Tag Archives: innovation

You Don’t Always Get What You Pay For! [Part II]

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

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

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

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

Great at self-promotion!

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

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

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

A Multidisciplinary Field

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

When Passion Meets Purpose

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

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

Onward!

~ Wendy

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

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

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

Bona Fides

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

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

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

Fake it ‘til You Make It!

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

When Passion Meets Purpose

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

To be continued…

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

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

Onward!

~ Wendy

Please let me know what you think in the comment section below or email me: wendy@inclusionstrategy.com
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The Process, Part 4: Developing Inclusion by Finding Your Hidden High-Potentials

Now that you have effectively recruited the best and the brightest talent, used an inclusive hiring process to assure that your impressive recruits became employees, and welcomed them on board in an informed and culturally conscious way, how will you develop them so that they stay long enough for you to realize a healthy return on your investment?

Timing Matters

When does employee development begin? Employee development begins on the day your offer of employment is accepted. Development needs to be intentional and effective because development is happening – whether you plan for it or not. A great on-boarding process includes a strategic employee development plan that aligns with and supports your organization’s mission from day one.

How long do you want to retain this new employee? If employee retention is considered and discussed from the first day as part of the strategy for development, you can plot your development plan on a timeline. For example, if the goal is to retain the new employee for ten years, then you can begin with year ten and work your way backwards chronologically. What is your vision for what that employee is contributing to your organization in ten years? What is their vision? Many job interviews include the question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Few employers however, ask new hires this and other career-related questions once they are hired. It is true, that a critical part of the hiring and on-boarding process is providing the new employee with a tremendous amount of information to assure that they can function successfully in the organization, but as I wrote in the previous blog post, this is a great time to learn more about your new employee. This is also the perfect time to map your relationship so that you have an idea of where you want it to go. A critical element of successful plans is the ability to make changes along the way as new information is made available. Remember, this is a development plan, not a contract!

ROI

In the world of Diversity and Inclusion we have many discussions on ROI (return on investment). This question is fundamental to the amount an employer is willing to invest in an employee and what they expect to get in return for that investment. This usually includes the cost of training, the cost of recruiting, the cost of development, and related initiatives.

Employers will sometimes wait for an employee to prove their loyalty before investing in their development. This is a risky decision to make because ambitious employees can become frustrated if they have to wait too long to engage in career development. On the other end of the spectrum those who are considered to be the most loyal may turn out to be great self-promoters with little regard for the well-being of the organization and may leave sooner than expected to join the organization’s strongest competitor.

Finding Your Hidden High-Potentials

Individuals who are not members of the dominant cultural group in an organization may have difficulty promoting themselves and are often over-looked as high-potentials. These are known as ‘hidden high-potentials’. There are ways to find them and develop them into valuable leaders who become loyal, long tenured members of your organization.

How do you develop new hires without investing more than you think you want to risk or can risk? New employees can be mentored as a group by a ‘proven’ employee. Proven employees are those who have been with the organization for at least two years and are considered to be high-potentials. High-potentials are those employees who have been identified as having a high potential for becoming future leaders in your organization. A great way to develop leaders is to have them mentor others, especially new employees. This reinforces everything that you want them to know about the organization, especially about its culture.

Every organization has a unique culture. Every division within every organization has its unique sub-culture, as does every department within every division. Having new hires mentored as a group does not require a large investment. This mentoring experience creates the opportunity to establish relationships early in an employees’ tenure with your organization which will increase the likelihood that they will stay with your organization for a longer period and be more productive while they are there. Another benefit of these mentoring relationships is that they span your organization’s departments and divisions, developing a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, your mission and vision by participants. My favorite benefit of developing relationships between new employees and seasoned employees is the potential for increasing their cultural competency. For example, if a new employee is a wheelchair user, others in the mentoring group can ask – yes, ASK them – what they prefer in terms of having doors opened or people touching their chairs, etc. This is a NO-COST employee development opportunity!

Other examples of development strategies for new hires are to have them join a ‘development plan support group’ or a ‘distance traveled forum’. These two initiatives help new employees to actively participate in their career development and self-assessment from their first day on the job. They also encourage appreciation for how employees’ diverse experiences, experiences outside of the workplace and school contribute to an organization’s success. Developing your new hires using these three strategies are excellent ways to find your hidden high-potentials. Employees who are mentored and part of co-development initiatives are much more likely to speak up, offer input and volunteer for projects. They will come out of hiding because they have been invited to do so and included in your organization’s efforts to innovate and succeed.

How does your new hire fit into your succession plan? Many organizations are lacking viable succession plans and those that have them are not necessarily implementing them consistently. New hires give you a great opportunity to jump-start or revive your succession plan. If you cannot imagine a new employee moving up through the ranks of your organization into a leadership role isn’t this a great time to do so?

Onward!

~ Wendy

Let me know what you think. wendy@inclusionstrategy.com

www.inclusionstrategy.com

 

 

The Evolution of Inclusion

“The Evolution of Inclusion” is an article that I wrote in 2008 and is a tutorial on how the field of inclusion has evolved since I entered the world of EEO in 1988. I have gotten enough feedback on my recent blogs to see that this is still a relevant and necessary discussion, so I hope that you find this post interesting and helpful! This blog post violates one of my rules not to exceed 1000 words, but I wanted to include the article in its entirety (just under 2500 words), for the sake of flow.

 

Onward!

 

~ Wendy

 

In the beginning

 

In the beginning there was Affirmative Action. Affirmative Action was all about making amends for past discriminatory practices in the workplace and the academy. Women and people of color, as well as many others who were not white, heterosexual, Christian males, were historically barred from many jobs in the United States both systemically and institutionally. In 1961 President Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, which created the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity and mandated that projects financed “with federal funds ” take affirmative action” to ensure that hiring and employment practices are free of racial bias. It was not until 1965 when President Johnson signed Executive Order 11246 however, that there were actual enforceable actions that needed to be taken. This Executive Order also strengthened the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which expanded protection via Title VII of the Act, to prohibit discrimination by covered employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Civil Rights Act also changed the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity into the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, giving it broad legal and administrative powers.

Equal employment opportunity law was the big stick that the government used to assure that employees who were members of “protected classes” (those covered by the Civil Rights Act) were protected once they were hired into positions that were previously not open to them. Affirmative Action includes guidelines for hiring protected class members based on the qualified candidate pool within an employer’s geographic zone (a 30 mile radius). The hiring goals are not quotas and never have been. They are recommendations based on the local population.

Mandatory training was implemented for all covered employers in the area of Sexual Harassment Prevention and for any employer where the EEOC determined that there was a “probable cause” to validate an employee’s claim of discriminatory treatment. This reactionary approach dominated the field of EEO for many years and resulted in a strong backlash by conservative groups and many white men in the workplace. Reverse discrimination claims began being filed as early as 1978 (Regents of the University of California v. Bakke) and have become fairly regular occurrences. There was also a great deal of negative media regarding affirmative action and EEO cases in an attempt to de-fang the law and its enforcement.

One of the greatest barriers to accepting the benefits of inclusion is a fear of numbers. Many myths and misperceptions surround the reporting of EEO data and Affirmative Action reports to the federal government. Employers conduct panic-stricken scrambles every time they are audited by the EEOC; they agonize over their Affirmative Action reports and their poor performance in relation to their hiring goals; and they focus on the very numbers that terrify them instead of the people they represent. This sense of impotence creates resentment and results in an attitude that we will do only what we are required to do in many organizations. They felt trapped by the EEOC requirements and not empowered to do anything about them.

The Diversity Revolution

We then experienced the ‘diversity revolution’ a period I like to refer to as the “Kumbaya Stage.” Celebrating difference became the favorite pastime of many members of organizations. People like me were able to proclaim pride in our heritage, our difference – ourselves as were never able to do previously. But after the diversity pot luck luncheons and diversity fairs, people would head back to their cubicles and remain exclusive. The celebration of difference did not extend to most employees’ personal lives. The human resources departments did not see any relief from their required reports or a great improvement in their statistics. These disappointments coupled with the negative response from employees who felt that they were not different enough to matter resulted in campaigns set out to prove that ‘our differences make us all the same.’ This approach played down race and gender and focused on less volatile differences such as job title, geographic origin (among U.S. born citizens), marital status, parental status, etc. These non-threatening differences could be used benignly, to prove that an organization embraced diversity, without having to really embrace inclusion.

Diversity practitioners across the U.S. were then asked by their CEOs, “What’s the return on our investment for diversity? This resulted in more panicked scrambling as folks set out to prove that creating a diverse organization improved the organization’s bottom line. The problem with this model is that it does not work and that there was no such proof to be provided.

The More Things Change

The more things change, the more they remained the same. A major concern of U.S. employers is poor employee engagement. There are millions of people who make it to work each day, even millions who arrive on time who are still quite disengaged. These workers occupy all job titles and levels, including officers. They are in every sector and industry. They are from several different generations. They are from all over the world. They are straight and gay; male and female; of every race and ethnicity; and they cost employers trillions of dollars every day. Employers spend an inordinate amount of money and energy to recruit top talent. They especially spend on the recruitment of women and people of color. Employers have, in general, become quite successful at recruitment, but remain unsuccessful at retention. A phenomenon has developed in the last decade or so that is referred to as ‘the Revolving Door of Turnover.’ This has become a The 64 billion dollar question.

In January, 2007 The Level Playing Field Institute published The Corporate Leavers Survey: The Cost of Employee Turnover Due Solely to Unfairness in the Workplace. The study found that unfairness in the workplace costs U.S. corporations $64 billion dollars each year – not in law suits – but in turnover of professionals and managers. People of color are three times as likely to be among those who leave as compared to white, heterosexual men and two times as compared to white, heterosexual women.

Marketing Diversity

When the 2000 Census Report was published organizations became aware of a new customer base. People of Color, Gay, Lesbian Transgender and Bisexual people, Women, people born in foreign countries were entering an unprecedented period of prosperity. Smart corporations began marketing diversity. We could turn on any television channel and see flawless models representing organizations that looked beautifully diverse! Benetton led the movement way back in the 1980s with gorgeous young people wearing their trendy clothing. Their motto “The United Colors of Benetton,” became a generational celebration of diversity. Gradually, other organizations caught on and began targeting women and people of color who now had the buying dollars that they sought. One problem remained; the beautiful ads were not of actual employees. This was particularly glaring when looking at the leaders of organizations. According to a UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders (October 2007) women hold only 10.4% of the board seats and highest-paid executive officer positions in the top 400 corporations in California. The national average is 15%. Women remain more than 50% (50.9 in 2000) of the population.

The Inclusion Evolution

“As individuals we can accomplish only so much. … Collectively, we face no such constraint. We possess incredible capacity to think differently. These differences can provide the seeds of innovation, progress, and understanding.”

The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies, Scott E. Page

Scott Page’s book provides us with scientific proof of the brilliance of multiple perspectives. This is something that I have intuitively known for a long time, but am really grateful for the backing of a mathematician! I do not believe that ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ unless they are bad cooks or bad communicators. There is always the possibility that there is an unethical cook in the kitchen who sneaks in extra salt without letting the others know, but if called upon to create the world’s best broth everyone wants to be invited! By this, I mean that it would be an honor to be on the ‘A List’ of cooks for this project. The cooks would all vie to bring their most creative, their most engaged selves to the process. If they were told that their participation was predicated on their cooperation and in fact interdependence with the other cooks, they would pay attention to that fact and learn how to play well with others or be asked to leave. In other words, every one of us wants to be asked to make a difference, to be told that our presence matters, that our contribution is needed. What an amazing feeling it is to matter. Yet, few employers ever asked their employees to contribute to their innovation. Few employers ask their employees many questions at all for fear of invoking the evil God of EEO! This fear of asking questions results in a phenomenon I call “One third of the tree.” When I look out of the window and see a beautiful tree, let’s say a Willow tree and I decide that the Willow tree is exactly the addition that I need to make my organization truly diverse, I contact my top recruiter to go and get that tree. I do research on the care and feeding of Willow trees. I tell the other members of the organization that our team will be joined by a Willow tree and to be courteous and tolerant and never say offensive things such as “It’s not easy being green.” Then the recruiter goes out and chops down that tree and hauls it inside. We place it in a huge bucket and every day are diligent about adding nutrients and even throw in a few microorganisms to make the tree feel at home. What we do not realize is that we are missing two-thirds of that tree. We never thought to ask the tree to bring its history and cultural perspective to the organization and so it did not. We did not realize how our organization could benefit by knowing the full being. Another way to look at this is: I bring my gender, generation, class, ethnic and racial perspectives with me when invited to the board room table to contribute. These perspectives cannot be simulated by others who read about people like me. They can only be contributed by me. Isn’t that amazingly wonderful?

Organisms thrive because their parts are thriving. When an organism has cancer we cut it out or the organism will die. Yet, many organizations exist with dead and dangerous departments, units and individuals for years without taking any action. The whole is only as healthy as its parts. So, just as we need to get to know the whole individual in order to benefit fully by their contributions, we need to think about organizations as organisms that require inclusive care in order to thrive.

Practical Steps

The first step to becoming truly inclusive requires practical steps beginning with the development of a strategic plan that holds everymember of the organization responsible for creating an inclusive environment. This plan needs to be created with the input of the CEO or equivalent and leadership from all areas across the organization or else it will fail. This plan also needs to support the organization’s mission and goals or it will fail. As our world changes at an increasingly rapid pace, this plan needs to be flexible and adaptable or it will fail. These are not very difficult requirements to meet if the planners remember to be inclusive in the process from the very beginning and remember that they are all interdependent for its success.

Step two requires a cultural assessment of the organization: Who are you as an organization? Where have you come from? What has been initiated regarding diversity in the past and what has the response been? What education has been provided and how effective has it been. Great tools to employ at this point are confidential surveys and interviews. If people feel really safe they will tell you the truth about their experiences within an organization. If they do not they will not.

Step three is to develop customized inclusion education for each level of the organization. This education needs to employ adult education theory as no employee enters the training room as a tabula rasa. Everyone brings a wealth of experiences, knowledge, ideas and again, perspective to the process. This needs to be given a great deal of attention and respect. The core of the education should focus on the following: “How do I benefit by being truly inclusive?”

Step four actually is step one through five – constant communication. Tell them what you are going to do, tell them what you are doing and tell them what you have done. This is the only way to assure support for the process and again, without this it will fail. Communication needs to be customized for employees, clients, board members, stock holders, the public and et al.

Step five is the establishment of support mechanisms for without them your inclusion strategy will fail. In addition to regular, ongoing education and communication organizations need ‘Inclusion Ambassadors’ to champion the importance of inclusion. These ambassadors may be members of an organization’s diversity councils or affinity groups and should receive special education on inclusion theory, communication, team building, project management and leadership. The ‘Inclusion Ambassadors’ of an organization might sponsor event, write articles, provide training, develop outreach projects in the community and more. They will become the face of inclusion of your organization and as such should be representative of many titles, locations, and functions as well as being culturally diverse. Another great support mechanism is cross-cultural mentoring. Cross-cultural mentoring may be part of a general mentoring program establish by the organization with specific mentoring on cultural topics or interests. For example, I might be a mentor on Puerto Rican culture and have a mentor on time management. Participants should receive training on mentoring and be clear on the expectations of the program.

Results driven organizations whether in the public, non-profit or private sectors can benefit by creating True Inclusion© through an increase in retention of the best and brightest employees; the development of future leaders and viable succession plans that assure the continuation of an organizations’ success; an exponential increase in innovation and market share by involving every member of an organization in the creative process and hence an organization that thrives in spite of rapidly changing circumstances. This process does not have to be difficult. One of the barriers to organizations becoming inclusive is the myth that this is a difficult and arduous process. Nothing can be easier than inviting people to be part of their own promotion and success! It is this simple: the inclusion of all members of an organization in that organization’s success results in an organization that thrives!

Wendy Amengual Wark May 2008

Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC

wendy@inclusionstrategy.com

 

The Process, Part 1: Inclusive Recruitment Is NOT Affirmative Action!

As it is early in the year, I thought it would be interesting to start delineating some inclusion strategies in chronological order, in terms of an employer’s relationship with an employee. Recruitment marks the beginning of every relationship between employer and employee, think of the first accidental glance across a room exchanged with someone who later becomes a friend. Employers are recruiting all of the time without being aware of it: manufacturers are recruiting every time they advertise their products; non-profits are recruiting when they ask people to donate or volunteer for their cause, and governments are recruiting when they send their employees out to serve the public. If people like what they see or hear or taste or use they may think about joining those who helped to create their positive experience.

Word of Mouth

Many employers give their employees a financial reward if they refer someone who is hired by the company. Employee referrals are highly valued, especially in the for-profit sector as the data is impressive in terms of employee retention rates for employee referral new hires. Governments have much lower turn-over rates than the private and non-profit sectors, but increasingly are modeling their management styles on the private sector, including paying bonuses to high performing employees and terminating those who do not meet the standards established for their function. This means that government employers are also paying more attention to recruiting high-potential employees. The greatest source of information about an organization is its employees. If they are unhappy, they let people outside of the organization know. There is a great website, glassdoor (www.glassdoor.com), which posts anonymous employee ratings of employers. Savvy job hunters go there before applying for jobs. People who have left companies telling their exit interviewer, “I have a better opportunity elsewhere,” tend to be more honest with their friends and on websites such as glassdoor. Employers would be well advised to visit this and other sites to find out what people are saying about them, and more importantly, to use that information to improve their employee relations.

Diversity Attracts Diversity

We, in the diversity field used to worry that employee referrals limited the diversity of new hires, but not anymore. Well, not if you already have some diversity. “Diverse” employees (people of color, LGBT employees, people with disabilities, etal) will refer employees like themselves, just as white, male, heterosexual employees will do. Sometimes, employees will refer candidates who are not from their affinity group, but people primarily refer candidates who are similar to themselves. So, the more diverse your employees are, the more diverse their candidate referrals will be. This will also have a positive impact on your employee retention rates as the ‘diverse’ new hires will have an easier time adapting to an organizational culture that is diverse not only in its representation, but also in its innovation. Employers that are intentionally inclusive get real bonuses as they get the attention of ‘high potential candidates’.

Inclusive Recruitment is NOT Affirmative Action!

Inclusive recruitment welcomes stellar employees – regardless of their affinity group affiliation. Talented people come in all races, nationalities, ethnic groups, orientations and abilities. So, if you want to hire ambitious, highly talented people, invite them intentionallyto contribute to your organization. There has been a great deal of buzz (not to be confused with buzz words) regarding “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) and the lack of diversity among the actors on the show. SNL’s management responded to a great deal of negative press regarding the stark absence of diversity at the season’s kick off by hiring Sasheer Zamata, an African-American woman. This process took about three months and is the first time in six years that there will be an African American woman on the SNL cast, which is interesting considering that Lorne Michaels, the top executive on the show said in an October interview with The Associated Press, “It’s not like it’s not a priority for us, it [hiring black women], will happen. I’m sure it will happen.” The announcement this week that Ms. Zamata was joining the cast has been met with a flurry of comments on both sides of the diversity debate. I have been thinking about how much pressure she will experience as those who are cynical of the process of creating an inclusive workforce think of her as an ‘affirmative action hire’. If she is not incredibly entertaining and hilarious during every single skit that she is in, she will be vilified by those skeptics. The writers of the skits, the director, the other actors, will not be subject to the same scrutiny. Ms. Zamata’s qualifications and expertise in her field will not be held up as evidence for hiring her. She will have to rise above the haters and their words and remember – just like all of the other cast members at SNL – she has managed to beat the odds and get selected to be on show. Many employers talk about how creating a diverse workforce is a priority, but few take intentional, strategic action to make it happen.

The Good News

The good news is that any organization, regardless of their history in terms of recruitment can become an inclusive recruiting organization! A great first step is conducting an anonymous employee survey. Many employers are reluctant to do this for two reasons: 1. They may not like what they hear (and this makes those in the legal department very nervous). 2. They may not feel ready to implement the changes that employees recommend. The executive team of your organization would be wise to honestly and openly discuss the possibility of improving your organizational inclusion by doing some real assessment of your current workforce. If you are satisfied with your employees’ performance and engagement and diversity and retention and development and succession – KUDOS! If not, isn’t it about time that you do make it a priority?

Onward!

~ Wendy

wendy@inclusionstrategy.com

www.inclusionstrategy.com

 

Wishing You a Year Filled with Diversity and Inclusion!

NYC July 4, 2012, C. Wark
In my last blog entry I asked, “What’s in a word?” I examined words used in hateful, specifically racist ways. Now, as we begin a new year, our thoughts tend to focus on how we want this year to be an improvement over last year. We wish each other good health, prosperity, happiness, and peace. Being in the diversity and inclusion business, I wish people greater diversity and inclusion. These two words do not come without their own baggage. The word diversity is rife with double entendres for those who resist inclusion and is sometimes misused as code for ‘workplace representation quotas’ or ‘political correctness.’
New York Botanical Garden
W. Wark, 2012
Diversity
Why am I wishing you a year filled with diversity? Well, first, I would think that without diversity your year might be pretty boring. In wishing you a diverse year, I am wishing you more diversity in terms of your experiences, thoughts, and relationships. This may seem incredibly simple and obvious; however, many people still cling to old, familiar ways out of habit and sometimes this means sustaining an ‘us and them’ culture. How many times, for example have you heard someone say something like, “If it were not for those people …?” People would likely find other things to cling to, in terms of their personal comfort and assigning blame if their engagement with diversity increased, but the more diverse people’s relationships are the more likely they are to accept different opinions, ideas and lifestyles. So I wish you an incredibly diverse year!
Inclusion
Why wish you inclusion? Well, being inclusive requires an action on your behalf. One cannot sit at home and expect inclusion to come to them. It may in very, very small ways, such as the person delivering the Thai food who is from Guatemala. But, we would not know where the person was from without asking them as they would not be likely to volunteer that information. So, we need to be proactive if we are to be inclusive. There is so much that we can learn, enjoy, and gain by extending invitations. I hope that you are reaching out and inviting inclusion into your life!
History
Throughout these blog entries I have carried a thread, or a theme. I am always wondering how to take this complicated and rather arduous subject of diversity and inclusion and break it down into digestible segments or bites, but more than sound bites, I am trying to nurture thoughts and discussion about sensitive and challenging subjects. I believe that we can only move forward if we explore and respond to our past. Reading history and checking a box or filing away the information without learning from it or applying what we have learned to the present is, in my humble opinion, worse than not learning at all. What if a doctor studied biology, but forgot most of what they learned? Would you want to be treated by that doctor? No! Similarly, we all live in a complex world with relationships made even more complicated by our history. This is why I take an educational approach to diversity and inclusion and have provided you with historic context through this blog.
School of Athens, Raphael
Fresco (1509-1510)
Rhetoric
I want to discuss one other word – rhetoric. Rhetoric or buzz words tend to dominate the sound bites about diversity and inclusion. When I think of the word rhetoric, I often think of the word bluster, which is really the opposite of the original meaning of rhetoric – which Aristotle taught us was the art of persuasion through the development of arguments based on logic. Bluster on the other hand, is loud, pushy, empty talk. Those who use bluster to distract us from the main argument and point of discourse or rhetoric are often successful, at least in the short term. Rhetoric has become commonly used to mean exaggeration, or hyperbole, using words that lack substantive meaning. I usually begin educational workshops by asking the participants to define diversity and inclusion. The results are often fascinating. These two simple words – diversity and inclusion – represent a wide range of things to people, sometimes emotionally charged things. So, as I have stated for years, words matter. Words are actions – actions that have meaning for us. We need to develop a common vocabulary where the meaning of words is understood by all parties; then we can begin to have constructive conversations about difference.
Organizations need to do more than recruit diverse candidates, such as create inclusion strategies if they are to experience organizational change that is reflective of our society as a whole. Our society as a whole, whether locally, regionally, nationally or globally, needs to take assertive action if diversity is to become recognized as the precious commodity that it is. The transition to an inclusive world begins with you and with me. This may sound like rhetoric, but having witnessed and benefited by the words of individuals such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sojourner Truth, I know that my argument is sound.
So, I wish you all things wonderful in this New Year, especially diversity and inclusion!
Onward!
~ Wendy
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The Emperor’s New Clothes

“The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Vilhelm Pedersen
The Emperor’s New Clothes

Hans Christian Anderson illustrated the vulnerability of leaders who are unable to self assess in his wonderful tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Another important observation that Anderson made was that the Emperor’s ‘executive leadership team’ would not tell him the truth about his lack of coverage, or protection for fear of retribution. So, because of his vanity and inability to engender trust in others he paraded through the streets of Denmark in an invisible suit of clothes. The only one who pointed out the truth was a boy in the crowd. “Out of the mouths of babes..”

Nolo Contendere
Nolo Contendere is a Latin legal expression meaning that the accused neither accepts nor denies guilt. A recent example of this is Bob Filner, Mayor of San Diego, who has been accused of sexually harassing as many as 16 different women during his career. Mr. Filner claims that he has never been trained in sexual harassment prevention and so is not responsible for his own actions and that the City of San Diego should pay his legal bills pertaining to these accusations as a result of his lack of training.
Take it From the Top
As I was about to begin a training session for the executive leadership team of a former employer, the head of the organization approached me, put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Wendy, does this really need to take three and a half hours? You can make the session shorter, can’t you? Say, two hours?” He gazed at me very directly, you might say, with emphasis, to make sure that I understood the message. He was not really asking me to shorten the session. He was tellingme to do so. We had customized the session for this group, to assure that they understood their role and responsibility to prevent harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Now, after months of preparation, I was being told to cut the session almost in half. I was not happy, but I knew that I was not empowered to defy him. How could hebe exempt from this training that every employee in the organization was mandated to participate in? When organizations are committed to preventing harassment and discrimination, they hold everyoneaccountable to upholding the law, regardless of rank. Successful leaders understand that in order to be effective they must lead by example, by exhibiting impeccable behavior, not by establishing a double-standard.
On best behavior?
If a consultant had been retained to facilitate the training session that I describe above, the intimidation that I experienced would never have occurred. The head of the organization would have been on his best behavior. This may seem self-serving coming from a consultant who stands to benefit by those who take my advice, but I have spent many years as an ‘in-house’ subject matter expert who was hired because of my expertise and asked or told to bring in ‘experts’ to facilitate training after I was on board. I learned that outsiders could be more effective, not because they knew more about preventing sexual harassment than I did, but because they would be taken more seriously than I would by the organization’s leaders. My mission has remained the same regardless of whether my role is employee or outside consultant – to end discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Sometimes that has meant bringing in an outsider to effectively get the message across, rather than conveying it myself.
Learning is fun!
Most organizations provide mandatory sexual harassment prevention training although the quality of that training varies wildly. What matters most is not whether education is mandatory or not, but that the education provided is effective. [I intentionally use the word education instead of the word training here, as we are discussing changing one’s behavior and competencies, not how to operate one’s cell phone.] If the education provided is not interesting to the participants, they will not retain critical information. Adult learning theory is very clear: make learning fun if you want it to make a difference! This rule is applicable regardless of the subject matter. To be clear: I do not think that sexual harassment is fun, but the process of helping others to identify it and prevent it should be. Even serious topics can be made approachable. So, the opportunity for subject matter experts is to think about how people learn, why people need to know how to behave in the workplace and elsewhere, and how to capture the attention of everyone in every educational session. The opportunity for employers, regardless of sector or industry is to make sure that everyone in their organization is accountable, even the Emperor.

 

 

Cities of People

Last week I came across an essay that I wrote in 1996 examining the role that a city’s inhabitants play on transforming their space and how they are the architects of the future, especially through their diversity of thought.  This essay is as relevant today as it was when I wrote it. I asserted that cities are comprised of people whose lives, experiences and perspectives are the pulse of any community.  I contended that the diversity of human thought and experience breathes life into every city’s sky-scrapers, tenements and developments.  Though ever-changing skylines may reveal the physical history of cities, it is the people themselves who define the culture of cities.  As Lewis Mumford, observed in The City in History, the common denominator of all cities is that they bring together “not only the physical means but the human agents needed to pass on and enlarge.. [our cultural] heritage.”  Consequently, multifarious voices of city dwellers speak to us from the past and inform our future, enabling us to recognize diversity as a vital, rejuvenating element rather than a reason for urban demise. 
The Message

The recent developments in Turkey and Brazil are powerful illustrations of the capacity of diverse people to act inclusively when they share common goals.  Like many of you I have been paying close attention to these events.  I have been observing how people respond when they believe that they have been excluded. The people who have been filling streets and plazas in Turkish and Brazilian cities represent a diverse range of class, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, education level, profession, parental status, marital status, and political affiliation.  They have come to send a message to the leaders of their nations:  “We matter!  What we think matters!  Listen to us!”  
Our Space
When developers or politicians make decisions that result in an altered public landscape without the informed consent of the public they risk the wrath of that body.  Few people who grew up in New York in the 1950s and 1960s hear the name of Robert Moses without thinking about the neighborhoods in New York City that were destroyed as a result of his arbitrary decisions to build highways that cut off the life blood of those communities by separating residences from shops and schools and services.  The South Bronx suffered the most critical damage as a result of Mr. Moses’ actions and the urban blight that became synonymous with that borough has yet to be completely cured. 
The people of Turkey and Brazil have spoken up and reasserted their right to decide the fate of their cities, neighborhoods, and public spaces.  This is not just a response to the use of their hard earned tax dollars, but an expression of revulsion that they have been told, by the actions of their nations’ leaders that they have no voice, no opinion that matters, no stake in the outcome of decisions.
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Reuters June 12 2013

Never Say “Just A Housewife!”
People matter, not just in an abstract way, but in a very real way. As the personal stories of those who are risking a great deal to raise their voices begin to emerge, I hear what can be described as spontaneous harmony.  One voice is that of Ayse Diskaya, a 48-year-old housewife who Murad Sezer wrote about for Reuters:  http://blogs.reuters.com/photographers-blog/2013/06/12/taksim-square-one-womans-protest/  Ms. Diskaya’s story is a poignant one of a women who has risen above adversity.
Diverse Voices
As I stated above the protestors represent a diverse range of people, thoughts, ideas and issues.  People are also protesting for various reasons and causes.  That is the beauty of democracy, we can really agree to disagree and still stand side-by-side in opposition to being excluded.  You were wondering when I would get to the word inclusion, weren’t you?  Well, people need to be included.  It really is quite simple.  As a result of the protests in Turkey the demolition of Gezi Park has been halted, at least temporarily.  In Brazil, the bus fare increase that sparked the protest has been rescinded.  The protesters in both nations have cited many issues as the reason for their outrage.
Datafolha 18 June 2013

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The New Public Arena
One way that people are speaking up all over the world is via social media, Twitter and Facebook, in particular.  Those who formerly gathered in the public arena, the local plaza, and the corner pub, have all convened on the internet with access to all in unprecedented and unpredictable ways.  The diversity of opinion that is exchanged in the span of one hour of any event is mind boggling!  People are free to say whatever they want about any subject and to get feedback from a huge number of other people.  This may seemed chaotic at first, but order really does emerge and people really do let each other know when they are being rude or ignorant or anti-social.  The democracy and inclusion of their diversity is what makes social media so astronomically successful. 
Harmony
On June 10 hundreds of people in Taksim Square in Istanbul sang “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from “Les Miserables.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FctAww-4p9k
When people sing in harmony, the sky is the limit!
W. Wark, 2011
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People need to be included in decision making whether those decisions are about the alteration of public space, their access to health care and education, their right to free speech, or their right to assembly.  Demos, after all means “the people” in ancient Greek.  We cannot have democracy without the people.  Just as we cannot have cities without the people.
So, what do you have to say about it?
Onward,
~ Wendy
 

Learning to be Inclusive

“I’m Done”

Several years ago I was in California’s central valley to facilitate training sessions for a large organization with many locations. It was well over 110 degrees and despite the low humidity, it felt very hot. I had spoken with my contact the day before to make sure that all of the details for the sessions were taken care of, but when I arrived at the training location the laptop that was needed to convey the information that I was there to share via Power Point was not in the training room. My contact did not recall confirming that she would provide said laptop during our conversation the day before and after emitting a long sigh, said that she would go and find one. The room was inside of a large trailer as the client’s office building was under construction, so my contact did not have to go very far to find a laptop. In fact, she just stepped outside of the door of the training room and returned a moment later with a plastic supermarket bag. The bag contained a laptop which she proceeded to look at along with its corresponding power cord as if unsure how the two objects were related. I offered assistance and asked her if she knew how to use the laptop and projector which needed to be connected within the next few minutes if I was going to be able to use them for the upcoming session. She responded as follows: “I’m an omelet.” I was not sure if I had heard her correctly, so I asked her if she said ‘omelet’. She responded, very slowly: “Yes, I’m an omelet. I’m done. I am tired of learning things just so that other people can use them.” I asked if she had any use for the computer and she said that she was retiring in a few months and did not see any reason to learn anything new. “I am here just to set up the training room.” She shared that she had almost completed her bachelor’s degree, with only one course to go, but did not see the point in finishing. I suggested that since she was retiring that she might use some of her new found free-time to take that one last class, to which she snorted, “Why?” What a profoundly sad woman! How could anyone not want to learn something new every day?
 
Learning as a key to Inclusion

 

Last week I facilitated a panel titled, “Driving Innovation for Greater Business Results” at NALC NY (DiversityBest Practices Network and Affinity Leadership Congress). When one is presenting at a conference the conference fee is usually waived, encouraging speakers to attend the entire event including other speakers’ sessions. NALC is organized with three tiers of sessions: Emerging ERG Leaders, ERG Program Managers, and Experienced ERG Leaders. Employee Resource Groups are groups that facilitate the development and engagement of employees and are usually centered on a common interest or affinity shared by its members such as a women’s group, LGBT group, etc. As I have been in the field of diversity and inclusion for many, many years I find that it is rare that I learn something new at conferences. I was pleasantly surprised and happy that I attended all of the sessions at NALC that I could since I did learn new things. I learned from the seasoned presenters, from the panelists at my session and other sessions and from the other conference participants while practicing what I preach about listening and learning as critical elements of inclusion. One has to be open to listening – really listening or actively listening – to someone regardless of whether they have less experience in one’s field or are a competitor if one wants to really learn something new.

 

Reach & Teach

 

My dear friends Craig Wiesner & Derrick Kikuchi give all of us who are hungry for new information lots to fill up on with their company Reach & Teach! Reach And Teach, the peace and social justice learning company, is helping to transform the world through teachable moments. We offer books, games, puzzles, toys, curriculum, music, posters, DVDs, maps, and other products for people of all ages.” Reach & Teachhas been an online business since 2004 and they are about to move into their new location @ 144 West 25th Avenue, San Mateo, CA. (In case you are fortunate enough to be in the area!) Going into Craig & Derrick’s shop is an amazing experience! Craig & Derrick’s love of learning is contagious and the two of them come at you with an array of books, games, origami, and some of the best puzzles around. It is always difficult for me to tear myself away from the wonderland of inclusive learning that they have created!


Learn from Everyone!

I recommend that we try to be open to learning from everyone, not just the ‘expert’ at the front of the room, but from everyone in the room and those who are not in the room, too. We even have the opportunity to learn from those who may not be inspired or curious, those who are “here just to set up the training room.” We have the opportunity to learn from the person squished in next to us on the subway, and on line in front of us at the supermarket, and from the marginalized in all places in society. Who have you learned from today?

 

 

 

Do One Thing!

The Invitation
Many of you live what would be considered multicultural  or intercultural lives as people who love to travel the world; eating foods of all types; soaking in the wonders of cultural institutions providing bridges to other worlds, often within our own neighborhoods; and of course, having relationships with many people from many cultures.  So, your responses to my invitation to “Do One Thing” in celebration of World Day for Cultural Diversity and Dialogue Development, which is today, May 21st have been very interesting.

A few of you thanked me for the reminder to be mindful and intentional in your quest to do one thing for diversity and inclusion today; a few of you committed to doing one thing today or this week and letting me know what that thing is after it is done; and a few of you shared recent experiences:

Some Responses
“I have been meaning to pick up Chaim Potok’s The Chosen  forever, and started last night.”

“I have a letter that I will scan to you when I get a chance.  Our Muslim neighbor sent it to  their neighbors, very well written, explaining who they are (in detail), about their religion and their attitude about the Boston bombings, etc., and their concern about what our attitude might be.  I haven’t responded yet, but intend to do so.”

” … a Chinese artist visiting and we struck up a conversation. His English was far better than my Mandarin. We talked about a Chinese artist I had seen in Washington, D.C. at a Hershorn exhibit, about a Korean artist I had seen in Seattle, about the differences between how English and Chinese poetry is conceptualized, about the proper way to prepare a Chicago hot dog. I was reading a book on the history of Chicago and he compared it with the history of Shanghai. A large unknowable world became smaller and grew handles. The skin around my uniqueness began to breathe.”

Multicultural
I am always thinking about how our cultures rub off on each other, how we cannot undo the impact that others have on us, how indelibly we are marked by the sound of unfamiliar music, the taste of unusual cuisine, the colors of unexplored terrains, the scent of new places, the challenge of speaking a foreign language, the feeling of exotic fabric on our skin.  That is what makes this day so wonderful!  This invitation to do something that for me, at least, is so much fun.  I must admit, it is a challenge to do one thing today as I usually do multiple things for diversity and inclusion.  So, I thought, ‘how can I convey my message of being multicultural to you?’
 
I have decided to share one of my favorite poems.  This poem is one that I have shared with some of you before as it is an excellent expression of what many people like me experience being members of multiple cultures.  Please let me know what you think and what you have done on this special day!

 
Child of the Americas
I am a child of the Americas,
a light-skinned mestiza of the Caribbean,
a child of many diaspora, born into this continent at a crossroads.
I am a U.S. Puerto Rican Jew,
a product of the ghettos of New York I have never known.
An immigrant and the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants.
I speak English with passion: it’s the tongue of my consciousness,
a flashing knife blade of cristal, my tool, my craft.
I am Caribeña, island grown. Spanish is my flesh,
Ripples from my tongue, lodges in my hips:
the language of garlic and mangoes,
the singing of poetry, the flying gestures of my hands.
I am of Latinoamerica, rooted in the history of my continent:
I speak from that body.
I am not African. Africa is in me, but I cannot return.
I am not taína. Taíno is in me, but there is no way back.
I am not European. Europe lives in me, but I have no home there.
I am new. History made me. My first language was Spanglish.
I was born at the crossroads
and I am whole.
Taino
Cemi del Mar
Indigenous Puerto Rican People
Deity of the Sea

  
Aurora Levins Morales
1986


 
 

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