Category Archives: Academic Papers

End of Affirmative Action? A Tale of Two Stories – by Dr. Carlos Cortés

Keynote Address for Constitutional Law:
The End of Affirmative Action

Part of the Signature DIAlogue Webinar Series of the
Los Angeles County Department of Human Resources

Thank you for the opportunity of reflecting on Affirmative Action, particularly the two recent Supreme Court decisions that struck down the admissions policies of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. I’ll approach this topic as both an 89-year-old retired history professor and a half-century diversity consultant/public lecturer who actually witnessed the birth of affirmative action.    

The six-decade affirmative action journey involves two intersecting stories: a vision story and a systems story. Both are rooted in the civil rights movement and were launched officially by President John F. Kennedy’s March 6, 1961, Executive Order 10925.

Continue reading End of Affirmative Action? A Tale of Two Stories – by Dr. Carlos Cortés

The Demise of Billionaires: Allure of Economic Reckoning – by Ainesh Dey


The case for restricting wealth seems rather intense. Indeed the onus of proof is on those who defend the sanctity of the existence of billionaires, to show why they should be allowed to amass or even siphon off millions of dollars. However, this is not the end of the road. The erecting of a so-called “wealth ceiling”, as championed by Belgian- Dutch philosopher  Ingrid Robeyns  so that “no one has more than an upper threshold of valuable goods”, seems rather baffling in the contemporary age of economic slackness.

Indeed, a world without billionaires, would have profound contemporary significance. With the positive implications ranging from a steep fall in disruptive climatic conditions on the environmental front to reduced incidences of poverty, on the economic front, the grass might seem greener on the other side, however not correctly so, and this is where we get a glimpse of a different picture.

Continue reading The Demise of Billionaires: Allure of Economic Reckoning – by Ainesh Dey

Defining, Practicing, and Protecting Dialogue in Higher Education – by Dr. Carlos E. Cortés

What role can faculty play in changing the national conversation about campus dialogue? 

That’s actually two questions in one.  First, what national conversation –- or conversations — are we talking about?  Second, what role -– or roles — can faculty play?  I’ll take these questions one at a time.  But first let me tell you where I’m coming from.

No, I’m not indulging in today’s identity politics.  I’m not positioning myself by race or sex or gender identity or religion or sexual orientation?  But I am going to play the age card.  At 89, that’s one of the few cards I’ve got left.  And it’s relevant to today’s discussion because age rhymes with experience, and three aspects of my personal journey inform what I’m going to say.

Continue reading Defining, Practicing, and Protecting Dialogue in Higher Education – by Dr. Carlos E. Cortés

Where Are the Women’s Voices? – by Sheryl Axelrod

legal The Under-Representation of Women at the Highest Levels of the Legal Profession 

The extent of gender diversity at the highest levels of the legal profession, is dismal.  

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Embracing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – Dr. Nagwan Zahary

A Business Perspective

Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) becomes a business necessity rather than a choice. Organizations – including businesses, non-profit organizations, colleges and universities  have to reconsider that U.S. is projected to become a majority-minority nation for the first time in 2043 and by 2060, 57 percent of the U.S. population will consist of racially ethnic minorities.1 This change towards a more diverse population will have substantial impact on the workforce and how organizations rethink its processes to manage opportunities and challenges related to DE&I. 

In fact, there is no shortage of suggestions to create inclusive environments. However, it is crucial to think about the role and positioning of DE&I within an organization’s structure. The question here is whether organizations consider DE&I a HR policy, a management-led initiative, an objective, a trend—or a mixture of all four? Some organizations still struggle to properly define DE&I, which impact the development of appropriate DE&I initiatives to empower and engage underrepresented groups. Making progress on that front requires a deep understanding of the concerns, experiences, and perspectives of people with different ethnicities, nationalities, educational backgrounds, sexual orientation, religion, and gender.

To cultivate a more diverse and inclusive workplace, organizations should focus on DE&I as a  strategic business goal rather than a separate initiative or a HR policy. For example, it is not enough that organizations hire employees from different genders, generations, geographies and ethnicities and wait for the magic of DE&I to happen. Considering DE&I as strategic business goals requires specific and measurable actions to engage underrepresented employees within specific timelines. This should be followed by soliciting diverse employees’ inputs in planning and implementing DE&I programs, measuring and reporting outcomes, discussing failures and challenges, and providing solutions to sustain improvements in DE&I programs. Thus, DE&I as a business goal should be embedded in every department, operation, and orchestrated at the organizational levels. In so doing, organizations can achieve meaningful success in promoting, broadening, and maintaining culture of belonging and equitable structures that fully leverage the potential benefits of a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace. 

Furthermore, organizations’ decision-making processes to enhance DE&I as a strategic business goal should be driven by many questions including what DE&I means to internal and external stakeholders, what is the target audience of DE&I programs, what programs can best serve the target groups, and how to measure the impact of DE&I programs on the short and long terms. To answer these questions, organizations should focus on strategic tactics and less anecdotal evidence. Specifically, participatory approach and communication are two strategic tactics—over and above the impact of workplace environment as a whole—shape the degree of impact that DE&I programs exert on marginalized employees. Let’s discuss why these tactics can help organizational efforts transit from diversity towards equity and inclusion, with the ultimate goal to build better work environments instilled by human differences. 

The first tactic is participatory approach that focuses on reaching out and involving marginalized groups in decisions that affect their lives and communities. Crucially, participatory approaches are needed to help employees feel they belong to an inclusive environment where differences are welcomed and valued. Empowerment is a central concept in, and foundation principle of participatory approaches. It underscores the importance of providing a voice to those who have been overlooked for too long and enabling marginalized, diverse people to advance their concerns about DE&I without fear, and provide them opportunities to develop diverse, inclusive, and equitable initiatives. At the core of the concept of empowerment are concerted efforts to (a) improve the competencies of historically marginalized groups by providing them education and mentorship programs to advance their careers, accordingly, increase diversity in leadership positions, and (b) provide marginalized groups with the resources, support, and environment needed to be fully included in the decision-making processes that shape DE&I initiatives. 

The second tactic is effective communication driven by transparency and accountability to bridge the gap between leaders’ and employees’ perspectives about DE&I initiatives. The catch is a two-way communication to ensure that marginalized employees’ concerns and managerial priorities are in alignment. On one hand, managers should clearly communicate DE&I as an integral part of organizational planning linked to organizations’ successes in the marketplace. This requires managers to make a public commitment to enhance DE&I, and be held accountable for desired results. One important aspect of management led-communication is to report about DE&I initiatives by discussing with employees challenges in implementing DE&I programs. Reporting should be based transparency to ensure a thorough communication with underrepresented employees about ways to improve existing and future DE&I initiatives. At the organizational level, a diverse communication team can help increase marginalized employees’ engagement with DE&I through overcoming language and cultural barriers and representing different voices and experiences. On the other hand, employees should commit time and efforts to enhance DE&I by volunteering in diversity committee, participating in surveys to express their concerns, and providing suggestions to improve DE&I initiatives. 

 Needless to say, there are numerous DE&I initiatives to cultivate a diverse and inclusive workplaces. What requires special attention, however, is to set specific metrics to measure the outcomes of DE&I programs to identify what needs improvement and celebrate best practices. Most importantly, organizations should provide training and education for both managers and employees to become more diversity competent and be cognizant of cultural sensitivity. For example, cultural sensitivity trainings can help managers and employees to be more self-aware of their own conscious and unconscious biases. Thus, organizations can require employees at all levels to take regular and mandatory sensitivity trainings to better understand how to coexist in a diverse environment.

The biggest takeaway is that organizations should not consider DE&I as initiatives to comply with government regulations. Organizations should ensure ongoing, open dialogues between managers and marginalized employees to establish a strong foundation for DE&I efforts.  Participatory approaches and effective communication should shape the conversation about DE&I. For leaders, the key message is that DE&I is an evolving journey rather than a static plan. It requires holistic strategies and continual commitment to ensure sustained progress to create inclusive workplaces. 


Increased Youth Engagement and Educational Productivity – by Ainesh Dey


Education is a passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those, who prepare for it today”, as proclaimed by eminent civil rights activist, Malcolm X, bears a deeper intellectual connotation. It brings out the very holistic foundation of education as an instrument of social awareness and development,  with a subtle mention of its contemporary beneficiaries, “the Youth”. Yes, it is the young people who through their rational interpretation of core educational principles, harness the progressive socio-political development of the world. 

The recent phenomenon of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent shift to the digital mode of learning, have accentuated the need for increased efforts towards larger educational accessibility, quality and affordability, central to the role of global development in complete coherence with the recently initiated in the “Education for All” under the broader purview of the “Millennium  Development Goals”, laid out by the United Nations, thereby demanding more nuanced responsibility of the young blood in spearheading a meaningful atmosphere of social inclusion , cohesion and stability.

Continue reading Increased Youth Engagement and Educational Productivity – by Ainesh Dey

Antisemitic Rhetoric on Chattanooga Campus – by Rabbi Craig Lewis

Of all the times to learn that about antisemitic literature circulating in my city, the news reached me during the intermission of “Fiddler on the Roof.” It is a great show that captures a moment in time, combining the folklore of Sholom Aleichem, the imagery of Marc Chagall, and great music by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick to tell a story from the collective Jewish memory. As with true Jewish history, it includes the good and the bad parts of being Jewish. We love “Tradition,” but much of our tradition has been built under the weight of oppression. “Fiddler” does not ignore this as the Russian constable’s promise of a pogrom, a violent attack against Jewish communities, mostly in the Russian Empire. Like Chekov’s gun, the mention of a pogrom comes to fruition and disrupts the joyous wedding scene. Being that this is still musical comedy, the pogrom is sanitized: a few goose pillows are torn up, a table flipped over, and one wedding guest is beaten. There is just enough to suggest what really would have happened. An informed viewer of the show knows it more likely looked like the description from Chayim Nachman Bialik’s poem, “The City of Slaughter,” written about the 1903 pogrom in Kishinev. Here are a few excerpts:

Behold on tree, on stone, on fence, on mural clay,
The spattered blood and dried brains of the dead….

A tale unfold horrific to the ear of man:
A tale of cloven belly, feather-filled;
Of nostrils nailed, of skull-bones bashed and spilled;
Of murdered men who from the beams were hung,
And of a babe beside its mother flung,…

And when thou shalt arise upon the morrow
And go upon the highway,
Thou shalt then meet these men destroyed by sorrow.

These are the images brought to mind by the word pogrom, which marks the end of the show’s first act. Walking to the lobby, I opened my phone to discover a text message from a Jewish student at UTC (University of Tennessee- Chattanooga) who had discovered the antisemitic flier. 

As if it were fact, the flier stated:

“At the height of American slavery, 78% of slave owners were ethnic Jews.” It also asserted that “40% of the Jewish population were slave owners, while only 0.35% of white Americans owned slaves.”

Then there were three footnotes, one presumably to The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery by Junis Rodriguez, and the other two to census data posted on websites of legitimate Jewish organizations. There is so much that is wrong with this flier, my head spins trying to unpack it. First, we start with the statistics and the footnotes. The footnotes do not even come close to supporting the figure it claims. Following the first footnote brings you to a statement that Jews comprised about 1.25 percent of all the slaveowners in the antebellum South,” a far cry from the statistic the flier wanted to prove. Then from the census data linked to the other two footnotes, I tried to determine how the 78% figure was contrived, but it is impossible. Secondly, in addition to making unsupported statistical claims, the flier also sets in opposition “ethnic Jews” versus “white Americans,” as if the Jews in America were not true Americans. Thirdly, and this, in my opinion, is the most important consideration, we have to ask what motivates someone to plaster such misinformation around a college campus, which sits within walking distance of three synagogues and a Jewish cemetery?

Forced to rebut falsehoods, we allow everyone to miss the point. There are nefarious forces trying to sow distrust of Jewish people. They advance a conspiracy theory that there is a hidden truth the Jews do not want you to know. They pit “ethnic Jews” against the pure “white Americans,” and they invite African-Americans to believe the Jewish people are singularly responsible for their oppression. It is damaging and painful, in part because of the historical bond between Blacks and Jews during the Civil Rights movement and beyond, and also because it makes the Jewish community, as a vulnerable minority, hounded by outrageous conspiracy theories since the Middle Ages, fearful that words will lead to action. Labeled as “Christ Killers” during the Crusades, Jewish villages were attacked by religious zealots as they made their way toward the Holy Land. Victims of the “Blood Libel,” a false claim that Jews kidnapped and tortured Christian children to use their blood in the making of Passover matzah, many Jews were wrongfully imprisoned and murdered. Viewed as being untrustworthy and greedy, Jews were expelled from Spain, France, and England. And as the subject of a fictional work, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which was sold as a historical document, allegations of a Jewish plot to control all the world’s wealth and government led to acts of violence against Jews, first across the Russian Empire and eventually around the world. The accumulation false claims about Jewish people motivated attacks, like the fictional pogrom represented in “Fiddler on the Roof,” or the very real Kishinev pogrom described in “The City of Slaughter,” and ultimately the Holocaust which leveraged baseless hate and propaganda to justify the systematic murder of 6 million Jews.

The real kicker is, even though those who posted the insidious flier want to pin responsibility for American slavery on the Jewish people, and even though a preponderance of Jewish Americans at the time lived in the North supporting and fighting for the Union, the vast majority of the world’s Jewish population prior to and during the Civil war was still in Eastern Europe, living under the oppressive rule of the Czar, fleeing from Cossacks, and enduring vicious attacks. Half a world away, America stood as a beacon of freedom, and waves of immigrants fled burning villages for the promise of equality and security. In 1880, there were roughly 250 thousand Jews living in America. Over the next 50 years, nearly 3 million Jews would cross the ocean to settle in the United States. Therefore, the experience of most current American Jews’ ancestors, at the time of the Civil War, was as an oppressed people. Still, those who posted fliers on the UTC campus, would have you believe a false view of history, motivated by the very same lies and bigotry that led to persecution, pogroms, and to the Holocaust.

All of this weighed on my mind as I returned to my theatre seat for the second act of “Fiddler.” I struggled to focus and enjoy the performance as I realized, in 2022 America, the very same lies and beliefs that led to the oppression of my ancestors in Europe, were very much alive. It is part of a larger pattern that is growing in plain sight. Amid the proliferation of antisemitic rhetoric and the permissive silence from those who know better, Jewish people in Chattanooga and around the world are rightly worried, and becoming increasingly afraid that history is about to repeat itself.


1Pogrom is a Russian word meaning ‘to wreak havoc, to demolish violently.’ Historically, the term refers to violent attacks by local non-Jewish populations on Jews in the Russian Empire and in other countries.” (From the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum).


3 Gross overstatement of the Jewish role in the slave trade is a common trope shared by White Supremacist groups as well as the Black Hebrew Israelites (as in the film recently promoted by basketball player Kyrie Irving) and the Nation of Islam. Rather than factual statements about Jewish slave owners in the South, who comprised a small fraction, they attribute blame and responsibility for slavery to the Jewish people as whole. 

4 The flier just says “Rodriquez, p. 385.”

5 “The Jew in the Modern World,” Paul Medes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz, eds., Oxford University Press, 1980, p. 528.

6 “The Jew in the Modern World,” Paul Medes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz, eds., Oxford University Press, 1980, p. 529.


The Ministry of Conversation – by Minister William H. Hicks

“For wherever two or three are gathered (drawn together as My followers) in (into) My Name, there I AM in the midst of them.” [Matthew 18:20AMPC]
(Part of the Series of Practical Instruction for Disciples of Christ)

What is ministry? “A person or thing through which something is accomplished.” [Merriam-Webster Online dictionary]; to serve the needs of others, especially their spiritual needs.

What is conversation? Conversations are discourses, usually between two (2) individuals or, at most (in numbers) small groups of 6 to 9 persons. Conversations are characterized by: intimacy and proximity (although this latter has been redefined by modern communication technology); respect; good listening skills; patience; good intentions; positive energy/passion; no fear; trust/honesty and honest differences of opinion; integrity; hope for a strengthened relationship from having participated in the conversation.

Conversations are usually intentional but may occur spontaneously between two strangers “on a boat, in a car, on a train or on a plane”. One can “strike up” a conversation to “fire up” a relationship. 

Conversations occur at the “intersection of our interactions” (from “Discipleship and Discipline: Second Edition” by William H. Hicks, copyright 2005, 2019). Conversations are the traffic pattern, the thoroughfares of our exchanges, occurring on the social, educational, economic and political freeways of society and culture as well as on the corners of the Main Streets and Maple Avenues of our minds. 

Ever notice how some people are described as skilled, even “brilliant” conversationalists? Debates, even arguments, are conversations (though ‘specialized’). Debates are usually highly structured, with attendant “rules of engagement” and sometimes pre-defined terms that identify the meaning of certain words and may also describe the parameters of the debate in order to identify the winner(s). Arguments are different. Arguments  are almost always subjective, having elements of disagreement based on emotions/feelings vs differences of opinions or competing source materials, aka “facts”.

What then, is the ministry of conversation? It is a special and “specialized” approach to conversation which prioritizes not just the strengthening of the relationship between the apparent participants in the conversation. The highest aim of the ministry of conversation is to strengthen the relationship of the visible participants with the Object and Focus of their conversation, the Lord God, Whose presence is not always ‘apparent’.

This essay will look at five (5) conversations taken from the Bible to examine their characteristics for clues as to how to successfully navigate a relationship (WHAT WE SEE HERE). There are, of course, other conversations that can be reviewed. Further, what the participants bring “to the discourse table” are also important considerations, such as personality, personal history, values, culture, their sense of what makes “community”, their “gender”. The five instances chosen are: The conversation between The Lord God and Moses in Exodus 33:11(AMPC); Paul at Athens on Mars Hill, Acts 17:17-34AMPC; Jesus and Nicodemus, John 3: 1-10AMPC; Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well, John 4: 1-30AMPC; and, Jesus, Cleopas and Cleopas’ companion on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24: 13-35AMPC.


Exodus 33:11aAMPC: “And the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” As we arrive at Exodus 33, we see that God and Moses have a history shared between them, a history of conversations that detail the nature and substance of their relationship (burning bush, Mount Horeb/

Sinai). The Hebrew word for “friend” used in this verse, rea, “connotes companion, friend” (Vine’s; Strong’s), but the connotation in the Hebrew regarding the participants to this conversation conveys a superior (God) and subordinate/supplicant (Moses) aspect to their relationship. This is borne out by the nature and substance of their conversation as it follows in Exodus 33: 11-23AMPC. 

Of the many aspects of the conversation, these stand out: Moses says to his Friend, “Yet You said, I know you by name and you have also found favor in My sight. Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You [progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with You, perceiving and recognizing and understanding more strongly and clearly] and that I may find favor in Your sight.” Moses establishes his position vis a vis his relationship with his Friend as based on God’s statement that Moses has “found favor” in God’s sight. Yet Moses beseeches God, based on that assurance, that God show Moses His way, so that Moses “…may know You… and that I may find favor in Your sight.” This seems rather ‘circular’ to the casual observer, but Moses is really moving to strengthen his relationship with his Friend, having found favor with Him, by seeking greater, deeper intimacy. Moses reminds his Friend, “And [Lord, do] consider that this nation (that, in prior conversations, you have commissioned me to lead) is Your people (my italics)”. Moses takes his commission seriously and his friendship with God as essential to his ability to be successful in discharging his responsibility. Moses knows where he stands with his Friend and Moses knows that he must never abrogate that position. Moses seeks greater intimacy with his Friend as the only position from which he can do successfully what he has been called to do.


These aspects of the conversation between God and His friend, Moses, characterize a healthy relationship between them: intimacy and proximity; respect; good listening skills; patience; good intentions; positive energy/passion; no fear, although on Moses’ account his reverential fear of the Lord is real and tangible; trust/honesty; integrity; hope for a strengthened relationship from having participated in the conversation. This latter is the unspoken, yet core desire of each party to any conversation. As the conversation proceeds, Moses gains confidence and asks his Friend to assure him that his Friend’s Presence will always be with him as he pursues his mission. Emboldened further by his Friend’s assurances (v.17), Moses makes the ultimate petition: “…I beseech You, show me Your glory.” 

The relationship between God and His friend was so strong that the Lord even shared with Moses His intentions to destroy the Israelites out of His righteous anger at their idolatry. I mean, God was “incensed”! The Lord says to His friend, “Now therefore, leave Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and that I may destroy them; but you (My friend- my addition), I will make of you a great nation.”(Exodus 32:10AMPC). God’s friend, Moses, does not “leave God alone.” A friend sticks closer than a brother. A friend knows the value of listening to their Friend’s heart, when to be silent and not being quick to offer “solutions”. God’s friend ‘helped’ Him with managing His righteous anger by interceding on Israel’s behalf, reminding his Friend of His prior promises and commitments outlined in previous conversations between them. Ultimately, God strengthened His and Moses’ relationship throughout its duration. Yes, Moses did disappoint his Friend on subsequent occasions, but Moses’ Friend was always faithful to their relationship.


Acts 17:15-34AMPC recounts the apostle Paul’s visit to Athens, Greece and specifically to the Mars Hill neighborhood of that city. Mars Hill was where the “intellectuals”, the Epicureans and the Stoic philosophers hung out and engaged in discourse among themselves. Two things of import are noted in the passages recounting the ensuing conversation between Paul and the Grecian intellectuals: 1) Paul was ‘angered’ by the presence of all the idols in Athens; 2) Paul’s personality- fiery, confrontational, fueled by his great passion and energy (Acts 9:1-2AMPC; Acts 15:38-40AMPC;!Al4xqC0eZvxWilPY3JKzrY0PiMCJ) was the “accelerant” God used to motivate Paul’s engagement of the Athenian philosophers. Paul was also an intellectual, a linguist and skilled also in the methods of conversational engagement so as to be able to meet the denizens of the Areopagus on their own terms. 


Paul’s point of entry into engagement with the Areopagans was first to notice something about them that he (Paul) had observed. Paul engaged in competent observation before he made any judgments about the Athenians: ‘I notice your shrine to “the unknown god”’. This is a hallmark of a good conversationalist: “My, what a lovely hat you’re wearing, dear! Wherever did you buy it?” Having established “common ground” upon which they could converse, Paul then moved to engagement. Paul proceeded to present the Gospel as the answer/insight to their curiosity about that which they sensed intuitively but couldn’t quite put a finger on. Some of the Athenian philosophers scoffed; some of them were engaged but not, at first, convinced; a few (Dionysius and “a woman named Damaris”) were convinced and converted. When Paul was confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus and converted from being Christ’s enemy to being Christ’s advocate, the Lord did not change Paul’s personality. Paul was the same “fired up” individual he was when he was called “Saul”; what changed about him, among other things, was the purpose, focus, direction and method of application of his energy. Paul was, essentially the “same guy” from a personality perspective (Type A), but he was changed for the better in order to discharge more effectively the mission upon which he had been sent.

A note about venue: Paul converses with anyone at any time in any place: Acts 17:17AMPC: “So he reasoned and argued in the synagogue with the Jews and those who worshiped there, and in the marketplace [where assemblies are held] day after day with any who chanced to be there.” See prior reference to “planes, trains and automobiles.” The “church” has no walls.


In John 3:1-11AMPC, Nicodemus, identified in the translation as a “Pharisee, a ruler/leader (member of the Sanhedrin), an authority among the Jews”, visits Jesus by night to engage Him in conversation. Some might say, to debate Jesus; I don’t agree. Seeking to establish a rapport with Jesus, Nicodemus calls Him “Rabbi”, notes that “we” know and are certain that You have come from God [as] a Teacher;… Thus, I believe that Nicodemus came seeking instruction and not merely validation of his status as an authority, his “position power”. For Nicodemus, the conversation goes in an entirely unexpected direction. Jesus ignores Nicodemus’ attempt to establish a rapport based on  ‘common values’ of  flattery and “position power” recognition, to establish a “common ground” in a hierarchy in which Jesus has absolutely no interest whatsoever.  Jesus starts talking about “anatomy” (or so thinks the learned Nicodemus)! Jesus completely ignores Nicodemus’ attempt to “butter Jesus up” and goes straight to the heart of His concern: Nicodemus’ salvation. Nicodemus, thoroughly disconcerted, defaults to biology until Jesus, the Teacher, begins to educate Nicodemus about “spiritual biology”. Jesus diverts Nicodemus’ attention away from the temporal to the eternal, from the mundane to the magnificent. 


Once Jesus had created the opening in Nicodemus’ mind to consider spiritual matters vs merely “religious” concerns (“we know…”), Jesus turns the conversation into a teaching opportunity. Jesus goes straight to the heart of the real reason Nicodemus came to him (by night) in the first place: (“we… are certain that You come from God [as] a Teacher;…) Nicodemus is really seeking enlightenment and illumination. Jesus gives Nicodemus what he is truly seeking, that is, insight into the God Whom “we” (the Pharisees) worship. ‘We’ are “certain” that You are acquainted with and know our God. Tell me about God. Jesus obliges Nicodemus’ curiosity by use of metaphors (water and wind), temporal things with which Nicodemus is familiar. Jesus assures Nicodemus of His authority to speak on these matters based on the truth (and fact) that He is speaking from experience, Gr., epignosis, or knowledge based on actual interaction with that about which (and Whom) He is speaking (John 3:11-13AMPC). At this point in the gospel narrative, it’s unclear whether the conversation with Nicodemus continues, but what follows is the Great Declaration: “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. (John 3:16AMPC)”. 

We know from further reading that this conversation with Jesus was so impacting on Nicodemus that Nicodemus advocated for Jesus before the Sanhedrin (John 7:50-51AMPC).  Further Nicodemus was the one who bought (at his personal expense) the items necessary to the anointing of Jesus’ body (John 19:39-40AMPC) to accord Him a proper burial. In a sense, it could be said of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus that they risked their  lives going to Pilate to seek Jesus’ body, thereby identifying themselves as Jesus’ followers and potential threats to the Roman hegemony. The impact of honest, in-depth conversations where fear is absent and trust abounds, can have lifelong and positive implications. 


John’s Gospel Chapter 4 has a lot in it; most of it (vv. 1-42) is devoted to the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman from the village of Sychar. The chapter opens with the observation that first John the Baptist, and now this Jesus, are winning the “popularity contest” with the Pharisees. It’s highly questionable whether John or Jesus was engaged in or interested in a ‘competition’ with the Pharisees to see who could gain the most followers, but it’s noted that Jesus was aware of the Pharisees’ concerns. Jesus and His disciples then leave Judea (the region of Jerusalem, Bethlehem) and head north to Galilee (Nazareth, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, Chorazin). Why is the geographical orientation important here? First, verse 4AMPC reads: “It was necessary for Him to go through Samaria.” The route taken by Jesus and the disciples was the shortest route to their destination (it usually took three days to make the journey). It is important also to note the context in which the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman took place because the route went through the region of Samaria which the Jews of the day avoided like the plague so as to prevent coming into contact with those nasty, half-breed Samaritans. Sychar is on the west side of the Jordan River, near Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal. The Jews of the day usually went along the east side of the Jordan, through Perea, in order to avoid contact with the Samaritans whom the Jews considered anathema.

As there was no public transportation system at that time (planes, trains and automobiles), the journey was made on foot. By the time Jesus and the disciples got to Sychar (about noon), they were hot, tired, hungry and… wait for it…thirsty. “And Jacob’s well is there” (v.6), given by Jacob to his son Joseph. Jesus sits down near the well to rest His tired, aching feet and asks a Samaritan woman coming to draw water to give Him a drink. Oh, it’s on, now! Er, I mean, the conversation ensues.


I encourage you to read this entire chapter 4 of John’s Gospel CLOSELY. As noted earlier, it has A LOT in it.THING ONE: Jesus, by His behavior, condemns racism and misogyny in one fell swoop. He’s thirsty. Jacob’s well is nearby. A person is coming to draw. Jesus is not concerned nor does He take into consideration that the person is a Samaritan AND a woman. Jesus asks for a drink to quench His thirst. Recall the similar encounter between Abraham’s chief servant Eliezer and Rebecca in Genesis 24 (please see “Discipleship and Discipline: Second Edition” by William Hicks, Zondervan Westbow Press for further insight into the significance of that encounter). The woman recognizes that Jesus is a Jewish man; she knows the socio-ethnic-religious paradigm currently in play at that time, so she is curious that this Guy seems to be ignoring the rules (v.9); He might just be a prophet!  Jesus has “set the hook” and He takes over the conversation, steering it in the direction He always intended, towards the woman’s salvation. THING TWO IN THREE PARTS: a) the Spirit/spiritual vs the physical; b) sparkling/living water vs the plain old variety; c) husband vs no husband number 5 (RELATIONSHIP). 

Thing Two Part a: the woman of Samaria has been drawn into a deep spiritual conversation. She enters therein by noting the Samaritans’ history of worshiping on Mt. Gerizim and the schism between the Jews and the Samaritans regarding the PROPER PLACE to worship the Lord (Mt. Zion vs Mt. Gerizim). Jesus takes her DEEPER, stating that “place” has no place for the true worshipers of God. As God is Spirit/a spiritual being, worship is appropriate, née, de riguer at any time in any place (vv.23,24). In JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books, the Hogwarts students play Quidditch, a game in which the “shortest route” to a win is to catch the Snitch; only the seeker can capture the Snitch. Jesus states that salvation is the ultimate objective of God, its no game and God Himself is the Seeker; we are the “snitches” God is pursuing. This is directly in line with the Great Declaration in John 3:16AMPC and Jesus demonstrates and manifests that He is all about that, even for the hated Samaritans and the ill-treated, disrespected women, not just for the “Chosen ones”, the Jews. 

Thing Two Part b: sparkling/living water vs the plain old variety. All water is good… as long as its not polluted! We/our bodies are said to be 55% (women) to 60% (men) water (; water is necessary to life…physical life. You cannot make tea or coffee with it. You cannot “shower” in it, but having been “bathed/washed” in it, you are clean. The water Jesus references is necessary to spiritual life, eternal life. This living water is not H2O. You cannot make it out of anything merely physical, like two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. This living/sparkling water is the Word/word of God itself. It is the Deuteronomy 8:3/Matthew 4:4/Luke 4:4 Word/water that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Note that this Word/water has different qualities and potentialities than the H2O variety. Yes, H2O is necessary for life…physical life, but this living/sparkling Word/water is necessary for eternal life. This Word/water is life itself/has a “life” of its own (Hebrews 4:12AMPC). This living/sparkling Word/water, once ingested, operates ON AND FROM the spirit inside us, changing each of us, our leb (Hebrew), our “heart-mind” fusion from the inside out. 

Thing Two Part c: RELATIONSHIP. It has been noted that we are “spiritual beings having natural experiences.” For most of our lives this reality has been presented as a conundrum, a “confusing and difficult problem or question (Google online dictionary)”. While we are, indeed, physical creatures, we are constantly in pursuit of affirmation/confirmation of our spiritual natures, whether through sex (orgasms), religious experiences (“enlightenment”, “nirvana”, “slain in the spirit”) or interpersonal relationships (marriage, community, culture). The Samaritan woman had been on a quest, a quest to find personal meaning and affirmation. To the point of her encounter with Jesus, her efforts had been futile, fruitless and frustrating. Her culture and community had indoctrinated her to the point that she was convinced that meaning and affirmation could only be achieved only in a certain place (Mt. Gerizim) or in a certain way, i.e.,  in relation to and in relationship with a man/male. Thus, she had sought meaning and fulfillment through five (5) “husband” (v.18) relationships. Note to today: this is the root of misogyny. 

Jesus dismantles the Samaritan woman’s entire paradigm, in favor of a more solid, substantial and eternal foundation. Jesus re-orients her in space and in time: in her “inner” self perception (that space between “her” and “self” is deliberate), spiritually and physically; and in her ethnicity/culture. The Samaritan woman is changed so profoundly that she now becomes the instrumentality through which the reality of her friends and neighbors can be changed. She becomes (instantly?) an evangelist, leaving her “water jar” to become a living/sparkling water “jar”, enabling her compatriots to come into relationship with the Source of her (and their) salvation (vv.27-30, 39-42) through facilitation of a conversation between Jesus and the citizens of Sychar. 


Luke 24:13-35AMPC, records a conversation about current events, a topic which, historically and perennially, has formed a foundation for conversations among acquaintances, friends and even strangers since the beginnings of civilization. In this example, two friends are walking along, discussing the most important (to them) events of recent days, commiserating with each other about the implications of these occurrences and the (seeming and assumed) dashing of their hopes, dreams and aspirations as a consequence of these events. The two friends are joined by another Traveler going in the same direction Who, catching up to them, engages them in conversation about their discourse: “Hey, guys! How’s it going? What’s up?” To them, this Person is a stranger; but, they actually stop walking to look at Him. Cleopas is somewhat amazed that this Stranger, coming from the same direction from which they had just come, could be unaware of what has just happened in Jerusalem (current events). Cleopas shares the news (the crucifixion of the Prophet from Nazareth) and its impact on him and his companion (they are sad and downcast and disappointed). Cleopas gives the Stranger the straight up “skinny”, including all the details of who did what, when these events occurred and the astonishing news from “some women of our company” that the Prophet, having been publicly put to death, was yet alive(!). 


At this point in the conversation and along the journey’s way, the Stranger takes the lead in the conversation and begins to explain the significance and implications of these current events. The Stranger uses a kerygmatic method to share His eschatological world view… wait, what?! He “breaks it down” for them, “beginning with Moses and [throughout] all the Prophets, explaining and interpreting to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning and referring to Himself (Luke 24:27-27AMPC).” The traveling companions are enthralled. As they near their journey’s end and the Stranger signals that He was going further, they “urge and insist” that He stay with them so that they could continue their conversation over a meal. It was at this point, the point of worship, fellowship and the giving of thanks  that the two companions were enabled to recognize Who had been traveling and conversing with them and instantly, He was gone.

Cleopas and his friend realized that they had to share this experience with the other disciples and immediately journeyed back to Jerusalem to tell the Eleven apostles and the other disciples that they had encountered the risen Messiah on their way, only to hear from the disciples the same Good News they were intending to share with them! And then, Jesus Himself appears among them! They see Him. They feel Him. He eats food they had prepared with their own hands. Jesus again employs kerygmatic methods to share His eschatology- OK, He engaged them conversationally in order to translate and transfer to them His biblically-based world view- as the foundation to empower and commission His followers to spread the Good News and to “make disciples” among all the nations (see also Matthew 28:18-20AMPC).  


  1. WE SHOULD TAKE TIME TO MAKE TIME TO TALK TO EACH OTHER. When we are in conversation with each other, it becomes easier to recognize our common humanity. Conversations facilitate our recognition of the God in each other, thereby making it much harder to not “love one another.”
  2. CONVERSATIONS ARE AT THE LEAST RELATIONSHIP “GAME CHANGERS” AND AT THEIR MOST, “LIFE CHANGING” ENCOUNTERS. If our conversations exhibit the characteristics of positive, intentional interactions- “intimacy and proximity; respect; good listening skills; patience; good intentions; positive energy/passion; no fear; trust/honesty and honest differences of opinion; integrity; hope for a strengthened relationship from having participated in the conversation”, it will be well-nigh impossible for those so engaged to walk away unchanged and to not be the “better” for the experience.
  3. LISTENING IS A RELATIONAL ACTIVITY. Some one person talks, another or others listen. Good communications in relationships is built on how well the parties to the relationship LISTEN to one another and not on how smooth one talks or how large the vocabulary of the other. The CHIEF COMPLAINT in most failing relationships- whether they be failing marriages, failing parent-child, teacher-student, employer-employee or Teacher-disciple relationships- is that some one is not listening or some one is being misunderstood. Not allowing your partner the opportunity to express him or herself is the same thing as not listening. Matthew 28:18-20AMPC; Acts 1:8AMPC; Romans 10:14AMPC.
  4. “CLEAR YOUR MIND OF QUESTIONS” (Yoda, Jedi Master). “It’s OK to ask God questions; it’s not OK to ‘question’ God”. Be careful with questions in conversations. Some types of questions are usually the product of a negative attitude and can be a product of prejudice and self-centeredness. The difference is the attitude of our hearts and the position of our minds. Contrast the conversations at Genesis 3:1ffAMPC and John 3:4ffNASB; and see also James 1:5-6AMPC.
  5. THROW OUT THE GARBAGE: We often “hear” through filters. These filters can be:
  • The residue of past experiences;
  • Traditions strongly held;
  • Emotions which echo down through the years.
  1. KNOW YOUR MATH… God gave us two (2) ears and one (1) mouth and we should use them proportionately (Romans 12:3ESV) …AND DON’T LISTEN WITH YOUR EARS FULL. For most of us, we can’t listen well because our ears are full of the sound of our own voices, our own thoughts. We focus on me, myself and I rather than on the one who is speaking to us! Don’t drown out your partner! Allow one who is speaking to you TO BE HEARD BY YOU! Example: “I already know what you are going to say before you say it!” (Jeremiah 6:10NIV; Zechariah 7:11-13NIV; 2Timothy 4:3-4NLT).
  2. CLARIFY, DON’T ASSUME! Often, we assume we are speaking the same language as the person with whom we are exchanging words (Genesis 11:1AMPC). Make sure of this! (John 8:43AMPC). Practice Ardena Hicks’ “Reflection Method”: Reflect, then Respond.
  3. “LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP or PAUSE BEFORE YOU SPEAK”. Hear what YOU are going to say BEFORE you say it (SEE #7, Reflection Method). CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY. Don’t just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. (Proverbs 18:13MSG; Proverbs 29:20NLT). CHOOSE YOUR VOICE CAREFULLY. Be mindful: it’s not so much alone WHAT you say as it is also important HOW you say what you say. (I Corinthians 13:1 MSG/AMPC/KJV/TLB and other translations of this verse.
  4. Finally, Isaiah 50:4-7NASB/AMPC/TLB/KJV/NIV/NLT/MSG.


Equity Rising: DEI Expertise in the Boardroom – by Dr. Deborah Ashton, Tracie Hall


After the killing of George Floyd, Equity Rising, a group of Black professionals, came together to address social justice and equity in the government and in corporations. They believed that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) expertise is essential to the total sustainability strategy of corporations and, therefore, is an essential boardroom function. The DEI expertise brings both functional and demographic diversification of board members.  This article contends that since traditionally the DEI function has been populated primarily by people of color and women, DEI expertise will add to the demographic diversification of the board. With the increase in demographic diversity for other functional board positions, DEI experts will aide in establishing a critical mass of women and people of color in the boardroom. 

After the killing of George Floyd and with the social unrest that followed, the first author (Dr. Ashton) was talking with Robert Ingram, publisher of the Urban Health Report, that something needed to be done to promote social justice and equity using a two-prong approach, working both through policing and corporations. She believed this two-prong approach would have sustainable positive change for social justice and equity through all facets of Black lives by holding corporations and government entities accountable. This was the beginning of Equity Rising and the push to have Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) expertise in the boardroom. 

DEI Expertise in the Boardroom

On August 6, 2020, Dr. Johnnetta Cole, President And Chair, National Council Of Negro Women and Melonie Parker, Chief Diversity Officer, Google, discussed the importance of Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) having a voice in the C-suite of corporations. Dr. Cole gave Candi Castleberry, a supporter of Equity Rising, credit for bringing together Black professional women, many who serve as CDOs, and focused on elevating the CDO to the C-suite. (CNNBusiness, 2020) Dr. Cole believed that adding CDOs to the C-Suite would bring that expertise to the decision table and increase the demographic diversification of the C-Suite. Equity Rising would like to see CDOs represented in both the C-suite and on boards, just as there is CFO representation, bringing a diversification of function and demographics to the boardroom.

Many CDOs and retired CDOs have a broad base experience to contribute to the strategic sustainability of the corporation. To borrow from Dr. Cole’s general discussion of having Black representation in the C-suite,

     “We stand in solidarity with all allies’ communities, but there is a specific need especially at this moment in our country for corporate America, for all organizations to address systemic racism that affects Black people. And [there is not] a contradiction in calling for that and standing simultaneously with all marginalized communities.” (CNNBusiness, 2020) 

Marginalized communities, which include all non-dominant groups, including women, Latinos, Asians, indigenousness people and other marginalized groups nationally and globally, need to be represented on corporate boards. In 2020, people of color were only 12.5% of corporate boards. Black board members comprised only 4% of the total board seats, and Black women only 1.5% (Eavis, 2020). There is a push to increase the presence of people of color on corporate boards. Since 2020 to mid-2022, the representation of people of color on boards has increased to 23% for the S&P 500 index and to 16% from 7% for the Russell 3000 index  (Michael & Mishra, 2022).

The described model of intentionally increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of the board is similar to the one used to obtain more gender diversity on boards. For decades, Irene Natividad, President of the Global Summit of Women, an annual international gathering of women leaders and co-chair of Corporate Women Directors International has advocated for the increased participation of women on corporate boards globally. Natividad is a strong believer in specific targets. And to executives who would argue that women do not have the industry or discipline experience to be on boards, she answers, “did Vice President Gore have tech experience when he got on the board of Apple? There are other skills that are needed, … There are untapped women… The pool is there, it’s just a question of creating the demand…” She acknowledged that the demand is sometimes created by quotas for instance, in California or the UK or the EU. (Nurole, 2019) 

We believe that the demand for CDO representation on the board is for marketing, the consumer part, and human resources. But additionally, CDO board members can promote equity and social justice, guard against brand erosion and promote a nimble response in these transformational times.

On December 1, 2020, Nasdaq proposed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that companies listed on Nasdaq publicly divulge the diversity representation of their board of directors and that SEC require “at least two diverse directors, including one who self-identifies as female and one who self-identifies as either an underrepresented minority or LGBTQ+.” (Nasdaq, 2020). 

Anthony Romero, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union stated that Nasdaq is bending to this period of history (Nasdaq, 2020). We note that this period in history has been propelled by the Black Lives Matter movement worldwide. Historically, the United Farm Workers Movement, Women’s Rights Movement (Women’s Liberation Movement) and Gay Rights Movements, followed in the footsteps of the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights Movement, that is, the Black Movement. 

As seen by the change in board representation from 2020 to mid-2022, corporations are being driven by SEC requirements and shareholders’ demand for more diversity on the corporate boards. SEC approved Nasdaq proposal on August 9, 2021 that most companies listed on the exchange will have to hire (a) at least one director who self-identifies as female, and (b) one director who self-identifies as a person of color or LGBTQ+ (Hartunian, 2021).

This period of history fosters the need for CDOs to be appointed to boards, just as CHROs and retired CHROs are now appointed to boards.  CHROs are needed because of their broad base contribution to the overall strategic success and to increase gender diversity, and CDOs and retired CDOs should likewise be appointed to the board because of their broad base contribution to the overall strategic success and to increase racial and ethnic diversity across genders. Equity Rising has had discussions with some former CEOs and executives who may influence board selection. There has been more resistance in suggesting that CDOs be on boards than there has been for CHROs. Part of the concern is that in many companies, even though CDOs were given global responsibility, they were not represented in the C-suite. However, we would argue, even if the CDOs were not represented in the C-suite, many diversity leaders established and served on global Executive Diversity Councils chaired by the CEO or CFO and made presentations to both the C-suite and the board of directors. With Nasdaq’s SEC request, we are hopeful that corporations will look to leaders with DEI expertise for board membership.

One former CEO was concerned about admitting CDOs to the board because in past years, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) had been added to boards and the CIOs had a very narrow focus of expertise that did not lend itself to a board’s view. While Michael Hyter, President and CEO, The Executive Leadership Council and former Chief Diversity Officer for Korn Ferry, is a successful example of a CDO who was appointed to a board (Dine Brands Global, Inc.), he is seen as the exception to the rule because he had experience as a Managing Partner at Korn Ferry and the President of Global Novations, a $40M business with 250 staff.

 Most people of color, most women of color, neither have executive C-Suite experience in corporate America, nor in direct feeder roles such as CFOs, P&L leaders and general counsel that may lead to CEO or board positions (Larker & Tayan, 2020).  People of color are underrepresented in the C-suite. They are 16 percent of the C-suite positions and only 13 percent of the positions that are readily considered for boards, such as, CEO, CFO, and P&L executives. Twenty-six percent of the Fortune 100 have no people of color reporting directly to the CEO (C+1 positions); six percent have no people of color or women as direct reports to the CEO and only four percent of CFOs are people of color. (Larker & Tayan, 2020). Similar to the racial statistics for talent, women hold 25 percent of C-suite positions and only seven percent of the CEO positions are held by women (Larker & Tayan, 2020).

However, many people of color have had meaningful executive level roles and advanced degrees, such as, MBAs and doctorate degrees, requiring rigorous analytical, empirical and decision making before or while functioning as a CDO in corporate America. And this experience can translate into transferable skills for board positions. Bersin refers to the CDO position as “One of the toughest jobs in business” He argues that it is tough because it “is a management strategy, not an HR program.” (Bersin, 2020)

Anderson from LinkedIn Talent Solutions argues that the “Head of Diversity is the job of the moment”, not only because diversity and inclusion “drive business results [increased sales, revenue, stock price] and spark innovation”, but there is a “positive difference in the brand perception of companies with a diversity and inclusion function versus companies without one.” Based on global data, organizations with a dedicated D & I office were 22% more likely to be viewed as industry-leaders with exceptional talent and 12% more likely to be viewed as inclusive for people of color and various backgrounds. (Anderson, 2020)

So why compare CDOs to CIOs? We would argue that CDOs have a strategic view of the organization and that global and corporate CDOs understand and implement DEI as an ecosystem strategy—affecting all the key business areas:  operations, sales, marketing, procurement, community involvement/corporate social responsibility, strategic planning, and human resources (Ashton, 2011; Ashton & McElvane, 2019).

Research for Russell Reynolds by Paikeday, et al. found that successful CDOs collaborate and influence across functions. That CDOs are not simply ambidextrous, they are quinquedextrous that is, CDOs are proficient in five business areas. CDOs’ proficiencies include 1) being strategic executors, 2) data-savvy storytellers, 3) influencer champions, 4) savvy and authentic communicators, and 5) pragmatic disruptors. (Paikeday, Sachar, & Stuart, 2019)

When one of the former CEOs compared CDOs to CIOs and expressed concerns with having an emphasis on the Black experience because of the current unrest, Ashton’s response was to emphasize that the overall diversification of boards is essential. Board members need to represent all stakeholders, not any one group. And in these transformational times, CDOs would represent all stakeholders by virtue of their expertise. Because CDOs would focus on equity and social justice, domestically and globally.  CDOs would add a valuable perspective to the board impacting CSR, externally, and policies, practices, and procedures, internally. CDOs need to be viewed as full peers with other board members.  Part of diversification is diversifying what is seen as essential functions on the board. DEI professionals have a broader breadth and understanding of the organization than the IT specialists. 

The importance of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) to socially responsible investors is also a factor in understanding the rationale for having a DEI perspective on the board. ESG refers to the three key factors when measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a business or company. Most socially responsible investors, such as, BlackRock and Vanguard, evaluate corporations using ESG criteria to determine which corporations will have an impact on positive social change (Market Business News, 2022). 

We believe CDOs who have worked strategically across the organization will have readily addressed the social and governance aspects of ESG. The CDO’s focus on inclusion must encompass respect, integrity, belongingness, and transparency (Ashton D. P., Inclusive Culture Profile, 2016). Inclusion covers the S of ESG, which is how people are treated (respect and belongingness) and the G of ESG, which is how corporations regulate themselves (integrity and transparency). 

Just as the CFO specialist or CMO specialist, that are often sought as board members, the CDOs, who have had a companywide span of DEI crossing multiple functions, have a strategic view of the organization and see the organization as an ecosystem (Ashton D. , 2011) (Ashton & McElvane, 2019). They understand Porter’s five competitive forces that determine profitability—threat of new entrants, bargaining power of suppliers, bargaining power of buyers, threat of substitute products and intensity of rivalry; Porter’s four forces that determine success—1)factor conditions, e.g., human capital and capital resources as well as infrastructure, 2) the quality demanded by the consumers, 3) the absence or presence of related and supporting industries, e.g., suppliers needed for success, 4) the company’s strategy; and Porter’s value chain, understanding the relationship between the primary activities, such as, operations, marketing and sales and the supporting activities, such as, human resources, research and development or procurement, and how to leverage any component of the value chain for a competitive advantage (Ankli, 1992). CDOs have provided advice that have kept corporations from making critical mistakes that could erode brand equity and have during these times helped corporations maintain and enhance brand equity while addressing the needs of the employees.

Imagine, if, in 1998, Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America had a strong DEI voice on the board maybe their reputation would have avoided being tarnished by the sexual harassment scandal and a legal judgement costing $34 million (Ashton D. P., 2013); or Ford Motor Company’s $22 million settlements in the 1990s and having the same problem in 2017; or the sexual harassment scandals at FOX and ABC.  Imagine if a DEI expert were on the board for H&M, Prada, and Gucci whose brands suffered from what was perceived as racist imagery. Imagine if a DEI expert had been on Facebook’s board would Facebook have lost 6% of its revenue because of the advertiser boycott which was an outgrowth of Facebook allowing the “Boogaloo Boys” on their site that incited violence and printed hate speech.

CDOs have had broad experiences establishing Executive Diversity Councils, and by providing insight to human resources, to marketing, to sales, and to procurement; they have had regular interaction with the C-Suite and have had cross functional partnerships (Paikeday, Sachar, & Stuart, 2019) (Ashton D. P., Diversity Action Committees at Novant Health–North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, 2014).

On its website Russel Reynolds asks, Is Your Board Positioned for Sustainable Success? Two of the inquiries to determine if the board is positioned are:

  • Is your culture inclusive? 
  • Does your board value differences?   (Russell Reynolds, 2020)

If DEI is critical to equitable treatment, sustainability, driving business results and innovation, and guarding against brand erosion, professionals with a broad breadth of CDO experience would add value to boards. They are quinquedextrous and they readily address the SG of ESG. 

Next Steps/Recommendations

While we would argue that there are CDOs and retired CDOs who are currently quinquedextrous and practice these competencies by being strategic, tactical, and practical, we must lay groundwork to make the consideration of CDOs for board positions a norm. One former CEO recommended that we start by petitioning current CEOs and board members to consider candidates with CDO experience. Other successful strategies for changing the board makeup have been shareholders who advocate for change, for instance, pension funds, investment funds and private equity funds have banded together, and they have written letters and approached CEOs of companies (Nurole, 2019). Another CEO recommendation was to have retired CDOs provide advisory services to and training for the boards of Directors. A long-term strategy is for current CDOs and their allies to request or recommend that CDOs have a seat in the C-suite and the next step would be grooming them for future board positions.

However, if we want quicker movement for this critical expertise on the board, organizations may have to take the same preeminent strategy that was used for increasing the number of women on board positions globally. Natividad refers to it as helicoptering women into board seats, since “it is harder to grow them from the inside.” (Nurole, 2019)

We would recommend that in this pivotal time, it is a necessity to helicopter professionals with DEI expertise into board seats. Besides for the DEI expertise, it would bode well to have professionals who have experienced first-hand the unintentional adverse impact policies, practices and procedures have had on Black employees, customers, and the Black community. DEI experts are prime candidates to promote the learning-and-effectiveness paradigm that Ely and Thomas (Ely & Thomas, 2020) describe as essential to systemic change and a power shift. This systemic change “combat forms of discrimination and subordination that inhibit employees’ ability to thrive” and emphasizes that “Companies will not reap benefits from diversity unless they build a culture that insists on equality” (Ely & Thomas, 2020).

The perfect storm of the killing of George Floyd and the COVID-19 pandemic has made the importance of having DEI expertise on boards clear. This external ‘chance’ event has exerted enormous pressure on Porter’s “4 Forces That Determine Success” included: 1) company strategy, structure & rivalry; 2) related and supporting industries; 3) demand conditions; and 4) factor conditions (Ankli, 1992). DEI expertise has been essential in navigating this perfect storm. DEI expertise can provide direction to systemic change and a power shift promoting equitable treatment of Black people and all marginalized groups both internally and externally to the corporation.

When James White, former CEO of Jamba Juice, was asked by the first author about DEI in the boardroom, he stated, “CEOs must lead the work around Culture and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion—the CEO can never delegate leadership and culture!” and that those efforts should have the strong governance and support of the board to measure progress. White has had a strong commitment to social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion; however, not all CEOs have White’s expertise.  

While the CEO can never delegate leadership and culture, CEOs who do not have White’s expertise can add CDOs to the board. The CDO’s expertise is a valuable asset to boards. CEOs, COOs, CFOs and CHROs from both the culture’s dominant group and marginalized groups are welcome allies. But some board members can’t see the trees for the forest. They have a bird’s-eye view—seeing the big picture. But with DEI and ESG, sometimes the devil is in the details. The board member with the CDO expertise may be able to see both the forest and the tree because they have experienced both simultaneously. They can toggle between the trees and the forest—considering primary, secondary and tertiary consequences in the S and G of the ESG.


Anderson, B. (2020, September 2). Why the Head of Diversity is the Job of the Moment. Retrieved from LinkedIn Talent Solutions:

Ankli, R. E. (1992). Michael Porter’s Competitive Advantage and Business History. BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC HISTORY, 228-236.Ashton, D. (2011, Spring). What Makes A World Class Organization? Diversity MBA, pp. 46-48.

Ashton, D. P. (2013, December 16). Resolve Problems Before They Begin. Retrieved from Chief Learning Officer:

Ashton, D. P. (2014, December 16). Diversity Action Committees at Novant Health–North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. Retrieved from Reports-HPOE:

Ashton, D. P., & McElvane, P. A. (2019, September). Seven Stages of Inclusion (7SI) Maturity Model. Diversity Business Review, pp. 6-11.

Bersin, J. (2020, July 20). Chief Diversity Officer: The Toughest Job in Business. . Retrieved from JoshBersin:

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Eavis, P. (2020, September 15). Diversity Push Barely Budges Corporate Boards to 12.5%, Survey Finds. Retrieved from The New York Times:

Ely, R. J., & Thomas, D. A. (2020, November 1). Getting Serious About Diversity: Enough Already with the Business Case. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review:

Hartunian, J. S. (2021, August 10). SEC Greenlights Board Diversity Requirements. Retrieved from The National Law Review:

Larker, D. F., & Tayan, B. (2020). Diversity in the C-Suite. Palo Alto: Stanford Closer Look Series: Corporate Governance Research Initiative.

Michael, F., & Mishra, S. (2022, July 21). Racial and Ethnic Diversity on U.S. Corporate Boards—Progress Since 2020. Retrieved from Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance:

Nasdaq. (2020, December 1). Nasdaq to Advance Diversity through New Proposed Listing Requirements. Retrieved from Nasdaq:

Nurole. (2019, August 2). After campaigning for board gender balance for decades Irene Natividad is finally seeing result. Retrieved from Nurole:

Paikeday, T. S., Sachar, H., & Stuart, A. (2019, March 1). A Leader’s Guide: Finding and Keeping Your Next Chief Diversity Officer. Retrieved from Russell Reynolds:

Russell Reynolds. (2020). Is Your Board Ready for What’s Next? Retrieved from:

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Ashton, D. P. (2016). Inclusive Culture Profile. Planet Perspective, LLC.

Challenges of Teaching about Diversity and Health Equity – by Carlos E. Cortés

A Difficult Conversation about Difficult Conversations forDeveloping Medical Educators of the 21st Century:
New Ideas and Skills
for Adaptable and Inclusive
Learning Environments Conference

February 4, 2022 (Revised, February 6, 2022)

 Let’s start with today’s ground rules.  None.  No rules; no powerpoints.

But three hopes.  That you speak honestly without obsessing about maybe saying the wrong thing, a bane to diversity discussions.  That you contemplate divergent ideas.  And that you reflect openly on your own perspectives by posting comments and questions in the chatbox as we go along.   

So let’s turn to our theme, difficult conversations about diversity and health equity.  Health equity conversations necessarily involve discomfort because they address the idea of group diversity, not just random individual differences.

Continue reading Challenges of Teaching about Diversity and Health Equity – by Carlos E. Cortés