As we embark upon a new year, we wish you and yours all things wonderful!
2018 was an incredible year! Most exciting was the formation of Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC – our partnership! (Learn more about Paula and Wendy) We recognize that our skills and competencies are enhanced through our collaboration. Merging our organizations has provided our clients with a greater depth and range of services. Most importantly, our personal missions and visions align and result in greater innovation and impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion in our world!
We are happy to share with you, some highlights of our 2018 accomplishments:
During 2018, we trained over 3,000 individuals in subjects including: Sexual Harassment Prevention (as New York State and other jurisdictions enacted stricter training requirements for employers), Inclusive Workplace and Leadership (Unconscious Bias), and Anti-Racism. The content for these sessions was developed in collaboration with our clients to meet the specific needs and challenges of their organizations. We also developed content to satisfy New York State Bar diversity, inclusion, and the elimination of bias CLE requirements.
We supported our clients with developing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and strategies and supporting their EEO and HR needs by conducting investigations, facilitating counsel and advise sessions, and advising leadership on best practices.
In our work as diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants, we had the opportunity to travel to Athens, Greece as well as more than 10 US States to facilitate workshops and consult on various subjects. The myriad perspectives across global and regional environments create exciting opportunities for exploring the complexities and nuances of this work.
We’re excited to continue to enhance our opportunities to learn while engaging with a diverse array of people during this new year.
We look forward to the opportunity to support your organization and collaborate with you on your inclusion strategies!
Please visit our new website: Inclusion Strategy.com and let us know what you think. We would love to hear from you.
It was another 7 years before I began working in the EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) Office at the NYC Department of Transportation. In 1987 I became the Deputy Women’s Advisor for the agency (on top of my day job as Deputy Director of Administrative Services). I had been active in fighting for equity and justice in many different forms throughout my life and the Women’s Advisors’ Program was established to assure that women who worked for the City of New York were not discriminated against or harassed. As part of my Women’s Advisor’s role, I became a member of the NYC Commission on the Status of Women’s (CSW) Sexual Harassment Task Force which was led by Bella Abzug, the CSW’s Chairperson at that time. We read many reports, interviewed hundreds of victims and developed a comprehensive report on the subject. As a result of this, I was invited to join DOT’s EEO Office 1988. I should note that it took a few years of experience investigating claims of sexual harassment and discrimination along with extensive training before I was able to do this work without overly identifying with complainants or mentally condemning every respondent (alleged harasser) prior to completing an investigation. In 1991, shortly after Anita Hill testified in the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearing, I was promoted to Director of the EEO Office. Sexual harassment against women was headline news for a few weeks at that time and employers began implemented mandatory training on sexual harassment and discrimination. The training that was being developed was not, in my humble opinion, effective, so I dedicated myself to preventing harassment in the first place.
In May of 1994, after 7 years at DOT managing EEO investigations, reports, and training, I became the Program Director the CSW. The CSW focused on issues relevant to women and girls in the workplace and beyond. One of my first responsibilities was to support the CSW’s domestic violence task force. In June of 1994, OJ Simpson made the headlines when he was arrested for murdering his wife and her friend. Domestic violence against women once again became headline news for a few weeks. Funds were allocated to protect women and girls from violence and educate professionals on how to effectively deal with and prevent domestic violence. The parallel between domestic violence abusers and sexual harassers is precise and cringe-worthy: control, intimidate, and discredit your victims.
In the 30 years that I have been doing this work, I have seen little improvement in the areas of preventing and responding to sexual harassment. Most employers do not have effective policies or protocols. Those that do have policies and protocols in place rarely implement or enforce them.
Most employers do not properly train their employees to prevent harassment. In my observation, webinars and training segments as short as 90 minute focused on reviewing the laws and definitions relating to sexual harassment do not create self-awareness or modify behavior. Despite this, most employers pay thousands of dollars every year to repeat this mandatory, ineffective exercise. I often refer to this process as ‘death by power point’: the facilitator reads slide after slide after slide and then expects participants to actually retain some of the information.
Most employers do not respond to complaints appropriately and use training as punishment or a form of insurance against litigation. First (and I am not giving anyone legal advice here), training employees does not insure that employers will not be held liable for failing to protect their employees from sexual harassment or discriminatory conduct. Second, having someone who has already had sexual harassment prevention training retake that training in response to their violating your policies or the law by harassing an employee illustrates insanity to me. It is, however, the most common method for responding to sexual harassment by employers. Training (and I prefer using the word educating when referencing educating people on their rights and responsibilities, and most importantly, on self-awareness and behavior) should never be used as punishment. I have facilitated hundreds of sexual harassment prevention sessions where employees drag themselves into the training room like someone being forced to eat their peas knowing that they still won’t get dessert. That is a direct result of organizations inadvertently giving training a bad reputation. It is all too common for employees to expect these sessions to be boring, irrelevant, and insulting. Sending a respondent (a person accused of sexual harassment), whose misconduct has been corroborated, to be retrained is an even greater of a waste of resources.
Most employers do not hold harassers responsible for their actions and will often allow perpetrators of harassment and discrimination to victimize multiple employees before taking any action whatsoever. When it is confirmed that an employee has violated the law by sexually harassing another employee, an organization’s response sends a clear, loud message to all of the other employees. Usually that message is, “We won’t take any strong action, because we don’t want to be sued by the respondent for wrongful termination.” So, some employees learn that they can harass with impunity, especially if they are high up on the organization chart. Most employers do not hold leaders responsible for their own conduct or for managing the conduct of those who report to them. Accountability by leadership is critical to sending a message that harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated in an organization.
Most employers do not support victims who come forward to complain about being harassed. This goes back to protocols and policies. People who are not trained to investigate allegations of harassment and discrimination should never be involved in an investigation. Even worse, complaints are often mishandled from the start because employees are told to go to their supervisors with their allegations. If I work in IT, my supervisor is trained to code computers, not handle difficult and complex sexual harassment complaints. Organizations often do not realize that they put supervisors at risk when they ask them to become involved in allegations of discrimination.
Sexual harassment and assault are in the headlines again: Hollywood, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and other places occupied by humans are being exposed as unsafe places, especially for women. The claims of the hundreds of women who have come forward in recent months range from having been recipients of inappropriate comments to having been victims of sexual assault. Headline news grabs our attention, upsets us, results in many articles and conversations about how pervasive and insidious sexual harassment is, and devastates the organizations that they expose. But, headline news has not resulted in effective prevention of or response to sexual harassment in the workplace. Not before 1991 and not since. Isn’t today a great time to change that?
I will address the solutions to the problems outlined above in #METOO and What I Do About it: Part 3 – Solutions which will be posted later this week.
Please share your stories and any other feedback that you have so that together we can create lasting solutions to this ancient problem.
I cannot remember the first time that I was sexually harassed. Was it the man in Central Park who exposed his genitals to my sister and me on a sunny afternoon in 1968? Was it the gang of boys on the street telling then 12 year old Wendy what they would like to do to her? [I will not share my response here as it is NSFW.] I can say that I have experienced so many incidents of sexual harassment and discrimination that most of them have blurred in my memory. For the record, I have never been sexually harassed by a woman.
If I limit my experiences of being sexually harassed to the workplace, I have to go back to my waitressing experience while in high school when a customer slid his hand under my uniform to touch my behind. Unfortunately for him, I was holding a full pot of hot coffee and the shock of his invasion resulted in my ‘accidentally’ spilling that hot coffee in his lap. Alas.
Two incidents were too painful to become blurs in my memory. The first was while I was working at a proxy firm on Wall Street when I was 20 years old. Two important pieces of background information: First, the President of the company promised me that I would be reimbursed for the tuition that I paid to NYU for work related classes that I was taking. Second, after being on the job for 7 months, I happened to be in the Personnel office and glanced down to see a payroll record for an employee who I supervised. This man was an old Army buddy of my boss’s boss, ‘Hugh’. He was lazy, incompetent, and spent large segments of the day roaming around and smoking cigarettes in the staircase. I was appalled to learn that this person was being paid $10,000 more than I was. My immediate supervisor was away on vacation so I marched into Hugh’s office and confronted him. He explained to me that ‘Frank’ had a family to care for and needed the money. I replied that this information was irrelevant. I should not be supervising someone, especially someone who was not carrying his own weight, who made more money than me. Hugh said that we would discuss this when my supervisor returned. He added that they were very pleased with my performance and that I would be pleased with my bonus and salary increase, which would be shared with me at the end of December. During the holiday party a few weeks later, I went into the kitchen area to get a drink and the President of the company came up behind me, grabbed me by the shoulders, turned me around, pushed his body against mine, pinning me to the cabinet behind me, put his lips on mine and shoved his tongue into my mouth. I was stunned! I reflexively pushed this man away who was easily more than twice my age and a foot taller than I. I ran from the area into the restroom where I repeatedly rinsed my mouth in the sink. After some time, I skulked out of the bathroom and left the party.
The next week, the bonuses and raises were announced. I received a standard 20% raise and a $250.00 dollar bonus. The staff member with the ‘family to raise’ also received a 20% raise and based on his higher salary, a $500.00 dollar bonus. I lost my ability to control myself. I had also repeatedly been told that my tuition reimbursement check would be included in this pay period, but it was not. I went into the President’s office and although I was trembling terribly, said that this situation was unacceptable and that I expected him to remedy the ‘error’ on my bonus and increase and to have a check issued for my tuition, as agreed upon. He began very slowly to tell me that he really should not have promised me tuition reimbursement as it was not ‘official’ policy and other employees might feel jealous if I were to get special treatment. He also said that there was nothing that he could do about the raise or bonus as that was ‘Hugh’s’ responsibility and he would not interfere in an executive’s decisions about his staff. He then stood up and walked out of his office. His tone and facial express clear to me that he was punishing me for rejecting his sexual overture. I stormed into ‘Hugh’s’ office and, after telling him what I thought about his favoritism, resigned and left the office. I felt disgusted, defeated, and afraid that since I had resigned with so much drama, I would neither get unemployment or a reference. I did get both. In retrospect, I am guessing that they decided that they got a break when I resigned and kept my silence. I did not have the vocabulary at the time to identify my situation as ‘Quid Pro Quo’ sexual harassment.
Two years later, I was working in NYC’s Garment District for a manufacturer of accessories. I was reporting to two vice presidents (marketing and sales). I went into the office of the vice president of operations to ask him about a shipment for an important customer. We were leaning over a work table in his office scanning several computer printouts. It was the early 80s’ and I had on a pencil skirt, man tailored blouse and a skinny 1950s era tie. He said, “Nice tie!” and ran his hand down my tie which was hanging down as I leaned over the table. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, but before I could move, he grabbed me, spun me around and pushed me down on the table. My skinny high heels slipped out from under me and I was falling back onto the table and felt that I would fall onto the floor. In a panic with my right hand, I grabbed his tie which was now hanging down on me, to keep myself from falling. My left hand landed on the table in an attempt to keep myself from slipping onto the floor. I realized that my hand was on a pair of scissors. I remember thinking “What is a pair of scissors doing here?!” I grabbed the scissors and cut off his tie. He went flying back across the room. I fell down with the scissors in one hand and a section of his tie in the other. I scrambled up off the floor and without seeing or thinking ran down the hall to my office, which I shared with three other people. My co-workers, seeing my distress ran to me asking what had happened.
Once I calmed down, I went to the senior vice president’s office. My attacker as well as my two bosses reported to her. She was married to the President of the company. She came around from her desk and sat next to me, hugged me, handed me tissues and water, told me that it must have been shocking. She said that she would call the car service to take me home. That I should take off the next day (Friday), and have a relaxing weekend with my husband. She said that on Monday morning we would meet and figure out what to do. (Some relevant information about this vice president is that he was having an open affair with another woman in the office. He was married and every few weeks his wife would come to meet him prior to their going out to dinner or wherever. I always cringed when she came in because I could not believe that she did not know that her husband was cheating on her.) The President of the company also had a reputation as a ‘womanizer’ and I avoided being alone with him because he made me uncomfortable.
That Monday morning, I came into the office ready to be told that my attacker had been fired. My mother worked for the NYS Department of Labor and I had called her and discussed the matter. She explained that sexual harassment was against the law and that the employer had the responsibility to protect employees from this kind of treatment. When I arrived at the office, two of my co-workers told me that a few of the other women had had similar experiences with ‘Frank’. I was confident that the organization would do the right and legal thing. So, when the senior vice president told me how remorseful ‘Frank’ was, that this would certainly never happen again, how valued I was as an employee, how I had such a great career opportunity with the company, and blah, blah, blah. I told her that this was unacceptable. I shared what I had learned about the other employees who were being harassed by ‘Frank’. I told her what my mother had told me. Her tone and demeanor changed completely. She sat up straight and said, “Frank has a family to take care of! Do you expect us to throw him out into the street after all of the years he has worked here?!” I just stood up and said, “No.” I was nauseated as I walked to my desk and collected my things. My co-workers were extremely upset and tried to keep me from leaving, but there was no point. I filed for unemployment and my claim was denied. So, I filed a sexual harassment complaint with the State. My unemployment claim was approved as was 3 months of ‘front pay’ to allow me time to find a new job. My resignation was considered ‘constructive termination’ as the workplace was so hostile that effectively, I would not be able to do my job. At the time, I had no idea how important this and my other experiences as a victim of sexual harassment would be in preparing me to do the work that I was meant to do.
For the rest of the story, please read #METOO and What I Do About it: Part 2 – The Problem and #METOO and What I Do About it: Part 3 – Solutions which will be posted later this week.
Please share your stories and any other feedback that you have so that together we can create lasting solutions to this ancient problem.
“It’s Not Just Fox: Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Harassment” by Claire Cain Miller in the April 10, 2017 The New York Times offers some concise observations and recommendations. I responded in the comment section, but those comments are limited to 1500 characters. The original comment is below along with a few additional points:
I have worked in the field of EEO, discrimination and harassment prevention since 1988 and have the following observations:
Many employers lack practical protocols and deal with sexual harassment in a reactionary manner.
Often, the individuals responsible for investigating claims of sexual harassment have not been effectively trained, lack sufficient experience, authority and the support needed to enforce policies.
Many organizations do not hold all employees equally accountable. Whether the alleged sexual harasser is a fork lift operator or senior VP should not alter the recommended steps to be taken if ‘probable cause’ that harassment occurred is found as the result of an investigation.
The author recommendations “Authorize dozens of employees throughout the organization to receive complaints, so that people can report to someone they’re comfortable with.” ONLY if those individuals are effectively trained to conduct confidential, unbiased intake interviews.
Many organizations limit the duration of sexual harassment prevention training sessions to 1 hour and use webinars in place of interactive sessions.
‘Training’ used to punish perpetrators of sexual harassment fails. Individual EEO “Counsel and Advise” sessions that deal with the cause and effect of ones’ actions, IF termination is not warranted is an effective method dealing with certain policy violations.
Employers can defend their organizations by protecting employees from discrimination and harassment.
In addition to my posted comments above, I believe that it is important that employers realize that most employees do not have faith in their organization’s EEO process. I would recommend that my colleagues in HR peruse those comments posted in response to the piece. Many individuals feel that they cannot trust their HR / EEO representatives, that their best interests come far behind those of the organization and that those best interests are not in alignment with the organization’s priorities. Organizations invest millions of dollars each year in the development of employees and ideas and then squander those investments by allowing employees to be treated in abusive and hostile ways. Most employees will resign claiming “a better opportunity” as the reason in their exit interview for fear of having their professional reputation damaged by telling the truth.
If you are not 100% positive that the policies, protocols and people at your organization are effectively preventing and responding to sexual harassment and discrimination, then use the current media attention as the impetus to make that happen.
We work in places that can be marked on a map with an ‘X’. Those places are occupied by people who come from many other places, with multiple perceptions, and experiences. The walls of our workplaces look and feel solid, but they are porous. Personal experiences and responses to all that occurs in our respective worlds seep into the workplace and impact the relationships that used to be separated (or so we thought) by political, religious and class differences. Regardless of where we are on the political or religious spectrum, regardless of our race, gender, or national origin, we all have thoughts and feelings about what is happening in our world and the impact of those events on our lives.
The workplace is not a microcosm of our world, nor is it a metaphor of our world, it is our world. Just as our home, our community, our city or town, our state, our nation, is our world. So, when we are thinking about what we just read on Twitter or saw on the evening news, those thoughts come with us into the workplace and impact our relationships in that part of our world.
As one of our first steps to aligning communication, let’s make sure that we are using the same vocabulary.
Relationships: the way in which people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other.
Social Justice: a fair and just relationship between an individual and society.
Creating inclusion out of our diversity, helping people to relate more indivisibly, teaching leaders to lead more effectively and communicators to communicate more successfully, is a type of activism. We work to raise people’s awareness that their relationships matter, that empathy matters, that inclusion matters. Our work is a form of social justice as we strive to help people treat each other fairly and justly.
Social Justice is exhausting. It’s big. It’s important. We may think it’s a mandate, and it is for some, but not for all. (ironic?) We may think it’s a right— and it is until it isn’t—or it was until it wasn’t. We may hear it’s a privilege- and it isn’t. It’s evidence that we have come a long way and that we have many more miles to go.
On the good days, there’s the organizing, meeting, defending, advocating, listening, collaborating, reading, scanning, posting, talking, campaigning, calling, aligning with others, learning and a sense of making progress.
On the not-so-good days, there’s the organizing, meeting, defending, advocating, listening, collaborating, reading, scanning, posting, talking, campaigning, calling, aligning with others, learning and a sense of defeat.
And as long as we maintain that Social Justice is big and conceptual, we lose. Sometime, somewhere, each of us has likely said or thought “how can my thoughts/actions possibly make a difference with ‘X’?” And then one day, we maintain that Social Justice is not big and conceptual. It is personal. Our thoughts and actions are engaged and activated. We are touched personally and emotionally. Sometime, somewhere, each of us has likely said or thought: ‘The status quo of ‘X’ is unacceptable. This is my fight and my right. I can help make a difference with ‘X’.” We engage and connect, and we fight for justice— a place where winning means our actions may have impacted others; a place where the hearts and minds of others have shifted to see, accept, adapt, embrace, perceive and live differently.
A Call to Action
In the workplace, the focus of diversity and inclusion, as well as leadership development, is frequently on sharing the ‘big ideas’ and explaining the ‘right thing’ (as mandated or spelled out in the law.) We comply with the bare minimum by signing up for classes in person or on-line. We complete the seat-time and check the box. The minimum standard is met. We have participated in the big and the conceptual.
And then one day at work we have an experience that triggers something personal. Whether it happens directly or indirectly, we feel the need to speak up, take action, and hold someone accountable for better behavior in “X”. We are on the path for taking action for the social justice in our immediate community— at work, at home, in our teams, or when we look in the mirror.
Just as an “X” marks the spot on a treasure map, so does it mark a spot for discovering the issues or insights that incite you to action; and if you are incited to action, you are likely to be intrinsically motivated to do the ‘exhausting’ work and be energized by it.
The first step in doing the real work of diversity and inclusion, as well as leadership development is to articulate your “X”. Next, the work becomes designing the journey to get there in the most meaningful way possible— “X”-ercising your right to make a positive difference— for yourself and others.
The Big Picture
When we work with clients to facilitate a more inclusive socially just workplace, we are the guides: a person’s path to empathy or an organization’s inclusiveness can only be accomplished and maintained by its citizens – those in relationship with others – for whom there is a great deal at stake. We do our best to never mistake the map for the territory.
In the next installments of ‘X’ Marks the Spot, we will share some of our most successful strategies and techniques. We will discuss how, for us, this work is personal and local and global and matters.
Over the past twenty-five years, Judy has worked in multiple industries in both private and public sectors with internal and external clients eager to align organizational structure to emerging business needs, improve global implementations, define improved strategies for effective transitions, and fine tune organizational integration processes.
Judy holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Masters in Education from Northeastern University and a BS in English Education from Boston University. Her professional certifications include International Coaching Federation Professional Coaching Certification, Myer-Briggs Type Inventory, Facet5, Trust Works, Emotional Competency Inventories, Authentic Leadership, and various 360 assessments.
Wendy Amengual Wark, the Founder of Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC has worked in the field of diversity and inclusion since 1988. Wendy helps employers to develop and implement practical and sustainable inclusion processes such as cultural assessments, strategic diversity planning, inclusive communications, customized training, mentoring programs, and employee resource groups. Wendy is in demand as a speaker and presenter at conferences and writes a blog on all things inclusion. She is writing the upcoming book, Let’s Not Be Polite: Overcoming Barriers to Inclusion.
Wendy has studied at Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; the City College of New York, City University of New York; and the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England and achieved several high academic honors, including Phi Beta Kappa and a Ford Foundation Fellowship.
In light of recent events, employers are asking if they should be discussing race and violence in the workplace. Discussions of this nature have been avoided historically as they can become emotionally charged and may result in more division than inclusion. Diversity ‘subject matter experts’, such as myself are often in the awkward position of being the first to observe and address what difference difference makes. What are we to advise employers to do? Does it sound like a sales-pitch if we recommend that we should be facilitating town hall conversations in the workplace about the state of racial and ethnic tensions in our nation?
What Are They Talking About?
Everyone is talking about the recent shootings of and by police officers in the United States – everyone. So, whether you employ people who design widgets, make widgets, sell widgets, count widgets, or monitor the impact of widgets, your organization is affected by these events. People are talking about this violence around the new water cooler which is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This new water cooler offers the cover of anonymity that eliminates the need for people to be ‘politically correct’ or even civil. The water cooler of choice might be Twitter or Facebook or some other internet vehicle. Then, employees will discuss what they just read on the internet in person – at the actual water cooler in the workplace. Of deeper concern, is what is not discussed – what is simmering just below the surface of polite workplace discourse that can erupt at any time in response to the latest headline.
Every controversial issue has sides or camps such as, “Blue Lives Matter” versus “Black Lives Matter”. Members of various segments of society have strong feelings and opinions on these subjects. Helping people with entrenched philosophical differences to find common ground or to resolve their conflict often requires a facilitator or mediator. In the world of EEO (Equal Opportunity Employment), this is a regular part of resolving complaints of discrimination or harassment. Holding people accountable for their actions, having them take responsibility for those actions, and requiring them to treat each other with respect, is a critical element of conflict resolution. Getting people to move from anger and enmity to a place of empathy is the ultimate goal of the interaction.
Pop-up stores have been a trend for the past few years. They might sell seasonal items, such as beach chairs in the summer, or the latest fashion craze, such as stuffed animal purses, but they are meant to be temporary and to fill empty real estate between ‘real’ stores. Pop-up experts, on the other hand, especially in areas fraught with complexity and nuance such as race relations in the United States, can cause a great deal of damage. (I have discussed this in earlier blogs when examining the history of and strategies for the work of diversity and inclusion. Link) There is a great deal at stake when we ask people to trust each other enough to discuss subjects that are painful, and as we see every day in the news, possibly dangerous.
In working to resolve conflict between employees I have been screamed at, threatened, spit at, and assaulted. This work is not for the faint of heart. It takes many years and much training to learn appropriate techniques for diffusing conflict. People, unlike widgets, are unpredictable, messy and well, human. So, in considering strategies for dealing with employees’ emotional responses to traumatic events be sure that the facilitator has experience in conflict resolution.
Employers have an opportunity to address the state of diversity-based conflict that is affecting everyone, hence every organization. The high level of frustration resulting from too much talk and too little action provides an impetus for implementing strategies that can support employees suffering from an over-load of traumatic events in the news. The City of New York, for example is providing information and support for those overwhelmed by the frequency of violence in the news: LINK
In addition to emotional and psychological support, there is an opportunity to provide structured dialogues across cultural differences to create empathy, find community, and develop respect. This goes beyond examinations of unconscious bias, white privilege, and political correctness. This is about creating an organizational culture that is actively, intentionally inclusive. That means that when the Twitter-sphere lights up with chatter about disparate treatment of people of color, your organization is prepared to respond in a thoughtful way, ensuring that all voices are heard and that employees have an opportunity to discuss the issue among their peers.
Organizations, regardless of geographic location, sector or industry, have an opportunity to resolve conflict resulting from diversity. If you employ people and you are not creating a space where they feel safe, supported and respected, isn’t this a great time to begin?
There is resistance in weight training, resistance in electricity, resistance in magnetic fields (thinking of Leonard Nimoy today!), and resistance when it comes to diversity and inclusion. D&I practitioners have been trying to figure out how to overcome this resistance for decades and now, in 2015, resistance to inclusion seems to be stronger than ever. So, how do we deal with people, especially those in leadership and management positions, who resist including others who are different from themselves in whatever it is that they are leading or managing?
The first thing that we need to do is accept the fact that there is resistance to diversity and inclusion. This has nothing to do with how you might feel about that resistance. Neither does it have anything to do with you. Those who resist diversity and inclusion may do so for a single reason or a complex variety of reasons. Perhaps they are afraid of change. Perhaps they are afraid of difference. There are many causes for such fears, but acknowledging the existence of fear in people is the first step toward ameliorating it. I do not recommend that diversity practitioners begin calling in psychoanalysts for every manager and leader in their organization who resists diversity and inclusion. I do suggest that we need to understand the history of racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and other fears and hatreds of groups of people if we hope to create inclusion in the workplace or anywhere else.
What’s In A Word?
If people cringe every time we use the word diversity or the word inclusion, might we find other words that help us to diminish resistance and achieve our goals of creating sustainable inclusion? What words are acceptable or even embraced by leaders and managers? Development, succession planning, return on investment (ROI), value-added, are all words and phrases used in the business world. Use this vocabulary to create successful and sustainable D&I initiatives. Diversity will be woven into the fabric of the initiative when you intentionally include your hidden high potentials and others who have not traditionally been invited to the table. ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) should sponsor community activities that expand your market share and fulfill your corporate responsibility, hence establishing an ROI for executives who want to see more than a woman’s history month luncheon result from their investment in the women’s ERG.
Launching a pilot initiative that uses an intriguing vocabulary will create curiosity in ambitious people. Whether it is a mentoring pilot with a small group of mentors and protégés as part of your overall succession planning / employee development plan or a leadership think tank where brilliant ideas are exchanged in a safe environment, those who were not invited to participate will be curious about the endeavor. Promote the initiative. Let all of your employees know what you are ‘piloting’. Keep them apprised of the progress of your pilot program. Then, if you decide to make mentoring a part of your organizational culture, you will have created sufficient curiosity to have more applicants than spots for protégés. That is a great formula for success!
What’s Their Mission?
Do you know your organization’s mission? I have shared mine with you before: To make manifest the value of all people. If you do not know your organization’s mission – really know it – then stop reading my blog and go and read your mission statement! Print it out and tape it on the wall. Study it and understand that every word of a mission statement should be there for a reason. Does your diversity and inclusion mission (you do have one, don’t you?) support the organizational mission? If not, tear it up and go back to the drawing board! Each time I help an organization to define and develop its D&I mission it reminds me that the lack of a viable, articulated mission is the primary reason that D&I initiatives fail. Trying to plug-in a diversity event, a single training session, or a new ERG will not create a successful D&I program.
If you help your leaders and managers to achieve their missions over a sustained period of time, they will be able to move from resisting to embracing inclusion. In other words, you can flip your organization’s magnetic field so that it can live long and prosper!
If you are not diminishing resistance to diversity and inclusion in your organization isn’t today a great day to begin?
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I was once asked (directed) by a boss of mine not to use the words “race” or “gender” while facilitating diversity and inclusion education for the organization’s employees. The main reasons I was given for this approach were:
1. There are all types of diversity: job title, geographic location, marital status, parental status, we don’t have to focus on the obvious differences.
2. According to Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas (the late diversity scholar and author of Beyond Race and Gender: Unleashing the Power of Your Total Work Force by Managing Diversity; AMACOM, NY, NY. 1991.), “Employees differ not just on the basis of race, gender, and ethnicity, but also on a variety of other dimensions such as age, functional and educational backgrounds, tenure with the organization, lifestyles, and geographic origins, just to name a few.” Dr. Thomas was absolutely right, but that does not mean that any dimension of diversity should be avoided when trying to create an inclusive environment.
3. If the training focuses on race and gender, it might make our people uncomfortable.
I was also told, in other terms, that we were living in a post-racial society and that there was no reason to dredge-up the past and make people feel guilty about things that they could not control.
Today, as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and contemplate his legacy and the history of race in our nation, it is impossible for me to understand the claim that we live in a post-racial society when there are so many racially based challenges that we face every single day.
No Pain No Gain
Many people have begun the New Year by trying to live healthier lives. They have started to exercise, possibly after a long period without doing so. If this is the case, underused muscles will be aching in response to the pressure to participate in this healthy activity. If one is out of shape and overdoes it, then it can become too painful to continue and make progress toward better health. (I will confess that as I write these words, more than a few of my neglected muscles are groaning in response to my recent attempts to include all of my interdependent parts in goal oriented exercising.)
To continue with the exercise metaphor, much of the diversity training of a few decades ago was also a bit painful because of neglect, particularly when trainers would overdo it. So, the tendency might be to cringe at the thought of working out when lingering pain from the last effort reminds us how uncomfortable exercise can be. This certainly makes sense. That is why it is wise to begin a regimen of exercising carefully, mindful of old injuries, weaknesses, and risks. While there is going to be some inevitable discomfort, it does not need to be debilitating.
Beyond Trends and Fads
Just as with zumba, and other forms of exercising, fads and trends come and go, but three basic methods remain at the core of a healthy physiological program: reaching a targeted heart rate for your age and condition (cardio or aerobics), stretching, and strength. Similarly, effective methods for reaching sustainable inclusion goals require energy, stretching one’s ability to communicate and connect, and improving an organization’s cultural strength, or interdependence. These may initially cause participants some discomfort, but with time they will grow and expand their capacity to be truly inclusive. Just as anyone beginning an exercise regimen is advised to see their doctor to make sure that they are not causing themselves any harm and if they can afford it, they should hire a professional trainer to guide them. Likewise, it is recommended that your organization reach out to an experienced guide before embarking on an inclusion campaign.
One Step at a Time
Just as we are advised to begin an exercise plan by walking – simply walking before we start running – I recommend that we begin by talking. Conversations that have the goal of creating empathy in spite of diversity can help us to acknowledge our common history and distinct positions. In other words, let’s not be polite; let’s have genuine conversations that result in real relationships. Conversations that are grounded in mutual respect and the understanding that every one of us has a unique perspective – a unique set of experiences – can result in sustainably inclusive relationships. Conversations that are facilitated in a safe environment where respect is the primary requirement can be the first steps that move our homes, our schools, our workplaces, our cities, and our nation in a direction of healing and sustainable or manageable health.
Setting Realistic Goals
Just as exercising and dieting goals need to be realistic and practical, inclusion goals, if they are to be sustainable, must also reflect our current state and condition regarding diversity and inclusion. That requires an honest assessment and a well thought out plan. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not just show up in Selma, Alabama and expect racism or the denial of civil rights to end. He worked with others and developed a well-thought out plan and still met with incredible resistance before he and all of those who fought for our civil rights advanced that goal. That success enables and encourages all of us to continue to walk, to continue to strive to achieve our goals of inclusion, of equity, of humanity.
If you have not begun to advance your goals of inclusion, isn’t today a great time to begin?
Please let me know what you think! firstname.lastname@example.org
Visible Lives: Oral Histories of the Disability Experience
I recently wrote about Visible Lives: Oral Histories of the Disability Experiencewhich is a New York Public Library project. This project excited me from the moment I learned about it and now I am even more inspired to continue as an interviewer and to invite others to participate in this unique initiative!
I interviewed Elinor Cohen, who has an amazing story and shared it openly and bravely during our two hour conversation (the time sped by!). In preparing for our taping, Elinor and I learned that we live across the street from each other. In fact, I am looking at her building while typing these words! We are also both City College, CUNY graduates. In addition to learning about one person’s experience and perspective on becoming disabled, I have made a new and dear friend. I am grateful to the New York Public Library for many things, including being my baby-sitter when I was young, and now I add my gratitude for connecting me with Elinor! Please let me know what you think of her story. http://oralhistory.nypl.org/interviews/elinor-cohen-pawejx
Visible Lives: Oral Histories of the Disability Experienceis an oral history project that works to both preserve and document a thematic history through personal recollections. This project will collect stories of people who have lived (or currently live) with a visual impairment or a disability. The Library will train community members to conduct these interviews. Interviews will be shared in a preservation archive at The Milstein Division and on the New York Public Library website. Public programs will also connect neighborhood residents and project participants.
Visible Livesis a project of Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in Manhattan. A public archive will be kept at this local branch for future generations to listen to and research.
For more information about this project or to share YOUR story:
Please contact Alexandra Kelly at Outreach Services and Adult Programming, AlexandraKelly@nypl.org or (212) 621-0552.
I am interviewing other storytellers and will share those conversations with you as they are posted.
If you haven’t been inspired lately, isn’t this a wonderful time to be?
On December 3rd I was part of a wonderful celebration hosted by Jaime Klein, Founder of Inspire Human Resources. http://www.inspirehumanresources.com/
We participated in an (dare I say it), inspiring exercise! We were given blank journals and asked to decorate them and to write a message inside for participants in Dress for Success http://www.dressforsuccess.org/. The journals will be used to keep career related notes on job interviews, training and other thoughts. It was such a personal act: coming up with a design and a message that a stranger would have and read and carry with them as they embark on a new, hopeful chapter in their lives.
The force behind this exercise was Susie Schub, Founder and President of Caring Capital. “Caring Capital™ ignites employee engagement by empowering corporate volunteers to make appealing gifts for neighbors in need. Through our proven philanthropic team-building services, employees connect, create, and make an impact on the community. We deliver no-fail projects to employees worldwide, so each company may serve the community no matter where employees reside. Since its launch in 2009, Caring Capital has engaged 25,000 employees who have donated gifts, from furniture and clothing to bedding and toys, to nearly 110,000 children, families, seniors and service members.”
Look what resulted (Beaming Wendy!)
I am grateful to Jaime and Susie for the reminder that something that is easy and fun to do can make a huge difference in another person’s life! Please visit the Caring Capital website and check out some of their amazing projects! http://www.caringcap.com/
If your organization has not embarked on an opportunity to be inspired, isn’t this a great time to do so?