The president of the Chattanooga area Chamber of Commerce opened the combination reception, celebration, and press conference at Chattanooga’s Hunter Museum on July 15, 2014. The online invitations had gone out only 24 hours earlier, but the room was packed with 800 people. It had been six years since I attended the announcement of the Volkswagen plant coming to Chattanooga in this room. This year was noteworthy because of the wrangling over union representation, politics, state funding, and various personality driven conflicts that would determine whether Volkswagen would build a second car here.
A discussion of engineering careers for women was recently held at the office of the Interim Dean at the UTC College of Engineering and Computer Sciences/ University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The dialogue highlighted issues of work-life balance, career choices and STEM education. Convened by Lulu Copeland, the diverse discussion group included the following participants from the Chattanooga and North Georgia area.
The Double-Dog-Dare Challenge
One of the positive side effects of the recent, rather dismal, report on Google’s diversity workforce data is the determination to see it as “a double dog dare” challenge. When PBS NewsHour alerted me in advance of the airing of the show, I leaped at the chance to jump into the fray. My thanks to PBS for providing a transcript for “Google’s diversity record shows women and minorities left behind.” Here are highlights from the PBS NewsHour conversation on the diversity of STEM nationally and how Chattanooga is responding to that challenge on a local level.
Despite an increase in lawsuits related to religious expression and workplace discrimination, religious diversity is an area of Diversity & Inclusion often missing from leadership development. The silence is due to lack of exposure and to fear, perhaps well-founded, that religious diversity training may actually increase animosity in the workplace, rather than build bridges. Given the recent Supreme Court ruling sanctioning public prayer as an American tradition, a tradition that has often been Christian, the role of diverse religions in the US is increasingly murky and contentious.
Inclusion is not new
Inclusion-related policies and legal regulations have long been part of economic and social change, and, at times, part of emotional and combustible debate. Inclusion took 50 years of wrangling after the first Women’s Suffrage conference in the mid-1800s to achieve a constitutional amendment granting women the vote. It took another 50 years for the Civil Rights Movement to seriously impact the workplace and establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Almost 50 year later, we are seeing another major societal and economic transformation that questions the role of an inclusive diversity.
Environmentalists may not be happy with some of the solutions to climate change. In a recent article in Wired Magazine, “Inconvenient Truths: Get Ready to Rethink What It Means to Be Green”, the top 10 ways to save the planet are likely to drive environmentalists crazy. Calling for Greens to unite around the issue of greenhouse gasses, the article makes the case for public policies that favor nuclear energy and urban density. The outcry from readers was memorable as they criticized the single mindedness of the article, its lack of supporting data, its in-your-face sensationalism, and overall creepiness. Yet, the discussion of climate change and public policy does and should raise these most difficult issues as new reports show irreversible damage.