization? Often, the responsibility for the success, or sadly, the primary accountability for the failure of an organization’s DEI initiatives belongs to the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) or head of HR. In many organizations, these individuals do not report to the CEO or president, but to the Chief of Staff, Chief Administrative Officer, or the CFO (this last, for reasons that escape us). Successfully advancing DEI requires direct engagement from the C-suite, direct reporting to the CEO by the CDO, and holding all members of the organization accountable in tangible ways.

There is considerable evidence showing that organizations with successful DEI programs have two key components: genuine, organic, interest of at least 10% of non-managerial staff and a demonstrated commitment of executive staff, most importantly the head of the organization.

Commitment is demonstrated in multiple ways. Holding oneself and one’s team members accountable for both the success and failure of the DEI mission, vision, and goals is the most critical.

That accountability can be demonstrated by measuring not only demographics, but participation in DEI initiatives, such as DEI strategic planning, membership on a DEI council, being a mentor or protégé, participation in educational workshops and sponsorship of cultural events (internally and externally). Despite clear opportunities to demonstrate commitment and accountability, how many CEOs actually attend diversity conferences? How many CDOs report directly to the head of their organization?

If you are looking for strategies to drive accountability at your organization, you can encourage your CEO to join 900 other leaders by signing the “Pledge to Act On supporting more inclusive workplaces.” https://www.ceoaction.com/pledge/ceo-pledge/ The pledge includes several tangible commitments including a commitment to “create accountability systems within our companies”. Signatories are not just in the corporate sector. Leaders in academia and in the non-profit sector have signed the pledge as well. Individuals can also sign the “I Act On Pledge: I pledge to check my bias, speak up for others and show up for all.”  https://www.ceoaction.com/pledge/i-act-on-pledge/ This can be encouraged across an organization as a part of implementing organizational DEI change.

A similar initiative was launched by the UN in 2000. The Global Compact for Gender Equity https://www.unglobalcompact.org/  has been signed by 10,409 companies in 173 nations (599 in the US) and requires a financial contribution based on an organization’s level of participation and time-based goals for creating gender equity.

These types of pledges are powerful because of the public declaration of commitment to inclusion and equity that potential clients and employees can use to help determine whether they will patronize a particular organization or seek employment there.

Whatever approach an organization takes to create and sustain accountability for their DEI success must align with and support the organizational mission and culture. One size does not fit all when it comes to DEI strategies and so an organizational assessment (including anonymous DEI surveys of board members and staff, including the C-suite), will help to determine what will work for you. Additionally, DEI strategic planning is a key component of success in this area. DEI strategic planning should be part of any organization’s overall strategic planning process and should be facilitated or guided by established DEI practitioners.

The strategies outlined above are not a burdensome drain on organizations with even limited resources. While these practical investments in an organization’s well-being are recognized as best practices, demonstrate commitment to DEI, and motivate and engage employees, they are still very rare. These practices are directly supported by categories 1 (D&I Vision, Strategy, and Business Case); Category 2 (Leadership and Accountability); and Category 3 (D&I Structure and Implementation of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Benchmarks, which provide specific guidelines and standards for these strategies. [Learn more here: http://centreforglobalinclusion.org/

If your organization is not holding everyone accountable for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, isn’t today a great day to begin?

Wendy Amengual Wark and Paula T. Edgar, Esq.
Partners, Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC

February 24, 2020

Wendy@InclusionStrategy.com
Paula@InclusionStrategy.com
www.InclusionStrategy.com

 

 

If I Want to be Inclusive, I Must be Willing to Change

If I Want to be Inclusive, I Must be Willing to Change

When my partner, Paula T. Edgar and I facilitate workshops on workplace inclusion, we discuss all of the incredible benefits of having an inclusive workplace: more successful collaboration, greater efficiency and productivity, improved employee engagement, retention, and more effective communication, to name a few.

We are transparent with participants about the fact that being inclusive requires work. The hardest part of that work is being able to change how we do things. Valuing diversity is easy, by comparison. I can appreciate that someone cooks differently than I do, especially, if I enjoy their style of cooking. But even if I do not want to eat their food, we can still coexist peacefully and in an engaged and supportive way. Inclusion, however, means that I must change my style of cooking if I am going to successfully collaborate with another human being. I love to cook. I especially love to plan an entire menu so that my guests can enjoy a thematic experience. If I am to be inclusive, I must be able to open myself up to a different approach to the menu and any number of stylistic variations; from how much salt one uses, to what type of oil is best to use.

Vive la Resistance!

People really do not like change, hence the great success of chain restaurants. People get to order food that they have eaten before and apparently enjoyed, and in doing so, avoid surprises. I have heard more times than I can (or care to) recount, “But we’ve always done it this way!” There is security in knowing how things are done. This approach makes great sense when it comes to mundane tasks such as opening doors, turning on lights, or mailing a letter. But even these simple-seeming functions have evolved tremendously in the past 100 years, and continue to do so. When I began working full-time, I used an IBM Selectric typewriter with carbon paper to make an original and two copies of everything that I typed for the law firm that employed me. (I am incredibly grateful that when I mistype something these days I can just hit backspace or delete to correct the error!) So, change is a very good thing – sometimes.

It is fairly easy to get people to embrace change that makes their lives easier or simpler, but when it comes to changing the way that we think about society, and ourselves, things get a bit more complicated. The recent launch of ‘The 1619 Project’ by The New York Times is an excellent example of this. The 1619 Project is intended “to correct the record, reframing the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the center of the national narrative.” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html  For people who have been excluded from chronicling the history of the United States, this project provides an opportunity to write a more inclusive record. There has been a backlash by some White individuals claiming that essays in the project are either inaccurate, or that the project is not “real history”. These negative reactions (I will not reference any of them here), to this sweeping endeavor to examine the impact of slavery on our systems and institutions, employs the method of questioning the qualifications and efficacy of the messenger to disqualify the content. I can say with confidence as one who studied graduate level history at an Ivy League institution, that change was not something that was embraced in our field, be it a change of perspective or the subject itself. I was challenged when I wrote about the history of Puerto Ricans in New York City for being too close to my subject. So, another way to resist change is to establish that only a small number of people – people who claim to be objective – are truly qualified to research and write about our past. I would posit that no human being is able to be fully objective about our history and so we are all disqualified, according to these criteria.

Not All Change Is Created Equal

We hate being wrong! We especially hate being wrong about racism. As a person who is optically White, I can tell you that racism exists everywhere. For years, I called myself ‘a spy in the house of racism,’ because racists would say racist things to me or in my presence based on two false assumptions: first, they assumed that I was White; second, they assumed that I was a fellow racist. When I would correct people and say that as one of Puerto Rican descent, I am a mixed-race person, they would respond in shock; “You don’t look Puerto Rican!” “When I say Puerto Rican, I don’t mean someone like you!” Ah, you mean that you believe I am a better person because I look White – like you. People become very defensive when they are corrected or ‘called-out’ on their racism. I am not a big advocate of calling people out, but sometimes, I just get tired of this ignorance and bias. As a diversity practitioner, I educate people, with love, and help them to change and open their minds and hearts and reexamine their history books. So, if I am facilitating, I focus on feeling empathy for the person who has been mis-educated about slavery, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and immigrant-phobia. Through my empathy I can begin to try to educate them from a place of love. I explain that our goal to create a more inclusive world is not about making anyone feel bad about our past, but rather to help them to see a personal benefit in being able to have really wonderful relationships with people who are quite different from themselves. This means, that we need to understand the distance that the other person has traveled to get to this space that we are sharing at any specific moment in time. This means that we need to study history, anthropology, and sociology from multiple perspectives – even the parts that make us very uncomfortable. Once we receive this new information, we need to be able to have our minds changed by it. Empathy is an incredibly important and powerful experience. If I can feel empathy for another human being, especially a human being who I do not identify with or necessarily like or respect, then I can begin to bridge the chasm of being exclusive.

There are many anti-racism workshops being facilitated across the country as well as examinations on White fragility when it comes to discussions on race. We regularly facilitate these workshops, as well as sessions on how to be an effective ally. Several organizations have gotten a great deal of publicity by providing their staff with one hour of ‘diversity’ training following racist incidents between their employees and their customers. This is a complicated subject and as such, we need to stop trying to find simple, quick fixes for these problems. One hour? Most people binge-watch five hours of the latest series before coming up for air. The average movie is two hours long. The average seating for a dinner in a restaurant is 90 minutes. How can even the most qualified facilitators be expected to accomplish anything of value in one hour? We are requested to meet these unrealistic expectations on a regular basis. We are told that there is not time within the busy work schedule to pull people out for training. We are told that people will not tolerate a training session that is longer than 90 minutes. We are told that the budget ‘will not allow’ such an expenditure; we are told many things about why employees cannot spend a full day in a workshop to learn how to navigate the impact of racism on the workplace. What we need to hear is how much the time and money it costs to respond to litigation; how much time that organizations spend attempting to resolve conflict between employees; how much is invested by organizations on recruitment and hiring only to see those precious investments run screaming from the building because they have been subjected to micro-aggressions on a daily basis.

This work takes time. Time to gather information about the organization’s culture and history; time to develop workshop agendas that matter to the participants and genuinely help them to learn and grow and change; and time for organizations to shift from being reactive to proactive about being inclusive.

What’s Next?

Helping people to develop meaningful communication and relationships with one another is what this is all about. We are asked regularly to give people a list of ‘dos and don’ts’ or a checklist of things that they should read to help them to be inclusive. We resist providing such lists for multiple reasons, but if giving you a list will help to make change a reality, I will break our rule, just this once.

Studies show that people respond to lists including 5 things more than they do to lists containing any other number so, here goes!:

The 5 things that facilitate inclusion:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Vulnerability
  3. Empathy
  4. Accountability
  5. Willingness to change

These are of course, over-simplifications, especially as we are talking about messy, complicated people trying to cope with the daily onslaught of social media messaging and negative news that seeps through the porous walls of every workplace, but this is the outline of a master course in being inclusive. Let us know if you want to join us, the learning never ends.

Onward!

Wendy Amengual Wark

New York, NY
August 26, 2019

Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC
Helping Organizations to Intentionally Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion!

www.InclusionStrategy.com

Wendy@InclusionStrategy.com

 

My Women’s History – 1969

In the winter of 1969 I wore pants (sewn by my mother) to school for the 1st time. Mrs. Matossian, my 5th grade teacher sent me to Mrs. Sullivan’s (the Principal), office for coming to school dressed inappropriately. The next day, my mother sent me back to school in a new pair of ‘slacks’ with a note citing the School Dress Code for New York State allowing girls to wear pants.  This was the only time in my entire educational experience that I was sent to the Principal’s office for a disciplinary reason.

My 5th Grade class photo with Mrs. Matossian on the left.

Mrs. Matossian, who was usually very sweet to me, did not respond very well. After ‘the incident’, Mrs. Matossian became curt and did not call on me as much. I was hurt and confused. We girls would have to walk to school in the middle of winter with our snow pants on and then remove them in the coat closet before class began. This was embarrassing and a challenge in the cramped, dark closet! In February of 1969, New York City had one of its worst blizzards with 9” of snow, so walking to school only in tights and boots would not be prudent.

It was after all, 1969! Think of what was going on in fashion: mini-skirts, go-go boots, and fishnet stockings! How could a pair of slacks be more provocative than that? These were modest slacks, by the way, not elephant bell hip-huggers.

The Central Park Band Shell, 1969

This was also a public school in New York City in 1969 – the year that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed Apollo 11 on the moon! (I shook Neil Armstrong’s hand in a parade celebrating this achievement!) 1969 was the year of Woodstock and President Richard Nixon and protests against the war in Vietnam.

From the perspective of 11 year old Wendy, I was conflicted. I really wanted Mrs. Matossian’s approval – really! I strove to be the teacher’s pet by erasing the black board, handing out materials, and raising my hand from the front row of the class as frequently as possible. I also really wanted to be be comfortable and not have to get in trouble for that. I lived in a world that was changing rapidly and under restrictions that did not affect my six brothers in the same way that they affected my two sisters and myself (our six half siblings were older and so, were not part of this transition in the same way). My father almost killed my older sister for cutting her hair in a short ‘pixie’ style. We girls were supposed to have long hair and wear clothing that was not provocative.  He was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1902 and had antiquated ideas about women’s rights, but his ideas were common in New York City in 1969 as well. My mother could not get a credit card in 1969 without her husband’s signature – even though she was the one with a job who supported our family.

A storefront in NYC, 1966

I also wanted to honor my mother’s efforts to gain whatever freedoms that we could including, the freedom to dress as we pleased. In time, Mrs. Matossian not only relented and ceased her retaliation, but her comment on my final report card indicates that she forgave my challenging her authority: “ Wendy is a wonderful person. It was a pleasure to have her in the class. She will certainly succeed in all her endeavors.” So, I was affirmed by getting the approval of a favorite teacher and, I like to believe, who was empowered by the progress that my generation fought for. One giant leap for woman kind!

I was inspired to share this piece of my history by the UN Women post “Five Innovations That Have Advanced Women’s Rights” I hope that you are inspired to share some of your own history! Let me know about your ‘firsts’. These achievements in our own lifetimes need to be recounted and recorded so that those who are struggling for access to full emancipation and empowerment are encouraged to persevere!

Onward!

Wendy Amengual Wark

March 2, 2019
New York City

Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC
Helping Organizations to Intentionally Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion!