As we begin 2017, the results of the U.S. presidential election are rippling through the national consciousness. Not surprisingly, there is much discussion on the fate of diversity advocacy in the community and in business. The economics of diverse communities, particularly regarding race, gender, and generation have become a daily issue for news reporting. Debate over Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in the workplace is a natural extension of the discussion. Opinions range from D&I as a failure to D&I as more necessary than ever. Here are the vision and goals of diversity advocates followed by comments by D&I consultants. Together, they demonstrate a determination and renewed passion for both a diverse society and the diverse workplace.
Diversity – ECONOMICS
The nation is distinctly divided into two eras: Before Obama – when it was inconceivable that black Americans could play a significant role in policymaking and the economy, and Post Obama – the current paradigm wherein the nation is struggling over a crossroads decision of returning to exclusionary policies and racial oppression of the past or developing a new path toward a “fair, just and Inclusive America,” as Obama stated in his farewell speech.
The goal of my partners and I is to engage those in positions of power, wealth and influence and help them to better understand the value in choosing the path of inclusion. By empowering all Americans to reach their highest potential, the nation grows stronger and more capable of delivering on the promise of inclusive and fair access to opportunity and improved quality of life for all Americans.
In early 2017, my consultancy group, ScaleUp Partners, will release a new book, “The Future Economy and Inclusive Competitiveness,” by Johnathan Holifield (a co-founder of ScaleUp Partners). This book will buttress our efforts to strengthen regional economic competitiveness by educating policymakers, planners, educators, economists and business leaders on the benefits of investing in underrepresented populations and empowering the inherent talent within to be more productive in today’s global innovation economy.
~ Mike Green: CEO, ScaleUp Partners LLC
Diversity – WOMEN
This year I’m enriching my Psychology of Women course by incorporating a deeper multicultural perspective. I find that this course is often taught from a narrow viewpoint that largely overlooks women of color, poor women, women with disabilities, non-heterosexual women, women with religious beliefs outside mainstream Christianity, and women with varying political values. If these categories of difference are addressed, it is often as an afterthought or is non-contextualized without attention to intersectionality of women’s identities. I’m also broadening my scope to include multicultural topics on men and masculinity and critical issues affecting women and girls globally. As modern day feminists, we are responsible for moving beyond a Whitewashed, homogenous view of women and girls, helping to broaden perspectives on masculinity for men and boys, and eliminating ethnocentric tendencies by advocating for our sisters worldwide. I will work toward these goals via richer integration of these topics across my curriculum.
~ Susan Faye Ritz: Adjunct Professor of Psychology, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Diversity – GENERATIONAL
Hiring more Millennials: Flexible work is one potent solution for employers to recruit, retain and advance more Millennials in 2017 — albeit based on the essential job functions and specific responsibilities of these employees. This group of young people is arguably the most sought-after demographic in today’s fluid labor force. A flexible work approach, which includes working remotely, is especially important to this new generation of leaders. To wit: countless studies and anecdotal evidence show that many Millennials want more autonomy in the workplace. This is necessary to help achieve and maintain a healthy work-life balance, which is often a non-negotiable job criteria for Millennials — and has too often eluded Generation X and Baby Boomers.
~ David B. Grinberg: Strategic Communications Advisor and Brand Ambassador – Washington, DC
Diversity – WORKING PARENTS
In 2017, I plan to continue helping companies realign their understanding about working parents/caregivers so the assumption that parental leave is only needed when diapers exist ends. And to expand their work/life programming to meet these growing needs. The next generation of employees is being raised by today’s working parents…and many of them have exceptional needs. Family-friendly is simply smart business.
~ Debra Isaacs Schafer: CEO, Education Navigation, LLC
Diversity – D&I TRAINING
I am excited about 2017! The Society for Diversity & Institute for Diversity Certification look forward to helping more people advance equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace by:
1. Integrating more technology in our educational programs
2. Improving our websites to allow for global collaboration and information sharing
3. Building excitement around different organizations and people who are doing great work
~ Leah Smiley, CDE: President, The Society for Diversity
At Diversity Wealth, we are responding to greater interest in the area of unconscious bias and are currently halfway through a large scale rollout and will start another the first of the year. The feedback so far has been just outstanding. Once things slow down a bit, we plan to continue delivering our “Cultural Agility” training and polish up our “Sustaining A Harassment-Free Workplace” in response to the growing interest in both. In addition we will continue to publish hard-hitting articles in the American Diversity Report, the Chattanooga News Chronicle and Catalyst.
~ Terry Howard: Senior associate, Diversity Wealth
Diversity Training Group has never been busier in our 21-year history. Five new sexual harassment clients in November alone (post-election). Diversity Training, Executive Coaching, Supervisory and Management Training – all firing on all cylinders. Just slammed here. People behaving badly, lack of civility – 2017 will be even busier.
~ Mauricio Velasquez, MBA: Pres, CEO, The Diversity Training Group
As the year unfolds, the debate over diversity will no doubt continue. D&I professionals will face questions that have come up in the past, but will arise with greater speed and more aggressively: Do D&I strategies help or harm working relationship? Do they achieve greater inclusion? Are those results measurable? Are D&I strategies irrelevant if not implemented from top to bottom? Many D&I professionals, including the consultants quoted here, are energized by this environment and the feedback to their work and 2017 goals has been positive. There is a sense that the need for D&I services will increase throughout the year as our often contentious culture reinforces and rewards an in-your-face attitude.
Advocates like the ones quoted here, whose dedication increases in challenging times, will be reinvigorated. They may reinforce their projects with new followers and experiment with new programs. Using technology and social networks, they will increase their visibility and impact going forward, and the nonprofit sector will benefit. However, the nonprofit sector faces challenges of its own that diversity advocates must consider.
In his article, Resolution for 2017—Focus on Long-Term Nonprofit Sustainability, Eugene Fram notes that nonprofit boards, like their business counter-parts, should focus on being sustainable so that they are productive in uncertain times. Fram encourages nonprofit boards to ask these 5 questions:
1. How fresh and varied are the management’s and the board’s sources of new ides? When major changes in the field are on the horizon, management has a primary obligation to provide a flow of actionable new ideas. Nonprofit boards, as part time overseers, have an obligation to develop the “what if” questions necessary to challenge management’s new idea proposals.
2. What nontraditional peers will take precedent in serving a nonprofit’s clients? Emergency rooms in hospitals are currently being displaced by clinics located in drug stores. Ophthalmologists may be displaced by technology that examines eyes and automatically writes corrective eyeglass prescriptions. None of these changes were on the horizon ten years ago. Nonprofit boards need to be alert to every potential avenue for disrupting its client service business model.
3. How proactive and agile is the nonprofit in assessing digital risk, including its use of data, analytics and technological platforms? Even medium sized nonprofits face a risk in these areas. Any nonprofit board that has not reviewed the need for insurance cyber security coverage can be seen having a dereliction of duty. Unfortunately, I have encountered some board members who mistakenly believed cyber losses are covered by an agency’s general liability policy. In the vast majority of cases, this is contrary to fact.
4. How does a nonprofit board balance its human and financial resources for the long-term while always being faced with unmet client needs? With 35% of current nonprofit boards receiving academic grades of “C, D, or F” for their strategic planning efforts, it appears that much more board long-term efforts are needed. But this is difficult to accomplish with 4 to 6 year median board tenure that fosters short-term thinking. In addition, the immediate client needs are usually so substantial that there is a human tendency to shift the resource balance toward current band-aid actions rather than long-term sustainability.
5. Does the board have a robust assessment in place, succession-planning efforts to address gaps in expertise and refreshment plans to provide new or different perspectives? Both nonprofit and for-profit boards lack experience and focus on succession planning. Few of the nonprofit boards I have encountered have a succession plan available in the event the CEO is temporarily incapacitated and few have over-viewed the need for assessing promotable internal personnel.
~ Eugene Fram: Professor Emeritus at Saunders College of Business, Rochester Institute of Technology
Many thanks to all who contributed to this article – Deborah Levine: Editor-in-Chief, American Diversity Report.